Amid stormy weather and canceled venues, retired United States Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor still made an appearance in a gathering held Wednesday at the Alaska Supreme Court. O’Connor was scheduled to appear at West High School and Central Middle School to promote her online education program, iCivics, before the Anchorage School District closed schools because of high winds.
“I’d really like to bring home the commitment that justice O’Connor has to children’s civic education. She must have asked 10 times, ‘Isn’t there something we can do for the students?’” said Walter Carpeneti, Alaska Supreme Court justice.
Students from the West High School National Honor Society presented a slideshow introducing O’Connor before she conversed with Dana Fabe, Alaska Supreme Court Chief justice, in front of the crowded courtroom.
O’Connor spoke of life as a child on an Arizona ranch to the struggles and triumphs she had experienced as a woman in the legal profession.
“I was third in my class in law school. You’d think I’d have a job offer. I didn’t. There were at least 40 law firms listed for Stanford Law Graduates. I called every single one of them. Not one of them would give me an interview,” O’Connor said.
When asked by Fabe how she felt to be the first woman Supreme Court justice, O’Connor kept her answer simple and modest.
“I must say it was a shock. I would not have thought I’d be considered,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor expressed her appreciation for praises of being an inspiration to women but was determined to steer the conversation back to her main focus: her program, iCivics, and the students who will “in the not-too-distant future become the leaders of this country.”
The iCivics online program offers free games, lesson plans for teachers and resources to learn about the three branches of government and the responsibilities of citizenship. Millions of Americans have learned from the program.
“Young people spend an average of 40 hours a week in front of a screen. I only need about an hour. That hour has to be interesting and entertaining,” O’Connor said. “We’ve succeeded by producing these games that are challenging and interesting.”
To close with a final thought, Fabe asked O’Connor about how she would like to be remembered.
“Well, I’m not ready to pass away yet,” O’Connor said jokingly. She again placed the focus back to the students.
“For those of you who will be in contact with the students who planned to meet with us today, tell them how sorry I was to have this cancelled. I really look forward to meeting with students,” O’Connor said. “Maybe it will happen in another time in another venue.”