Message from Our President

From the desk of Elisabelle Bocal ¦ JLP President ¦ 2022-2023

President John F. Kennedy once said, “We celebrate the past to awaken the future.” In the year of our diverse Centennial celebrations, I am honored to welcome you to our 2022-2023 League year – our 100th – and invite you to join me in bearing witness to President Kennedy’s wise words; we celebrate our storied past as we light the way to awaken the future for those yet to come.

It goes without saying that the last few years have been unprecedented. We have been shuttered away in our homes – isolated from loved ones, friends, community, and unless you are very, very seasoned: this was your first global pandemic as well. I became President-Elect-Elect in the Fall of 2020 and as I prepared to serve the Membership and the community at-large, I reflected at the ever evolving needs. In my decade in the Junior League, I can confidently say I can run a Board meeting, or write and give testimony to my elected government officials, but over two years ago, I, like many others, was grappling with uncertainty and fear around a lack of information and functionality toward basic everyday tasks – from getting the mail to going to the grocery store. How ironic that loneliness is the feeling we might all just have the most in common if we had the courage to be vulnerable. 

I share this all because even as we move from pandemic to endemic times, there will still be moments where there is a lack of information and/or some of us may feel basic everyday tasks are simply hard. But I hope a grounding message is that we are stronger, better, together. In May of 2022, I joined Junior League leadership teams from across the globe in Dallas, Texas to vote and eventually pass our new Mission statement at our first in-person Annual Conference since 2019. It states, “The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. is an organization of women whose Mission is to advance women’s leadership for meaningful community impact through volunteer action, collaboration, and training.

The above reflects an evolution, unchanged for the past forty years, and now representing 155,000 women in 293 or so Junior Leagues throughout Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, here in the U.S., and most recently Nairobi, Kenya. This includes us. I encourage yourself to envision yourself in the Mission – we are part of this evolution and here in Portland, in Maine, we are a century of women coming together for meaningful community impact through volunteer action, collaboration, and training. Change starts here, at home.

As I reflect on the last century of change, I ground myself in knowing Mary Harriman’s work is still relevant. Harriman, then a 19-year-old student at Barnard College, was inspired by a lecture on settlement movements that chronicled the works of social reformers – not perhaps light cocktail hour conversation for the times. She organized others to become involved in settlement work in her community; what would she ask of us today?

Worldwide, we are included within the fabric of 121 years of history, of women aimed at improving communities and the social, cultural, and political fabric of civil society, including advocacy. I understand many of us are tired. I also understand many of us have changed during the last few years – perhaps a move, or a job, visible or invisible changes, and my hope for this year is that the Junior League of Portland, ME can honor our complex history, continue to develop our members through civic leadership, and remember that while we may be like minded, we think about things differently together.