Inspiring Words of Wisdom from Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst

On Friday, August 9, 2019, Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst joined the 2019 Alfie Scholar Cohort, members from 2018 Alfie Cohort, and members of the Alfie Team for lunch. A member of the Board of the Civility Fund, the foundation that funds the Alfie Scholars program and the Civility Center for Law, the Chief Justice spoke about her commitment to civility, to the Alfie Scholars, and her hands-on works with the Center for Law.

In sharing her life’s journey, Chief Justice Fairhurst explained that she learned early on to look for the opportunity when things didn’t go as she planned or wanted, because always, there was something better that she would not have been available to do had her original plan worked out. She advised, “There is the right time to do things, so listen for the signals of when it is your time.”

Justice Mary Fairhurst Address Alfie Scholars.jpg

“If you hit a wall, find a door. And if there are no doors, find what windows are open.”

—Washington State Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst

“If you hit a wall, find a door. And if there are no doors, find what windows are open.” This concept deeply resonated with the scholars, because they have pushed through challenges by finding their open windows just to be at Seattle University and to be an Alfie Scholar. And they are taking on leadership opportunities to open more doors and windows for the underrepresented.

Chief Justice Fairhurst talked about the time a group of women judges from Turkey visited the Temple of Justice in Olympia. As she was pointing to a chart and explaining how our court system worked, she noticed that the women were staring at her, not the chart. She asked if there was something wrong. The women replied that they had never seen a judge smile. They intended to bring back the image of her smiling as the face of justice. Chief Justice Fairhurst then turned, with her warm, bright smile, and made eye contact with everyone in the room, as she said, “You are the face of the Alfie Scholars; you are the face of Seattle University; you are the face of civility.”

She finished with her favorite starfish story. After a huge storm at the beach, a man walks to the cliff to look at the coast line. He sees that there are starfish strewn all over the sand. There is a lone man walking along the beach, stopping, bending over, picking up a star fish, throwing it into the water, then taking few steps, and repeating. The man from the cliff runs down to the beach and asks the man who is throwing the star fish why he is bothering to do this. “Why are you wasting your time. You can’t make a difference. There is no way that you can throw them all back into the water.” And the man picks up another star fish, throws it, and says, “It makes a difference to that one.” “Alfie Scholars, you are making a difference.”

In closing, Chief Justice Fairhurst, asked the scholars, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” After she received a standing ovation, the scholars came up to exchange personal greetings.

On behalf of the scholars, we thank Chief Justice Fairhurst for sharing her time and wisdom with us.

What the scholars had to say:

It was very enlightening to have Chief Justice Mary with us. Her experiences, her work, her knowledge, her courage, her resilience, all of this she used for civility. She found a need in the community and she was the voice of the unheard. Her story was very inspirational for me. It motivates me even more to become a leader for civility in not only in my career, but in everything that I do. If I were to define what makes a hero, it would be her.
— Adrian Nava
Mary was very inspirational and encouraging. I took away a deeper understanding of myself and my position in life. She is a true leader of civility that I strive to imitate someday.
— Ernesto Chacon
Mary is full of wisdom. I felt so lucky to meet her. She inspired me to never give up even if I meet a closed door, there is always an alternative way to get to my dreams.
— Richard Augustino Pallangyo
Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst embodies resilience, passion, dedication and she is truly a leader for civility! What makes her unique is her perseverance and the way she doesn’t allow closed doors to stop her. She taught me the importance of looking for another entrance or accepting things for what they are and being open to life and what comes next. Chief Justice Mary is our leader and hero of civility!
— Haley Cummins
Mary is an incredible woman. I am so glad to have met such a kind, funny and humble human being. The way she speaks and looks at people shows how she values and respects them. When she talked about her journey at the Supreme Court, I could definitely see how her decisions resonate with civility. I love the fact that she uses her position of power to change the world around her.
— Christiana Christy Tembo