Ketanji Brown Jackson on her historic confirmation to Supreme Court: 'I am the dream and the hope of the slave’

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At an event celebrating her historic confirmation to the Supreme Court at the White House on Friday, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson reflected on the importance of her ascension to the nation’s highest court.

"I am the dream and the hope of the slave," Jackson said, quoting Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise” during an event on the South Lawn, where she was joined by President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The Senate on Thursday voted 53-47 to confirm Jackson, who will become the court’s 116th justice and the first Black woman ever to sit on its bench.

“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,” Jackson said. “But we’ve made it. We’ve made it, all of us.”

"In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court," she added.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks as President Biden stands behind her, applauding.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks on the South Lawn of the White House. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

The 51-year-old judge wiped away tears as she thanked her family, including her parents, brother, husband and two daughters, Leila and Talia, who were in attendance.

“This is all pretty exciting for me, but nothing has brought me greater joy than being your mother,” Jackson said.

​​She also thanked former President Barack Obama, who nominated her for her first judicial role on the federal district court.

Jackson, who watched the Senate confirmation vote alongside Biden at the White House, said she was “humbled” and “honored” to be given the opportunity to serve as a justice.

President Biden gestures to Vice President Kamala Harris and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
President Biden gestures to Jackson and Vice President Kamala Harris while speaking on the South Lawn of the White House. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“Yesterday we witnessed a truly historic moment,” Biden said. “We’re going to look back and see this as a moment of real change in American history."

Biden lauded the "pose and composure" Jackson showed during her confirmation hearings, during which she was interrupted by several Republicans who made what the president described as "vile" and "baseless" attacks on her record.

"It was verbal abuse," Biden said.

Harris, the nation’s first female, first Black and first Asian American vice president, said she wrote her goddaughter a note while presiding over the historic vote.

“I told her that I felt a deep sense of pride and joy, and what this moment means for our nation and her future,” Harris said.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks as President Biden and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson applaud.
Harris speaks as Jackson and the president applaud. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Jackson’s confirmation comes less than two months after Biden introduced her as his pick to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer — fulfilling his campaign promise to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court.

Jackson won’t be sworn in until this summer, when Breyer officially retires. When she does take her seat, the nine-member court will include four women — Jackson and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett — the most ever at one time.

It will also be the first time in U.S. history that white men won’t be the majority on the Supreme Court. The bench will include five men, four of them white.

The event was held amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in Washington, D.C., with a slew of high-profile officials testing positive this week. Among them: Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga.; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo; Attorney General Merrick Garland; and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser.

The White House said Biden tested negative for the virus on Friday morning.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at a lectern on the lawn in front of the White House.
Jackson speaks at the event celebrating her confirmation to the Supreme Court. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)