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Funeral for former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's life and work were honored at her funeral today

At a Tuesday funeral service for Sandra Day O'Connor, President Joe Biden and Chief Justice John Roberts spoke about her life and work as the first woman to serve as a US Supreme Court Justice.

Here's what you need to know about the funeral at Washington National Cathedral:

Biden hailed Sandra O'Connor's work for empowering women: "Sandra Day O'Connor, the daughter of the American West, was a pioneer in her own right, breaking down the barriers of legal and political worlds and the nation's consciousness," he said. Under great pressure and scrutiny, she helped "empower generations of women," "open doors, secure freedoms, and prove that a woman can not only do anything a man can do," but many times do it "a heck of a lot better," he said, adding she was "gracious and wise, civil and principled."

Roberts said she was so successful in breaking barriers that they seem "unthinkable" today: "Sandra Day O'Connor had to study and launch a career in the law when most men in the established profession did not want women lawyers — let alone judges," he said, adding the measure of her life and work is that "younger people today cannot understand what it was like before Justice O'Connor." Roberts also remembered O'Connor's approach at the court as "simple and direct: Get it done."

Historian says the Supreme Court building was O'Connor's "temple": Evan W. Thomas III described how the late Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was "the glue" of the Supreme Court, recalling how she encouraged the justices to get to know each other outside of the chamber. Thomas described her dedication to the law, saying she "found her church" in Washington, DC. "Her temple, you might say, was the white marble building on First Street, NE," he said, referring to the Supreme Court building in the city.

O'Connor had stepped down from the court to take care of her husband: She retired in 2006 to care for her husband who was ailing from Alzheimer’s disease. President George W. Bush would go on to nominate Justice Samuel Alito to take her seat.

“Years ago, while going through my mom's papers, I came across a box containing her report cards for middle school and high school,” he said. “Sandra Day O’Connor once got a B in civics.”

"In the presence of the president, the Supreme Court justices and all of you today, I ask you this: Based on her 40-year dedication to promoting the rule of law and democracy at home and abroad, do you think she's earned enough extra credit to raise that lowly B in civics to an A?" her son asked the crowd, to applause from President Joe Biden and other attendees.

He said “most of all, she loved her family" and was a mom in every aspect — from grocery shopping to taking care of her kids, all with a demanding career. He described her energy and her love of dancing.

"Mom and dad absolutely loved to dance and they were known as the best dancers in Washington. In this city, it was not uncommon for the dance floor to clear the moment they stepped onto it hand in hand," he said, adding that his mom was the first person on the Supreme Court with "technical training in disco dancing."


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