Sandra Day O’Connor knew something about politics that we forgot

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sits with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor at the Seneca Women Global Leadership Forum at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, on April 15, 2015 in Washington.

It’s been more than 40 years since our mother made history.

Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female associate justice in the nearly 200-year history of the Supreme Court. The 1981 Senate vote to confirm was 99-0, which seems unfathomable in today’s politically polarized times.

Twelve years later, in 1993, Mom welcomed the second female associate justice in the history of the high court when the Senate confirmed Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also by an impressive margin, 96-3.

This was Bipartisanship with a capital “B.”

And now, President Biden has signed legislation to erect statues of these two women legal pioneers somewhere on the U.S. Capitol grounds after unanimous consent in the Senate and an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the House.

The overwhelming support for the statues of these two women with very different backgrounds speaks to something missing from much of today’s politics: respect for the other. Disagreeing without being disagreeable. Understanding that the other point of view is not intended to ruin the country.

Different backgrounds, but shared experiences

Sandra Day O'Connor and her husband, John Jay O'Connor III, when Sandra Day O'Connor was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1981.

The two women being honored came from very different backgrounds – the Lazy B Ranch along the Arizona-New Mexico border and Brooklyn, New York; Republican Majority Leader in the Arizona Senate and co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU.

They may have had distinct philosophies of jurisprudence, but after Justice Ginsburg joined Mom on the bench they were bound together by their shared experiences as women pioneers.

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