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12/30/15 President's Letter - The Place That Seems the End

December 30, 2015

             Re:       The Place That Seems the End

Dear SCWLA members:

My grandmother Eva lived in Abbeville, South Carolina.  She was a secretary in a textile mill.  Her only sister, my Aunt Sophie, lived in Green Sea, North Carolina.  She taught second grade.  Every day after they retired, my grandmother and her sister wrote a letter to each other.  They wrote about big things (like births and deaths and politics), and small things (like hats, and shoes, and a granddaughter’s visit).  But they wrote, literally every day.

When I became president of SCWLA, perhaps in memory of my grandmother, I decided to write you letters.  It was less about my having anything important to say, than my wanting to share something -- perhaps something of myself -- with you.  So I wrote about big things (like the rule of law and religious tolerance and equal pay) and small things (like fun and ice cream and friendship).  But I wrote, literally every month.   

Some months, I struggled.  Other months, the letters seemed to write themselves.  My letter about the Charleston massacre came to me in the middle of a sleepless night.  But through it all, I felt a special connection with each of you.

When it came time for my last letter, I decided to write a “barn burner.”  It was going to be about SCWLA and its mission to advance the status of women. It was going to remind us about SCWLA’s important goals, including, particularly, its goal of increasing the number of women in our judiciary.  And, it was going to challenge us all to do better, and to work harder, in this State where women are so under-employed and, some would say, so undervalued. 

Earlier this week, I wrote that letter.  It was a good letter, a strong letter and, one day, I may share that letter with you, but not today.  Why not?  Because, upon reflection, the words did not come from my heart.  

So today, this is my final message as President:  “The world is round, and sometimes the place that seems the end is only the beginning.”

For those of you who have suffered a personal loss or a professional disappointment – and you know who you are – have hope for the future. 

For those of you who have experienced a personal joy or a professional success – and you know who you are – share your happiness with others.

For those of you who have faced an obstacle and failed in your first attempt – and you know who you are – try, and try again.

For those of you who continue to doubt your value as a person or as a professional – and you know who you are – get up, get dressed and get going.

And finally, to Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal, who retires tomorrow, thank you for your service, your leadership and your encouragement.  In no small way, your success has raised the profile of every woman lawyer in this State.  On behalf of SCWLA, we salute you at what may seem to be the end and wait, with anxious expectation, for what really is only the beginning.

After all, the world is round . . . .



Marguerite S. Willis