by Stephanie Halton, President, Utah State Chapter 2019-2020
It is a true honor to be standing here with you today and difficult to believe that four years have passed since I embarked on the wonderful and rich experience of serving on the state board. Thank you, Gail Brown, for planting the seed in my mind. And thank you all for having the confidence in me then and today as we work together to promote P.E.O. in Utah and beyond. I count it a privilege to stand shoulder to shoulder with these dear sisters to my left and with all of you to help women reach for the stars through education.
When I was thinking about what theme to use to shape the year ahead, I was struck anew by how important P.E.O. is as a singular experience as well as to our lives as a whole. I like to think of this experience as a journey, especially when we consider how P.E.O. allows us to be taken to someplace new. This is certainly true for us as members. We find new friends and deepen existing relationships through sisterhood. A very sweet anonymous quote states “When traveling life’s journey, it’s good to have a sister’s hand to hold on to.”
Likewise, for our philanthropy recipients, P.E.O. helps them move along a path in a new way or direction. As Dr. Seuss said, “The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Armed with these inspirations, I chose my theme of Going Places with P.E.O.: A Joyful Journey. The logo features a compass with true north identified. Seven daisy petals represent our founders and a star and heart symbolize sisterhood. The teal and green colors denote brightness and growth.
All of us have a starting point on our P.E.O. journey. For some of us, we have a family legacy that anchors our story. My path to sisterhood actually started long ago – long before I was born – in a small mining town in northern Idaho. In 1947 my grandmother Christine became a member of Chapter X in Wallace. Since she took that first step, my mother, Sheila, Aunt Shirley, Cousin Liz, and I have all joined her on this walk as sisters.
For others, our starting point was marked by a friend inviting us to learn more about this sisterhood. We became intrigued by its mission and delighted by its members.
And now it seems as if P.E.O. has always been a part of our lives. No matter the start, we all are on the path together.
P.E.O.’s mission is rock solid. It is the unchanging fixed point on our compass. Our philanthropy recipients can find an open route to their educational goals through our scholarships, grants, loans, and awards. Crooked paths straighten and dark roadways brighten through financial support from P.E.O.
Having help achieving goals can make all the difference in getting to where we want to be in life. The January-February 2019 P.E.O. Record stated, “When you educate a woman, it creates a lasting impact on families, communities, countries, and the world.”
Isn’t it an amazing feeling to know that in our small way, we get to play a part in helping women pursue their dreams? And watch them go places in life.
A Joyful Journey
In my opinion, the experience of sisterhood is truly a great adventure. We happily make a choice to accept the invitation to become a P.E.O. We continue to make that choice each year. Through sisterhood, we experience the miracle of strangers becoming dear friends. And the deep, sincere connections among sisters transcends whatever life has in store for us. President of International Chapter Sue Baker said “As we who are sisters walk hand in hand together through life, we celebrate joy and offer support in sorrow, always strengthening the heart of P.E.O.” Our journey is not a solo mission, but rather one we share with each other.
As a reminder, the goals from International for this biennium are:
•Two initiations per chapter per year
•No sister or chapter left behind
•One new chapter per s/p/d by 2019
•Gratitude, grace, and generosity
So, how should we approach these goals and this path of sisterhood in the year ahead? How do we strengthen our chapters and effectively make a difference in the lives of women?
Some of you know that I am a very proud auntie. I adore my nieces and nephews and they bring absolute delight to my life. When my oldest brother’s girls were young, they were up for any adventure. There was no shortage of enthusiasm in those little hearts and spirits. One of the things that they particularly loved to do was something they called “The Silly Walk.” Now, I don’t expect any of you to know what this is by this name, but I am fairly certain you have seen or done the Silly Walk yourselves.
Essentially, it involved lining up three-across, (I was always in the middle), linking arms, and walking in unison. Right feet together and then left feet together. My brother Chris managed to get a recording of them doing the silly walk earlier this year. Obviously, they haven’t outgrown it! But, you get the picture, right?
The silly walk required us to agree on our course – it didn’t work if each of us set out on her own way. It was the most fun method to move down a sidewalk, through a parking lot, or across a backyard. There were always lots of giggles and delight in being together – you simply can’t be too serious when doing the silly walk. And lastly, if one of us stumbled, the others were there to catch her because we were joined.
I think this is a wonderful metaphor for how we should be as sisters. Imagine setting out down a path, arms linked, feet moving in unison, hearts lifted towards our identified goal. This is the heart of P.E.O.: working together, sustaining each other, and having a ball.
P.E.O. is not about going it alone. It’s about belonging to something bigger than ourselves. Can you get from Point A to Point B by yourself, marching at your own pace? Sure. But, it isn’t the silly walk. And it isn’t how we are meant to approach our P.E.O. Journey.
To illustrate this, I’d like to have you indulge me for a minute, please. For those P.E.O.s who are able, please stand. Link arms with the sisters to your left and right. Feel free to cross the aisle to join your sisters.
Doesn’t it feel good to know that you are not alone? That you are in fellowship with sisters on each side – across this room, across this state, across the U.S. and Canada – sisters who are there to lift you when you stumble, and for you to draw close when they need to be bolstered? To enjoy the adventure together – the good times, the hard times, just life. As Helen Keller said, “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.” With joy, tears, smiles, and laughter we can be blessings to each other.
And what about the exciting twists and turns in the road ahead that we can’t see yet? Perhaps there is a new sister waiting for you at the next corner. Maybe an outstanding philanthropy candidate is just around the bend. Being linked and moving forward in a unified direction allows us to be more effective and to ultimately strengthen the sisterhood through growth in membership and support of philanthropies. We may not always move as quickly as if we were going it alone, but being together is a much richer, more sacred experience. And as this biennium’s theme encourages, being linked allows us to Lead Forward banded together, with gratitude for what we have to offer and with grace for our sisters and ourselves. This connection and clarity of purpose are what sets P.E.O. apart from other organizations and has allowed for it to thrive for 150 years. Thank you for indulging me; you may be seated. I hope that we will remember this moment at some point during the year and be reassured that we are on the right path, are part of something bigger than ourselves, and are connected in powerful ways.
When we think about grand adventures and going places, one way to mark where we have visited is through a passport. It is a small but highly effective tool to show us where we started, where we ended, and all of the stops along the way. I am happy to let you know that my gift to each chapter is a passport to document your journey together in the year ahead.
The passport is personalized for your chapter and features your letters on the front cover. It includes space for a chapter photo. Each page focuses on a different aspect of sisterhood such as membership, philanthropy, and programs. As you experience something that you want to celebrate or note, please take a sticker from the back of the book, place it on the appropriate page, and write in relevant details. Fill this during the year and bring it to Convention 2020. I hope you enjoy using your passport to tell the story of your chapter in a new way. Delegates, please give the passport to your chapter president after you return home.
Four years ago in my devotion given at state convention, I included a poem by Christina Rossetti. Written in 1862, this verse typifies for me what is means to be a P.E.O. and to have sisters on the path with us. It seems fitting to share it with you again today given the theme for the year ahead.
“There is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen while one stands.” – Christina Rossetti, 1862
Thank you for your dedication to P.E.O. and to helping women reach for the stars and go places through education. I am so very grateful that you are willing to join together on this wonderful journey of sisterhood.
Let’s have a grand adventure together in 2019-2020: clear in our direction, joined together in purpose, and bonded in sisterhood. Good luck and bon voyage as we Go Places with P.E.O. and enjoy our Joyful Journey!
Stephanie Halton, U, President
Utah State Chapter