|Justice Sandra Day O'Connor|
A couple of weeks ago, Griff and I went to see retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor talk at Elmhurst College. Much to our pleasure, she was as concise as Neil DeGrasse Tyson was long-winded. (To Griffin’s great pleasure, she wouldn’t even partake in a question and answer session!) I have seen Sandra Day O’Connor interviewed on The Daily Show, and I have heard her interviewed on Fresh Air. Griffin’s dad has attended luncheons with her, as have some family friends of my parent’s. Each time I saw her interviewed, or heard anecdotes about spending time with her, one word continually came up, “feisty”. She refuses to be pigeon-holed as the “swing vote”, and stands up for what she believes with great conviction.
When Sandra Day O’Connor graduated from Stanford Law School, forty law firms refused to interview her for a position because she was a woman. In response to that, she worked without pay as a deputy county attorney, sharing an office with the receptionist. It speaks volumes about her gumption, work ethic, and ability that she went on to work on the Supreme Court, and that the law school at Arizona State is now named after her.
One of my favorite parts about SDOC is that she retired from the Supreme Court to care for her husband, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Here was a woman who had accomplished so much in her professional life, retiring despite her ability to go on, to care for the man she loved. It’s a healthy reminder of what’s important in life.
Much about her demeanor cracked me up. Both she and Joyce Carol Oates were what I have been calling “adorably frail”, and both also carried a purse. For some reason, that really stuck out to me. It was like a subtle reminder that despite her grandiose influence, she still wanted to make sure that her chapstick and Kleenex were handy. (Coincidentally, in the Sunday NYT a few days later, there was an article about women politicians, the purses they carry, and what they signify. My favorite part was when they talked about how some male aides have to carry around the female politician’s purses. That feels like a really nice turn in the women’s movement!)
For the introduction, Elmhurst College tried a new approach by showing a video of students talking about what values mean to them. While well done, it was boring and seemed like a waste of time. Much to my enjoyment, Sandra Day O’Connor seemed to feel the same way. I don’t think she even looked at the screen!
Finally, as she took the lectern, there was heavy applause from the audience. While trying to quiet everyone down so she could begin, she squawked out, “you’re not even going to like me at the end of this!” Not true, Sandra Day. I liked you even more.
The theme was clear, her message spot-on, and the solution was evident. Very enjoyable.
(picture from Parade.com)