Finding the words to speak out for a better future


It is hard to believe that 50 years has passed since Dr Martin Luther King made his impassioned speech in Washington, calling on Americans to end racism against black people. This became defined as one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century. To many of my generation and for generations to come, Dr King is an inspiring example of peaceable activism for freedom and justice. In 1964 he became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and was known globally for his moral courage to speak out about discrimination, poverty and disadvantage.

In watching the television coverage of the anniversary of Dr King's ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, I was again struck by the power of his words. Words are so important but in my experience many nurses do not use them to effect. While I realize that nursing has to continue its efforts to be well educated and articulate, around the world we already have great capacities to make a difference. Finding the words to say what is important, and finding the right places to say these words, takes time, determination, strategy, and the support and mentorship of others.

In the 21st century many nurses and midwives are working on their dreams for a better future. These include good socio-economic welfare for themselves and their families, health for all, access to and equity in health care, and excellence in education, research and practice. To achieve such universal dreams, all of us need to recognise and value the contribution that each of us can make, however small.

It is so important that our voices are heard but do we have the moral courage to speak out? Are we willing to support and advocate for our colleagues who are oppressed, working in dangerous or under-privileged environments, or who might be afraid to speak out because this might threaten their lives and their families? What power we can harness if the millions of nurses and midwives around the world made peaceable contributions to speaking out in a timely fashion. As David Benton importantly notes in this INR issue, silence diminishes our profession and it is time for solidarity, for nurses to stand together (see page 416). While ICN and INR can contribute to speaking out, all of us need to contribute too. Today we have the technology to connect as never before. The Internet and social media have become powerful tools to harness people's opinions, to help achieve our profession's solidarity to highlight injustice, discrimination and human rights issues, and to put pressure on governments to change bad policies for better ones.

I realize that it is often difficult for nurses to ‘find the words’. Since this journal's inception, its mantra has been to publish the voices of nurses around the world. I want to encourage those of you with good education and the means to reach out to our colleagues living in difficult situations, to help them with their writings, their speeches, research and publications, and their attempts to develop and change policies aimed at improving health and well-being. Solidarity within nursing and midwifery will ultimately promote and protect the health, welfare, and rights of all vulnerable groups. I hope that some of my words resonate with you and that you are able to find practical ways of helping others and yourself find the words and speak out.

This is our last issue for 2013. Thank you from the Editorial team at INR, ICN and Wiley Blackwell for your various contributions to growing this journal and the scholarship of our colleagues around the world, and for your future participation to find the words to be peaceful activists. At year's end, a wish for peace, health and prosperity to you all.