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Tailgating with Sandra Day O’Connor

I was late arriving to a “tailgate” at the Stanford Law School on Saturday and nearly tripped over two members of the Secret Service. For those of us in the Bay Area (vs. D.C.), that usually means there’s a presidential candidate in the room, but in this case, it turned-out to be two Supreme Court members – or one former and one current, to be specific. Stephen Breyer is the current Justice and Sandra Day O’Connor, first woman appointed to the Supreme Court and recently retired, was of course the one who caught my eye.

First, I should rewind and say that what was called a tailgate at the Stanford Law School was really a pre-game party for the Homecoming footaball game that occurred in the court yard at the law school where they served Kansas City-style BBQ chicken and some fabulous ice cream sandwiches among other items in the well-presented buffet. And the fully stocked bar (with wine and really good margaritas) did not reek even remotely of cheap beer and chips. Having never been much of a football observer (so sue me, I know it’s heresy for a UofM grad to say this), I’d never been to a tailgate before but I’m guessing this one doesn’t really count anyway.

I ended-up at this soiree at the invitation of my dad – it was his birthday – who graduated from Stanford Law School in ’62. He invited my sister, her partner, (both of whom are also Stanford grads), me and my husband to come with him and his wife to the tailgate and then to the game. It was mostly an activity for alumni to catch-up with each other. If I had come earlier, perhaps I would’ve said hello to Sandra O’Connor. I certainly thought of things to say and ask, but mostly I wanted to thank her for her service and for helping break the glass ceiling. I didn’t know how to come across as not cheezy – I’m a little shy when it comes to in-person meetings like this. I figured she wanted to just talk with friends. She clearly had her fill of people coming up to her and talking to her, and then suddenly she was gone, probably whisked away to the game or some other event.

What I did learn while I was standing in line for my chicken (not eavesdropping, I swear), was that she’s still a sharp woman. She was partaking in discussion about tax law and policy and had opinions on what may or may not pass with Congress. I’d rather not write what I heard specifically because she didn’t know I was there, but nevertheless, just her presence at an event like this shows that she’s still making a difference through her service, and I’m sure her legacy will continue. I’m hoping our next Supreme Court Justice will be a woman appointed by a woman, and I really hope she’s around to see it. All I can say is next time the law school has a tailgate, I hope I’m invited back. They know how to party.