Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

Sandra Day O’Connor, former Justice of the US Supreme Court, told Terry Gross that her first job as a lawyer was taken without pay. Furthermore, Mrs. O’Connor had to occupy a desk in the secretary’s office of that law firm, because she was a woman at the time. Still is, and a woman like no other.

Justice O’Connor, with admirable pioneering chutzpah, had blazed a trail, way back in the1960s and ’50s, for women in the legal profession, as well as  for all working women generally. She was the first female US Supreme Court Justice. Three more women have been set on the Court since her unprecedented appointment by President Reagan.

But for the cowgirl lawyer from Arizona, the chauvinist humiliation she had to endure along her career path was just an obstacle to be overcome; it came with that frontier territory. Hearing her accounts, it almost seems to have been no big deal. Her primary objective seems to have been, all along, justice for the people of the United States, and not necessarily blowing some loud feminist horn.

She is a great leader in our nation. Nevertheless, she is a humble woman–a wife and mother who happens to be an attorney. One key element of her personality–I think you will hear it in the interview–is humility. Humility can carry a person a long way in this life. Justice O’Connor, like Rosa Parks, had to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous sexist prejudice. But she remained constantly humble, and determined. She would not be denied her destiny. Humility enables a talented person to endure untold subtle and blatant persecutions, because passionate vision can trump all that difficulty. Sandra Day O’Connor’s life is, in my view, a testimony to that principle.

Listening, via radio, to the testy interaction between Terry’s edgy, progressive politicism and Sandra’s prickly, accumulated wisdom is fascinating; it is an aural telescope into the generation gap of the edges, as well as the no-woman’s-land between push-the-envelope liberalism and bootstraps conservatism.

I have admired both women for a long time, although for very different reasons. This interview was an amicable match between two titans of public disccourse. Check it out:

http://www.npr.org/2013/03/05/172982275/out-of-order-at-the-court-oconnor-on-being-the-first-female-justice

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

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2 Responses to “Justice Sandra Day O’Connor”

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