Ketanji Brown Jackson Marks Her Own History Tearfully, Poetically, Powerfully

By Erin Spencer Sairam

Thursday afternoon, Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to serve as Vice President, presided over the vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court of the United States. After a 53-47 vote, with three Republicans joining all 50 Democrats, Judge Jackson was confirmed to the high court, and history was set to be made again.

Harris was then seen marking the moment by handing out notes and asking New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock—the only two Black Democrats in the Senate—to pen a note to two young Black girls in their lives using the Vice President’s own letterhead.

Today, it was Judge Jackson’s turn to speak to this historic moment—her moment. At an event held on the South Lawn of the White House with hundreds in attendance, Jackson delivered an emotional speech, at times speaking through tears. Early on in her remarks, she acknowledged just how long it took to get to this point. “It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Jackson amid applause. “But we’ve made it. We’ve made it. All of us. All of us.”

Jackson’s confirmation process was an intensive one. It required her meeting with 97 sitting Senators. The hearings themselves were, at times, hostile and many Republican Senators walked out of the chambers the moment the confirmation was announced. Today, President Biden acknowledged in his address that he knew the process would be “painful and difficult.” Despite all of that, Jackson was optimistic throughout her speech today about what this moment meant for her personally, and for the country.

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During her confirmation hearing remarks, Jackson spoke to the fact that her parents had attended racially segregated schools. Today, she once again acknowledged that history and what it meant to her on this historic day. “I strongly believe that this is a moment in which all Americans can take great pride,” she said. “We have come a long way toward perfection our union. In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Throughout the speech, Jackson recognized the meaning her confirmation has to those who haven’t been able to see themselves in those serving on the Supreme Court. While commenting on the historic nature of the day, she paid tribute to all those who’d come before her to do the “heavy lifting” to make her confirmation possible. Martin Luther King Jr., Justice Thurgood Marshall, and Judge Constance Baker Motley were all cited by Jackson as sources of personal inspiration.

Towards the end of her address, outside the building former First Lady Michelle Obama once reminded a Democratic National Convention audience was built by slaves, Jackson quoted one of the country’s most celebrated writers. “No one does this on their own. The path was cleared for me so that I might rise to this occasion. In the poetic words of Dr. Maya Angelou, ‘I do so now while bringing the gifts my ancestors gave. I am the dream and the hope of the slave.'”

Source: Erin Spencer Sairam

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