I have spent the past four years as co-president, of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina. I have been a member of the League for 53 years serving both the local and state League in many capacities. The League is a force for good, a place of calm and thoughtful discussion in a whirl of nose, partisan rhetoric, ,and a lot of half-truths and outright misinformation on social media platforms.
My three daughters and I have given much thought to our chosen communities. For my oldest daughter, it is her professional association of college and university graphic designers, of which she is currently president, and Jazzercise. For my middle daughter it is the national and even global community of singers/songwriters and musicians. For my youngest daughter, mother of three daughters, for the past dozen years it has been dance moms and girl scouts. For me, it is my congregation and its faith tradition, my profession of economics, and the League. Each of these has served to shape my vocation and find my place in the world to be useful, to find meaning, and to be grounded in community.
Each of these three communities exists to serve and promote shared values and purposes.. For the League, those shared values are democracy and democratic process. The idea of covenanted communities in which decisions are not handed down by authorities but worked out in the give and take among members, who determine what values the group shares, what purposes it serves, and how those values and purposes are best expressed in concrete situations. The idea of covenant is a gift of the Jews and the Hebrew Scriptures.
The Latin roots of the word community mean building together. The chief rabbi of Britain wrote a book in 2007 called The House We Build Together. A democratic nation, he says, is a house we build together. We build it from the ground up in the civic organizations, schools and churches and neighborhood associations that we have built together, learning to work through differences and find common ground. Some of that building is glamorous and exciting when League members get to testify, lobby, and empower voters through helping them register and find reliable information about candidates and issues.. Some of the work of that community is as pedestrian as routine maintenance, painting the walls, shoring up the foundations, patching the roof, For the League, those tasks include producing the newsletter, organizing meetings, managing the finances, attending Zoom meetings, and monitoring pending legislation.
At the two statewide gatherings each year, members engage in community building—a celebration of shared values, a renewal of commitment, a pause to see each other as people, companions on the journey, fellow builders of the house even as we work together at our own version of shoring up the foundation and patching the roof. I know most of the 85 members of my local League. I have come to know at least 100 members of other Leagues around the state in the through my work at the state level.
The League, along with church, family, close friends, and neighborhood, is my community. It inspires challenges, and encourages me to use my gifts and to learn to collaborate and seek common ground both within the organization and beyond as we try to influence public policy and protect democratic process against external threats. It is my hope that each of you has found or can find at least one community that offers you the same kind of opportunities, challenges, and support.