Describing what it was like to be the first woman on the Supreme Court, O’Connor told NPR’s Terry Gross in 2013 that she felt “a special responsibility” to perform at a level that would keep the door open for more women to follow her.[…]
When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg arrived in 1993, “it was just night and day,” O’Connor told NPR’s Nina Totenberg in 2003. “The minute Justice Ginsburg arrived, the media pressure was off — I think for both of us. And we just became two of the nine justices. It was just such a welcome change.”
After retiring from SCOTUS in 2006, O’Connor launched iCivics, an interactive learning portal devoted to keeping both current and future generations educated about the United States government. Her founder’s statement is timeless in its truth.
“The practice of democracy is not passed down through the gene pool. It must be taught and learned anew by each generation of citizens.”
One of O’Connor’s last public appearances centered around her distaste for the ridiculousness that the Mitch McConnell-led GOP pulled on the Obama administration following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.
One of the last times O’Connor made public comments was in 2016, after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. Interviewed by an Arizona television station, O’Connor was asked what she thought about Republican senators’ argument that the conservative justice’s seat should be filled not by President Barack Obama but his successor because the vacancy happened in a presidential election year. She said she disagreed.
“I think we need somebody there, now, to do the job, and let’s get on with it,” she said, a recommendation Republicans didn’t heed, holding the seat open until President Donald Trump could choose Scalia’s successor, Neil Gorsuch.
O’Connor does, however, relish the fact that women now comprise a full one-third of the highest court in the land.
“It’s all right to be the first to do something, but I didn’t want to be the last woman on the Supreme Court,” she said in 2012.
O’Connor’s announcement was met with an outpouring of love and tributes for this pioneer who cleared a path for so many women in the legal field.
Chief Justice John Roberts also voiced admiration for former Justice O’Connor.
Roberts said that while he was “saddened to learn” of O’Connor’s diagnosis, he “was not at all surprised that she used the occasion of sharing that fact to think of our country first.”
“Although she has announced that she is withdrawing from public life, no illness or condition can take away the inspiration she provides for those who will follow the many paths she has blazed,” Roberts wrote.
He’s got a point. O’Connor’s end-of-life struggles will NEVER erase her remarkable accomplishments.