Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said there was not a dry eye on the White House South lawn, when Supreme Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, delivered her remarks at an event, on April 8th. She will replace Justice Stephen Breyer, upon his retirement at the end of the 2021-2022 term. Jackson, a Harvard graduate, once clerked for Breyer and will make history as his replacement, as the first Black woman to be appointed to the nation’s highest court.
Along with Lightfoot’s tears, were many notable politicians from Illinois, like Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., and former senator Carol Mosely Braun. Her parents, husband, children, and brother were recognized during the ceremony, but it was Judge Jackson’s composure and compassion for others that pulled at the hearts of her audience. After 232 years and 115 prior appointments of mostly white males, it was finally her time to represent African American women, and she was, sharing it collectively. Quoting the late poet Dr. Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014), Judge Jackson, delivered the line from the 1978 poem “And still I Rise”. “I am the hope and dream of the slave,” some 44 years later, bringing the cultural, historic, and professional impact of that stanza to light.
Jackson was very gracious in her acceptance speech, by being inclusive when saying ” We’ve made it, all of us.” History was made and President Joseph Biden’s promise to appoint an African American woman to the post was fulfilled. However, Jackson’s acceptance speech covered years of America’s history, showing how she surpassed her ancestor’s wildest dreams. Beginning in the 2022-2023 season, there will be two African Americans and one Latino on the bench.
“As I take on this new role, I strongly believe that this is a moment in which all Americans can take great pride. We have come a long way toward perfecting our union. In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Jackson.
In the previous 115 appointments to the Supreme Court, few of the judges spoke in a plural voice. What judge cried through their speech, and dabbed their noses with a cotton handkerchief, in between pauses and standing ovations?
Jackson said, “We made it, all of us.” The downtrodden, the ignored, the former slave, the outsider, the blue-collar worker, the hopeless, the mother, the darker-hued sister, the working class, and the dreamer. President Joseph Biden lauded her outstanding integrity and impeccable character, as a professional woman.
“I have done my level best to stay in my lane and to reach a result that is consistent with my understanding of the law,” Jackson said. “And with the obligation to rule independently, without fear or favor.”
Jackson’s humble demeanor overshadows her strong ambition to become a judge, as she stated in her high school yearbook. The daughter of an educator and an attorney, Jackson stood her ground and kept climbing her career ladder. Jackson’s 53-47 confirmation vote came as she met individually with most of the senators in specially scheduled meetings. Along with Illinois Senator Richard (Dick) Durbin, Jackson attended private receptions with several Republican senators, to influence the final vote.
And three Republican senators voted with Democrats to seal her confirmation; Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Susan Collins of Maine.
Judge Jackson said that she stands on the historical shoulders of the late Judge Constance Motley Baker (1921- 2005), who was the first recognized federal appointed African American woman judge in 1966. Then-President Lydon B. Johnson appointed her to the United States District Court. She died in 2005 at the age of 84 years old.
Judge Brown Jackson’s legacy will surpass her own idol’s historic feat. With the positive image and scholastic heights that Judge Brown Jackson’s reputation is based on, her swearing-in this summer will rise to epic heights.
Sources for this story include Blackpast.org, the New York Times, Chicago’s local ABC News (WLS-TV), and The Chicago Sun-Times