Saint Clair County, Illinois Circuit Court Clerk Kahalah A. Clay, Esq., was the guest speaker at a Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) ceremony celebrating Women's History Month in the Seay Auditorium here March 29.

Clay, who grew up just miles from Scott Air Force Base in East St. Louis and is the daughter of an Air Force veteran, focused her remarks on the event's theme of "Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination" by highlighting her personal experiences as both a woman and as an African American.

Clay noted how this is the right time for women to show the world what they are made of.

"Since the beginning of time, women have been marginalized, if not just outright ignored," she said. "Women have had to march and pray, yell and scream, be extreme at times and charming at others, to climb corporate ladders and shatter glass ceilings."

Clay acknowledged that while women have slowly begun to be offered the same opportunities as men, the future will require women to stay diligent and prepare themselves so that when the chances arise they are ready to take them.

"We have to be sure to be knowledgeable and prepared for the opportunities, not that we are given, but that we earn and deserve," she said.

"We must teach our young women the value of an education, integrity and experience -- so that as we continue this journey, our reputations will precede us and the legacies that we leave behind blaze a trail for the next women to come. We must raise our girls to believe in themselves," she added.

Clay also spoke about breaking down walls as a minority.

"We must fully diversify our workplaces, making sure that they are representative of our population - men and women of all ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds," she said.

"We must make sure that we all have equal access to resources that make us all better and give everyone equal footing in this glorious thing we call life," she added.

Maj. Gen. Stephen E. Farmen, the commanding general of SDDC, attended the ceremony and addressed Clay after her remarks, lauding the importance of her words.

"I could feel the energy that was coming out of you, everybody in room could feel it, and it was perfect for the SDDC team to hear your important message about what the future must hold for women," Farmen said.

Farmen also provided some insight about what women have meant to him throughout his life and career.
"I was raised by a great mother, and I've been led by great women over the course of my career," he said. "General (Ann E.) Dunwoody was my battalion commander, and I have had the privilege to work with multiple different women over my career."

Before Clay concluded, she offered a challenge to the men in the audience.

"With your help, encouragement and open minds, we can all move forward in unity. United to be the best working together for a better future for women and people everywhere. Do it for your wives. Do it for your daughters. Do it for your sisters. Do it for your nieces. Do it for your neighbor. Do it for yourself. Do it because inside you know it is the right thing to do," she said.

Clay then provided some parting thoughts directly to the women in the audience.

"There is no one in the world like you. You are unique in every way. You have a level of intelligence that is immeasurable. You have strength that knows no bounds. You get knocked down 10 times and you rise up 10 times. You are the carrier of life, not just in your womb, but from your mouth. You speak life and you speak truth and your voice rolls like thunder," she said.

"You are fighters, you are warriors and we will fight and fight together until the last ladder is climbed, the last ceiling is shattered and victory is ours," she concluded.