Jackson delivers opening remarks at Supreme Court nomination hearing: 'You will see how much I love our country'

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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson opened the hearings for her historic Supreme Court nomination by emphasizing her love for the U.S., the Constitution and her family.

"My parents taught me that unlike the many barriers that they had to face growing up, my path was clearer, so that if I worked hard and believed in myself, in America I could do anything or be anything I wanted to be,” said Jackson, who if confirmed would become the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court.

“When I was born here in Washington, my parents were public school teachers, and to express both pride in their heritage and hope for the future, they gave me an African name: Ketanji Onyika, which they were told means ‘lovely one,’” she said.

Jackson was joined in the hearing room by her parents, husband and daughters.

“Girls, I know it has not been easy as I’ve tried to navigate the challenges of juggling my career and motherhood,” Jackson said to her two children. “I fully admit I did not always get the balance right, but I hope that you’ve seen with hard work, determination and love, it can be done.”

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson and her family
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, second from left, sits with her husband, Patrick Jackson, left, and daughters Leila, third from left, and Talia during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing. (J. Scott Applewhite/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Jackson said she was thankful for the confidence that President Biden had placed in her. She noted she had already met with 45 senators, including each member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She also praised retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, for whom she clerked early in her career and whose seat she has been nominated to fill.

“Members of this committee, if I am confirmed, I commit to you that I will work productively to support and defend the Constitution and this grand experiment of American democracy that has endured over these past 246 years,” Jackson said, adding, “During this hearing I hope that you will see how much I love our country and the Constitution and the rights that make us free.”

Monday’s hearing was reserved for opening statements, with Tuesday and Wednesday set for full days of questioning from the panel, allowing each senator 30 minutes on the first day and 20 minutes on the second. Jackson’s confirmation would not shift the current 6-3 conservative majority on the court.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Jackson gives an opening statement at her confirmation hearing on Monday. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

The nominee was introduced by Judge Thomas B. Griffith, a former federal judge appointed by George W. Bush, who said, “There should be nothing unusual about my support for a highly qualified nominee who has demonstrated through her life’s work her commitment to the rule of law and the federal judiciary.”

Lisa Fairfax, Jackson’s roommate at Harvard, both as an undergraduate and at law school, who now serves as a presidential professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, also introduced the nominee and touted her abilities as a friend, mother and judge.

“There’s her wonderful sense of humor, her gift of storytelling, her heart of gold that always shows up,” Fairfax said. “From the first call you make for advice about your career to the first knock you hear on the door after learning you’re diagnosed with cancer. You never have to ask — she is always there.”

During their opening statements, Democrats touted the historic nature of the nomination.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson with professor Lisa Fairfax
Jackson hugs professor Lisa Fairfax, a friend and colleague, during the hearing. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“This is not a normal day for America,” said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who is Black. “We have never had this moment before. And I just want to talk about the joy. I know tomorrow in the coming hearings we're going to have tough, hard questions. But please let me just acknowledge the fact that this is not normal. It's never happened before.”

Biden introduced Jackson as his nominee on Feb. 25 after a monthlong selection process following Breyer's announcement of his retirement. The president had previously nominated Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia last summer, to which she was confirmed by a vote of 53-44.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina voted in her favor. Graham, however, has changed his tone on Jackson, calling her Supreme Court nomination a win for the “radical left.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told reporters after the hearing that he expected Jackson to fend off any Republican criticisms in the coming days.

“We had 22 senators speaking to her, many making accusations and asking questions, and she had to sit blessedly calmly and wait for her day tomorrow. So I trust her response will be a good one."

Jackson, raising her right hand and smiling, is sworn in to her confirmation hearing.
Jackson is sworn in to her confirmation hearing. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)