Being an observant but not deeply religious person, I sometimes feel uncomfortable when a friend or stranger says to me: “Have a blessed day.” Although no faith-based reference may be intended, I imagine most people are thinking of blessings from the Lord, or Allah, or the Almighty, or some other higher Power, and so I struggle with what response to give. For this reason, it seems odd and yet just right that I feel “blessed” this year in my (ever-shortening) role as Chair of this amazing Committee.
First, I am awed by its rich history, going back to the Committee’s origins when, more than ten years ago, Irene Bahr, Angela Imbierowicz, Ruth Ann Schmitt and other strong women within the ISBA successfully lobbied for its creation and Irene launched the Committee as its first chair. Then I am humbled by the line-up of past chairs, all of whom are women of extraordinary talent and vision and who were committed to carrying forward the traditions of the Committee to advocate for women lawyers and the broader community of women. And this year, I am energized and inspired by the diversity among us. While it would be good to see more persons of color and of the male gender around our table, we nevertheless, as a group, reflect a wonderful mix of cultural backgrounds, practice areas, life experiences, ages, and interests, and, with the assistance of the ISBA leadership, we continue our efforts to expand our diversity into other areas.
By virtue of our differences and the unique perspective each Committee member brings to the group, we ‘teamed up’ to develop and present two powerful programs, one dealing with troubled girls in the juvenile justice system, and the other addressing the legal challenges faced by unmarried couples. For both, we were fortunate to have a number of committees and section councils serve as co-sponsors.
In addition, work is in progress on plans for (1) two potential cable programs on new and ongoing problems women face in the workplace, and immigration policies as they uniquely affect women and children; (2) co-sponsorship with the Women’s Bar Association of a five-part series of luncheon programs on empowerment of women attorneys, conceived by the WBAI, the first to take place on December 12 at the CRO; (3) a whirlwind weekend in April of 2008 at SIU Law School in Carbondale, in partnership with the Minority and Women Participation Committee, which will be filled with discussion, debate, and celebration of our long-standing relationship with the Law School and Dean Peter Alexander as well as our Committee’s first visit to that part of this long state; (4) a roundtable on challenges faced by women starting their own firms, to be led by our own members who can serve as mentors and also raise provocative issues concerning that adventure into entrepreneurial territory; and, in connection with that event, (5) developing our newly created subcommittee entitled, for now, “Self-empowerment and Self-advocacy.” I also reiterate here my note from the last issue of The Catalyst: we will hold an internal workshop for purposes of evaluating and perhaps revising our scope and mission statements, and invite suggestions from ISBA members.
Seeing this list makes me a bit dizzy, but it will be manageable with the teamwork of our hardy Committee members. Moreover, I know that our work is never really finished, and that whatever remains undone will be inherited by next year’s leaders, just as this year’s officers and members have carried on the legacies of our prior leadership.
On behalf of the entire Committee, I wish you and your families a holiday season and New Year filled with good health, peace, and joy.