Although the fight over Sandra Day O’Connor’s successor on the U.S. Supreme Court began immediately after her announced resignation on Friday, we’ll weigh in on that another day. For now, let us stand up and pay tribute to this remarkable woman, this fellow Arizonan, who has attained breathtaking heights in her 75 years.
O’Connor is a pioneer in every sense of the word. The daughter of third-generation Arizona ranchers, she set her sights on a legal career at a time few women had ventured into that male-dominated fraternity. When she graduated from Stanford’s law school in 1952 she found law firms’ doors closed. One offered her a job as a secretary.
Observers say that likely galvanized her resolve to not only scale professional heights, but to reach the summit. She was a lawyer, a state legislator and a state judge before then President Ronald Reagan picked her as the first woman to serve on the nation’s high court.
Despite her conservative leanings, O’Connor drew little of the blistering attacks that previous conservative appointees had drawn from the left. It quickly became clear to Congress and the nation that Sandra Day O’Connor possessed not only a keen legal mind and solid constitutional principles, but also a sterling character. To challenge such a person in a political arena serves only to diminish the attacker.
In her Supreme Court service, O’Connor has emerged as the critical swing vote in a number of major cases. While some conservatives have voiced disappointment over several of her pivotal decisions, she has earned a reputation as a moderate conservative who refused to let rigid ideology trump common sense. That wisdom shone through in cases bearing on such controversial matters as abortion, affirmative action and police powers.
Although her support for the political regulations embodied in the onerous McCain-Feingold campaign finance law was disappointing to those of us who believe government has no business policing politics, she stood tall for individual rights last month when the majority handed municipalities the power to seize people’s property through eminent domain and hand it over to developers.
All-in-all, O’Connor has served Americans and their Constitution ably and honorably. She is a true role model — a person not only of tremendous achievement but of impeccable integrity. We wish her all the best as she enters the next phase of a remarkable life.