The ten dollar bill is being redesigned to feature a woman’s face. This will not be just any woman either. In order to grace the currency of the United States of America, one must have lived a life which can be held up as a symbol of our inclusive government. The frontrunners, as voted on at a recent town hall meeting in Seneca Falls, New York, were Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt and Susan B. Anthony. Yes, these are all valid candidates, but they pale in comparison to she who fits the criteria.1 Very few women have accomplished more in our government system on their own merit than Sandra Day O’Connor. More than being the first female Supreme Court Justice O’Connor deserves to be on the ten dollar bill because she is an extremely accomplished person, who served with a firm allegiance to the United States Constitution, and whose judicial decisions still affect America today.
In order to be placed on the ten dollar bill in 2020, a woman must be a symbol of the inclusivity of America and American government. Sandra Day O’Connor’s life is a powerful symbol of the warmth of American inclusivity. There were absolutely no female Supreme Court Justices for almost two-hundred years before Ronald Reagan appointed Justice O’Connor to the highest bench in 1981. By the time Congress confirmed her appointment, Sandra Day O’Connor had already been well-known nation-wide as an extremely successful human being. O’Connor graduated from Stanford Law School in 1952, after which she practiced law around the world from California to Frankfort, Germany before settling in Arizona. O’Connor was a curiosity in her day: a successful female lawyer. O’Connor then used her triumphs to transition into a position as the assistant Attorney General for the state of Arizona. She would hold this post throughout the nineteen-sixties. In nineteen sixty-five, she was appointed to fill an empty seat in the Arizona state senate. Senator O’Connor won re-election twice before winning a judge-ship in the Maricopa County (AZ) Superior Court. Five years later, Judge O’Connor would shift over to the Arizona Court of Appeals. Sandra Day O’Connor fits the bill.
As a Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O’Connor made a lasting impression on the history of our great nation. Her most important decisions have, and will continue for many years, to influence the way that Americans view politics and history, what we demonstrate for and against, and how we understand the Constitution today. Take for example, the July 1, 1982 case of Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan. In this case, O’Connor found in favor of a male applicant who had been denied acceptance into the female University’s nursing program based on his gender. Consider also the June 4, 1985 case of Wallace v. Jaffree, in which O’Connor and the Court rule that holding a moment of silence in a public school does not constitute prayer and is constitutional. In 1987, O’Connor and Co. upheld the Constitutionality of capital punishment and in 2003 affirmed California’s three strike penalty for repeat offenders. In 2004, Justice O’Connor ruled on the case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that any citizen held in the U.S. must be given the opportunity to challenge the factual basis of their detention before a neutral arbitrator. In short, because of O’Connor’s judicial decisions a man may attend a school that he otherwise would have been denied acceptance to on the basis of his gender; students in a public school can honor a deceased or injured classmate or teacher without fear of retribution from the Freedom From Religion people; dangerous repeat offenders can be kept off the streets for good; and we will never again see a version of FDR’s Japanese internment camps. O’Connor left her mark on America, now it’s time for her to leave her mark on our money.
What is perhaps the most vital and wonderful thing about Sandra Day O’Connor is that she exhibited an undying allegiance and respect to the United States Constitution. While other justices would commonly vote along party lines or in accordance to popular opinion, O’Connor rooted her opinions in the text of our most important document. During her time on the bench, O’Connor had a reputation for being dispassionate about the issues at hand. Justice O’Connor would meticulously research the case through the lens of the Constitution and standing precedent, and use that as the basis of her opinion. She did this even at the cost of her own popularity. The best example of this decision making process is the June 29, 1992 case of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. In this important abortion case, Justice O’Connor joined Justices Kennedy and Souter in reaffirming “the central holding”1 of Roe v. Wade. O’Connor risked extreme backlash from her Republican colleagues for being a moderate conservative on the court whose decisions failed to end the practice of legalized abortions. (I too, admit that I would have preferred it if O’Connor had voted along party lines twenty-three years ago. That said, I can respect her decision to use her head instead of her heart in the matter.) Supreme Court justices are given life-time appointments so that they will be given the ability to make their decisions free from the distractions of parties, political allies, special interests, and above all, public interest2. Supreme Court justices are supposed to follow the Constitution and deliver just verdicts according to the law instead of their ideologies. Sandra Day O’Connor did exactly that.
In reaction to the decision to redesign the ten dollar bill, Senator Jeanne Shaheen stated that she was glad that, “Young girls across this country will soon be able to see an inspiring woman on the ten dollar bill who helped shape our country into what it is today and know that they too can grow up and do something great for their country.” By introducing Sandra Day O’Connor’s countenance onto our currency, we would be celebrating a woman who was successful, impactful, and constitutionally conservative. We would be honoring a person who everyone, all Americans, can look up to. And that’s something that Americans need now.
Part three of four.
- “Before viability, a fetus may be legally aborted in America.”
Kesler, Charles R. Roe vs. Wade: 25 years later A decision greatly undermined. The San Diego Union-Tribune. January 22, 1998.
- Or as James Madison would call it: Mob Mentality. See Federalist 10.
Timeline: Sandra Day O’Connor’s Key Decisions. Washington Post. July 1, 2005. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/01/AR2005070100654.html
Sandra Day O’Connor. Bio.com. http://www.biography.com/people/sandra-day-oconnor-9426834