For The Children Weekly Column

Words Most Certainly Matter

Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
Telephone: (405) 833-1117

Words: the foundation of language, simple letters strung together to form a word. Then words are used to create sentences, then paragraphs, and eventually complete stories shared between human beings.

Sometimes, words are used to express love and joy, while in other instances, words are used to hurt or seek some negative satisfaction for an individual. In our American society, we value the use of words as almost sacred as we protect free speech in our United States Constitution, except in instances when words can incite violence or harm, such as yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

Politicians use words to communicate a direction through policy, with oftentimes an emphasis for seeking support through the public by encouraging action. Many words have become aligned with political dialogue, and many have shifted in meaning. It is common practice for politicians, elected and those influencing elections, to survey the public in a poll with these words to evaluate if the use is effective in messaging.

Different words or phrases are used to paint a picture for shaping an agenda. The words “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” or DEI for short, have recently been used by political figures on both sides of the aisle to shape feelings.


Diversity is “the practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, or other factors.”  Equity is “justice according to natural law or right,” or freedom from bias or favoritism. Inclusion means “the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or intellectual disabilities and members of other minority groups.”

Now, these words can and have been politicized by both sides of the political spectrum. An example is “equity” which has been characterized to align with socialism. Obviously, policies associated with equity should be reviewed and judged based upon their intent and structure rather than a misguided fear enhanced by agenda.

When enforced in governmental policy, whether justly or not, as many people feel slighted as those who feel support from implementing some policies aligned with DEI. In contrast, many corporations and institutions have instituted DEI policies to enhance awareness for breaking down barriers which divide people by race and physical ability due to a condition.

Accessibility, the practice of making information, activities, and/or environments sensible, meaningful, and usable for as many people as possible. This word and its definition are a core DEI principle of a popular coffee shop in Oklahoma which hires individuals with circumstances which often prevent them from finding jobs with other companies.

Any word can be used as a dangerous tool, but it depends on who is using the word, the way it is being used, and the feelings it generates from those listening.

On Monday, Gov. Kevin Stitt delivered his State of the State address to lawmakers on the first day of the Second Session of the 59th Oklahoma Legislature. Over the next four months, we will hear words used by officials to communicate messaging through debate in legislative bodies, as well as speeches from politicians shaping agendas.

We will also hear a torrent of words from candidates leading up to the elections in November. It is up to you to use your own critical thinking skills to not only hear these words, but also to determine what is used with bias or for the greater good. I would ask our politicians to choose their words wisely as in this election year, words will most certainly matter.