Thank you. I’m pleased to be here today with Karen – the first woman to head up the Drug Enforcement Administration – and so many other women in leadership at the Department of Justice as we celebrate the achievements of women.
Now, it is my privilege to introduce one of the great Americans of our time, Sandra Day O’Connor, a woman of unusual courage and character, a fellow Texan and Westerner. Born a Texan, a Texan forever. Madame Justice, I remain grateful for your taking the time just over a year ago to swear me in as Attorney General. I reflected then on how American greatness arises from its heritage of liberty and justice for all. You are one of the great examples of that heritage and we are honored by your presence today.
There is simply no more outstanding American than Justice O’Connor to speak at our annual recognition of National Women’s History Month. And this year’s theme, “Women: Builders of Communities and Dreams,” is particularly appropriate given our recent loss of two great women builders of community and dreams, Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks.
As a westerner and a rancher, Justice O’Connor’s pioneering spirit has characterized her groundbreaking career. She met employer hostility as an honors law graduate from Stanford but didn’t give up. The pioneer in her spurred her to prove herself. In Arizona she practiced law and served as a State Assistant Attorney General. She won elected office in the Arizona State Senate and was the first woman majority leader of any state legislature. She served as both an elected and an appointed state judge. And, through all these public achievements, with her husband John she raised three sons. We are delighted to acknowledge his presence here today.
These contributions to the law and public life would crown any one person’s career. But President Reagan asked her to be a pioneer once more, appointing Judge O’Connor a Justice of the Supreme Court in 1981. During her near quarter-century of service to the Court and to the nation, Justice O’Connor helped build a community of women attracted to the law and to public service. It is, of course, impossible to calculate the actual number of lives touched by this remarkable woman and the number of lives that will be influenced by her example. Her greatest legacy lies not in the opinions of the Supreme Court, but in the spirits of hope burning brightly in the hearts of generations of American women.
Ladies and gentlemen, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.