By David Slade
While there is no shortage of emotions that I feel in witnessing the launch of the Arkansas Journal of Social Change and Public Service — pride, excitement, and joy spring immediately to mind — I am mainly filled with a sense of enthusiasm for the project’s potential. As an online, interdisciplinary publication, the Journal is positioned to engage a wide audience; address a host of worthy yet under-discussed issues; and hopefully make a meaningful contribution to debates on local and global policy along the way.
The Journal serves another purpose, too. When viewed in the aggregate, I believe the pieces we run will help to revise our definition of what public service is, and our notion of how it fits into our lives. In my admittedly scant experience with the legal profession, my observation has been that discussions of public service often begin and end with who cuts your paycheck: If the government does, you’re a public servant; if not, you’re not. We can think more broadly and creatively than that, and we must do so. At essence, we are all advocates with serious, thoughtful opinions about what is right and what is wrong with the world around us. We are all activists, as well. We endorse or reject policies not just with our votes, but in our daily conversations and actions. We address the needs of our communities by doing things as rudimentary as volunteering, maintaining membership in our religious institutions, paying the property taxes that fund our schools, or simply being present in the day-to-day lives of our neighbors. Hopefully, as the Journal progresses, we can explore how the choices we make and the views we adopt implicate acts of public service and social change. While we are at it, we might also draw inspiration from the example of our peers.
When I look at the pieces we have been fortunate enough to present for our launch, I believe that the Journal is off to an excellent start. Arkansas chauvinist that I am, I have always been impressed with how engaged people from this state are, regardless of political and cultural affiliations. From our legislators down to our DIY art communities, this state provides a fertile environment for ideas to find support and to be realized. This phenomenon is elegantly articulated and analyzed in Dr. Jay Barth’s report, Ripe for Reform: Arkansas as a Model for Social Change, in which he compellingly positions the state as a bellwether for progressive initiatives in the South.
Maggie Carroll’s photo essay on Occupy Little Rock is a remarkable depiction of the local side of a national movement that is ramping up the debate about income inequality, entrenched economic practices, the interplay between the government and business, and most excitingly, the public’s role in shaping the discussion of our most important and pressing issues.
A contribution from Dustin Duke highlights what we would like to do more of in the future: explore the nuts and bolts intersection of the legal profession with service, both on the micro and macro level. We hope to showcase the challenges, the joys, and the realities of some of the more meaningful aspects of being a legal professional.
The analysis of the relief work done in Haiti, authored by Bill Quigley and Amber Ramanauskas, moves our focus to global issues, and presents us with a sobering reminder that devastation in a region will linger in perpetuity, absent meaningful and consistent aid efforts.
Moving forward, the Journal’s challenge will be to always up the stakes. With each iteration, we are tasked with doing more in terms of depth, breadth, quality, and vision. I have an abundance of faith that we will meet this obligation, due in no small part to the talent and passion already demonstrated by the people who have brought this publication to life: our superlative editorial staff, Professor Theresa Beiner, Dean John DiPippa, Tonya Oaks Smith, our contributors, our Advisory Board, and the entirety of the faculty and staff at the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law. I will always be grateful to these people for the herculean efforts they have put forth over the past year and a half.
Last but not least, I am grateful to you for being here, for being curious about the Journal, and for taking the time to see what it is about. I hope you will stay with us as we continue to grow.