Thank you, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

We wish you the very best.

As you have no doubt heard, on Tuesday retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her withdrawal from public life because of dementia, "probably Alzheimer's disease."

Justice O'Connor in 2016.

Justice O'Connor, 88, is the first-ever female Supreme Court Justice, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 to fill the position vacated by Justice Potter Stewart. Her successor is Justice Samuel Alito, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2006.

I did not always agree with Justice O'Connor's opinions, but I have a great deal of respect and admiration for her. The statement she provided this week only reinforces what an extraordinary person is exiting the public stage:

Not long after I retired from the Supreme Court twelve years ago, I made a commitment to myself, my family, and my country that I would use whatever years I had left to advance civic learning and engagement. . . . Eight years ago, I started iCivics . . . to teach the core principles of civics to middle and high school students . . .. We must reach all our youth, and we need to find ways to get people -- young and old -- more involved in their communities and in their government. . . . There is no more important work than deepening young people's engagement in our nation.

I can no longer help lead this cause, due to my physical condition. It is time for new leaders to make civic learning and civic engagement a reality for all. It is my great hope that our nation will commit to educating our youth about civics, and to helping young people understand their crucial role as informed, active citizens in our nation. . . . I look forward to watching from the sidelines as others continue the hard work ahead.

I will continue living in Phoenix, Arizona, surrounded by dear friends and family. While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings in my life. How fortunate I feel to be an American and to have been presented with the remarkable opportunities available to the citizens of our country. As a young cowgirl from the Arizona desert, I never could have imagined that one day I would become the first woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

I hope that I have inspired young people about civic engagement and helped pave the pathway for women who may have faced obstacles pursuing their careers. [Dear Justice O'Connor - You have.] My greatest thanks to our nation, to my family, to my former colleagues, and to all the wonderful people I have had the opportunity to engage with over the years.

God bless you all.

I am tearing up just typing this. Thank you, Justice O'Connor, for your example, your service, and your humility, courage, and selflessness in what must be a time of such great personal suffering. We are in your debt. 

Image Credit: From flickr, Creative Commons license, by Gage Skidmore.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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