(NewsNation) — The day after becoming the first Black woman to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson reflected on what a long way she has come.
“In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States,” Jackson said Friday on the South Lawn of the White House.
Flanked by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Jackson noted: “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.”
President Joe Biden touted Jackson’s humility, saying it’s a quality that “allows so many Americans” to see themselves in the judge.
“Our children can look at this moment and go ‘I was there,'” Biden said, as he touted Jackson’s humility.
Jackson said she’s been “flooded” with thousands of notes, cards and photos expressing how much her nomination and confirmation mean to people. Particularly meaningful for Jackson, she said, are the cards from children “because more than anything, they speak directly to the hope and promise of America.”
Jackson, a 51-year-old appeals court judge with nine years of experience on the federal bench, was confirmed 53-47 by the Senate Thursday, mostly along party lines.
Biden criticized some senators’ lines of questioning during Jackson’s confirmation process, saying what she went through was “verbal abuse.” While some senators, such as Cory Booker, D-N.J., were overcome by “joy,” others, led by Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, quizzed the federal judge about her views on issues of race and crime, amplifying election-year grievances and a backlash over changing culture.
In her confirmation, Jackson made history by becoming the third Black justice and only the sixth woman in the court’s more than 200-year history. Jackson is slated to take her seat when Justice Stephen Breyer retires this summer.
On Friday, Jackson gave her “heartfelt thanks” to the many people she said helped her get to the Supreme Court — her family, including her husband Patrick and daughters Leila and Talia, friends, mentors and more.
“It is the greatest honor of my life to be here with you,” Jackson said in her remarks. “It is hard to find the words to express the depth of my gratitude. … I have come this far by faith and I know I am truly blessed.”
Jackson would be the current court’s second Black justice — Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative, is the other — and just the third in history. Biden nominated Jackson in February.
Promising to follow in Breyer’s footsteps, Jackson said she has done her “level best to stay in my lane and to reach a result that is consistent with my understanding of the law, and with the obligation to rule independently, without fear or favor.”
The 51-year-old federal appeals court judge will join two other women, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, on the liberal side of the current 6-3 conservative court. With Justice Amy Coney Barrett sitting at the other end of the bench, four of the nine justices would be women for the first time in history.
While the vote was far from the overwhelming bipartisan confirmations for Breyer and other justices in decades past, it was still a significant bipartisan accomplishment for Biden in the narrow 50-50 Senate after GOP senators aggressively worked to paint Jackson as too liberal and soft on crime.
Before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, Jackson said her life was shaped by her parents’ experiences with racial segregation and civil rights laws that were enacted a decade before she was born.
With her parents and family sitting behind her, she told the panel that her “path was clearer” than theirs as a Black American. Jackson attended Harvard University, served as a public defender, worked at a private law firm and was appointed to the U.S. Sentencing Commission in addition to her nine years on the federal bench.
“I have been a judge for nearly a decade now, and I take that responsibility and my duty to be independent very seriously,” Jackson said. “I decide cases from a neutral posture. I evaluate the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath.”
Once sworn in, Jackson would be the second-youngest member of the court after Barrett, 50. She would join a court on which no one is yet 75, the first time that has happened in nearly 30 years.
“This is not only a sunny day,” Biden said Friday. “This is going to let so much sun shine on so many young women. We’re gonna look back and see this as a moment of real change in American history.”