The John and Linda Coker Lecture
Sandra Day O’Connor was born in 1930 in El Paso and grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona. At a time when women were expected to be homemakers, she set her sights on Stanford University. When she graduated near the top of her law school class in 1952, no firm would even interview her. But Sandra Day O’Connor’s story is that of a woman who repeatedly shattered glass ceilings—doing so with a blend of grace, wisdom, humor, understatement, and cowgirl toughness.
She became the first ever female majority leader of a state senate. As a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals, she stood up to corrupt lawyers and humanized the law. When she arrived at the United States Supreme Court, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, she began a quarter-century tenure on the Court, hearing cases that ultimately shaped American law. Diagnosed with cancer at fifty-eight, and caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s, O’Connor endured every difficulty with grit and poise.
Women and men who want to be leaders and be first in their own lives—who want to learn when to walk away and when to stand their ground—will be inspired by O’Connor’s example. Thomas provides a remarkably vivid and personal portrait of a woman who loved her family, who believed in serving her country, and who, when she became the most powerful woman in America, built a bridge forward for all women.
Speaker: Evan Thomas
Evan Thomas is the author of ten books, including several New York Times bestsellers, the most recent of which is First, his acclaimed 2019 biography of Sandra Day O’Connor. His other books include Ike's Bluff, Robert Kennedy, The Wise Men (with Walter Isaacson), Sea of Thunder, and Being Nixon. For 33 years, he was a reporter, writer and editor at Time and Newsweek. For ten years he was Washington Bureau Chief for Newsweek. He has won numerous awards, including a National Magazine Award for reporting in 1999. A graduate of Harvard and the University of Virginia Law School, he taught writing and journalism at Harvard and Princeton for ten years.