By Nyah Marshall
It was truly a day of celebration as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson made her first speech on Friday since her historic Senate confirmation, making her the first Black woman to hold a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. She spoke of hope and the promise of America, two sentiments that were also reflected in President Joe Biden’s and Vice President Kamala Harris’ speeches, both of whom joined Jackson at the podium.
“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 made it. We made it. All of us. All of us,” said Jackson as the crowd of over 100 attendees erupted in applause on the South Lawn at the White House.
“Our children are telling me that they see, now more than ever, that here in America, anything is possible,” Jackson continued.
Overjoyed with the magnitude of the moment, attendees rejoiced throughout the event, and even the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, made his way through the crowd greeting people and proclaiming, “It’s a great day. It’s a great day.”
Jackson and crowd members shed tears as she quoted the late poet, Maya Angelou. “I have worked hard to get to this point in my career, and I have now achieved something far beyond anything my grandparents could possibly ever have imagined,” Jackson said. “But no one does this on their own.”
“And in the poetic words of Dr. Maya Angelou, I do so now while bringing the gifts my ancestors gave me. I am the dream and the hope of the slave.”
Before introducing the nation’s new Supreme Court justice, Biden and Harris both made remarks that set the celebratory tone of the event.
Harris reflected on her thoughts as she presided over the Senate confirmation votes that made this historic event official. “Yesterday, I was sitting there. I drafted a note to my goddaughter and I told her that I felt such a deep sense of pride and joy, and about what this moment means for our nation and for her future.”
“And I will tell you, her braids are a little longer than yours, but as I wrote to her, I told her what I knew this would mean for her life and all she has in terms of potential,” Harris said.
Harris would soon introduce Biden, praising him for his “vision, leadership and commitment,” and for making this day possible. “Hallelujahs” and cheers were heard throughout the crowd as Harris reaffirmed that Biden delivered on his campaign promise to elect a Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
“Yesterday, we all witnessed the choice, start and moment presided over by the vice president,” Biden said. “There are moments that people go back in history and literally saw fundamental shifts in American policy.”
“Today, we’re joined by the First Lady, the Second Gentleman, members of the cabinet, Senate majority leader … and so many who made this possible. But then today, the good day, the day that history is going to remember and years to come, they’re going to be proud of what we did.”
With grace and courage, Jackson’s supporters said, she persevered through four days of confirmation hearings and nearly 100 meetings with senators. Referencing this Biden said, “We all saw the kind of justice you’ll be — fair and impartial, thoughtful, careful, precise, brilliant.”
Biden continued to thank the three Republican Senators — Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney — who made the 53-47 confirmation vote bipartisan. Their votes reflected an unpopular opinion among Republican Senators, some of whom left the Senate chamber during a standing ovation after Jackson was officially confirmed on Thursday.
Jackson will remain on the U.S. Court of Appeals until she is sworn in this summer after Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement. It was evident that today was a reflection of the celebration that’s to come when Jackson is sworn in.
Donna Brazile, Democratic political strategist and former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, was among the guests at today’s event.
“Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s remarks were truly uplifting and inspiring,” Brazile said. “She spoke to generations yet unborn and to all those who truly made this historic moment possible, and still I rise.”
Jackson thanked her family sitting in the front row; her parents, who received applause from the crowd; the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee under Chairman Dick Durbin’s leadership; Justice Stephen Breyer, whom Jackson happened to clerk for; former President Barack Obama, who nominated her for the federal district court; and everyone else in the crowd who made this day possible.
“We have come a long way toward protecting our union,” Jackson said. “In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation tothe Supreme Court.”
“This is 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. Thank you again, Mr. President, members of the Senate for this incredible honor.”
Nyah Marshall is a reporter for HUNewsService.com.