Joy was in the air on the White House’s South Lawn as lawmakers and other guests gathered Friday to celebrate the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the next associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. President Joe Biden took to the podium, framed on either side by Jackson, the first Black woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, and by Vice-President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to serve in that role.
“We’re gonna look back and see this as a real moment of change in American history,” Biden said, before praising Jackson’s “brilliant legal mind,” temperament, and humility. The president also took time to acknowledge the Republican senators who voted in favor of Jackson, saying that Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney “deserve enormous credit for setting aside partisanship.” But he also condemned the harsh treatment that Jackson received from many of the conservative members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during her confirmation hearing.
“I knew the person I nominated will be put through a painful and difficult confirmation process. But I have to tell you, what Judge Jackson was put through was well beyond that,” Biden said. “It was verbal abuse. The anger; the constant interruptions; most vile, baseless assertions and accusations. In the face of it all, Judge Jackson showed the incredible character and integrity she possesses.”
Jackson’s voice grew emotional as she thanked her family, including her parents, brother, and husband Dr. Patrick Jackson. To her two daughters, Talia and Leila, she joked, “I bet you never thought you’d get to skip school by spending a day at the White House.”
In her remarks, Jackson reflected on the history of the moment, being raised by parents who attended segregated schools and then later becoming the first Black woman confirmed to the nation’s highest court.
“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. But we’ve made it. We’ve made it, all of us,” Jackson said as the crowd rose to its feet, applauding.
Jackson spoke about being considered a role model, something she said she takes “both as an opportunity and as a huge responsibility.” She also acknowledged the role models she had in her own life whom she feels paved the way for her, including Dr. Martin Luther King; Justice Thurgood Marshall; and Judge Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman to become a federal judge.
“To be sure, I have worked hard to get to this point in my career, and I have now achieved something far beyond anything my grandparents could’ve possibly ever imagined. But no one does this on their own,” Jackson said. “The path was cleared for me so that I might rise to this occasion. And 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.”
“So as I take on this new role, I strongly believe that this is a moment in which all Americans can take great pride. We have come a long way toward perfecting our union. In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States,” Jackson said. “And it is an honor, the honor of a lifetime, for me to have this chance to join the court, to promote the rule of law at the highest level, and to do my part to carry our shared project of democracy and equal justice under law forward into the future.”