Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

The Funeral Of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 19, 2023 - 12:30   ET





The Lord be with you.

ALL: And also with you.

HOLLERITH: Let us pray. Oh God of grace and glory, we remember we remember before you this day our sister Sandra. We thank you for giving her to us, her family and friends to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage.

In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death, the gate of eternal life so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth until by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most Merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding, deal graciously with Sandra's family and friends in their grief. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness and strength to meet the days to come. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

ALL: Amen.



DYLAN J. O'CONNOR, GRANDSON OF JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR: A reading from the Prophet Micah. With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, a mortal, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. The Word of the Lord.

ALL: Thanks be to God. COURTNEY DAY O'CONNOR, GRANDDAUGHTER OF JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR: Psalm 106, Hallelujah, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for his mercy endures forever. Who can declare the mighty acts of the Lord or show forth all his praise? Happy are those who act with justice and always do what is right.

Remember me, oh Lord, with the favor you have for your people and visit me with your saving help.


That I may see the prosperity of your elect and be glad with the gladness of your people and that I make glory with your inheritance.



REV. JANE E. FAHEY, FORMER CLERK FOR JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR: The holy gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

ALL: Glory to you, oh Lord Jesus Christ.

FAHEY: When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. And after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak and taught them, saying, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account, rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The Gospel of the Lord.

ALL: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: A beautiful celebration of and thanksgiving for the life of Sandra Day O'Connor. We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot to discuss. We will do that right after this.



BLITZER: What a beautiful memorial service honoring the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. It was very, very special. All of us were moved. And Joan Biskupic, you spent a lot of years covering her on the Supreme Court. What was your immediate reaction?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: I just thought it was beautiful too. You know, they really capture the essence of her all four of the main speakers beginning with President Joe Biden to talk about how iconic she was, how important but also to get to her human qualities right down to her impatience.

As Chief Justice John Roberts pointed up that she -- all the speakers were brief. And they really, as I said, captured her. And I think what we saw is a woman who was demanding of others around her but also demanding of herself. Someone who would exercise in the morning, socialize in the evening.

Her son, Jay, who spoke -- talked about how she somehow conveyed to them that it was normal to go to three family parties and a square dance all in one evening. And just how she brought them out into the world and then brought the world into their dining room table, that he said was then translated into how she dealt with the justices.

But I guess if I thought of the core of this whole thing, it was family. And President Biden who has seen so much loss in his life, so nicely talked about the people she left behind. And how we are on just about the 71st anniversary of her marriage to her husband, John, and that she's now with him.

BLITZER: Yes. That was so moving on. And we heard President Biden wrap up is really moving remarks by saying May God bless Sandra Day O'Connor, an American pioneer. But she really was an American pioneer.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we also learned that she sent some instructions for how she wanted to be remembered in this ceremony. And that the music, the readings, they spoke to the theme of Justice on Earth, which I thought was a very pronounced and interesting way for her to want to be remembered. And I just thought it was lovely.

SUSAN PAGE, CNN ANALYST: You know, four very different speakers that President, as chief justice, her son, her biographer, but such a consistent portrait. They -- you kept hearing the same adjectives used over and over again, civil, impatient, brave, bossy, kind. These -- we heard from all them about these personal qualities which intersected I think with her professional life and with her time to make her such a consequential figure in our country.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We also heard we also heard from -- I believe it was Evan Thomas, that she had an uncanny feel for where the country was at any given moment. And that she took that into consideration and thought the progress should be careful. And it sort of made me wonder what she would think about the court today, because she never wanted to -- she, you know, she was more into doing things in baby steps, rather than huge -- in huge ways, looking for consensus all the time, looking for civility. And, you know, unfortunately, I think a lot of that has been lost.

BLITZER: Yes. And Evan Thomas, her biographer --


BLITZER: -- wrapped up his words, and they were really powerful. "How lucky we were, she was the first. We will miss her."

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: You know, I was so moved as a mother watching her children and her grandchildren. You know, so oftentimes people in these great statue, you know, these great statues, and they are so far removed, and they have this illusion of either or. But in her case, it was and, and that was a really powerful moment for so many people to see.

Also, I love the self-deprecating humor of Chief Justice John Roberts who really juxtapose himself and they -- on the one hand and on the other and her just saying, you got to decide. Sometimes you just have to decide, and the ripping of that intellectual band aid in a moment when you hear so many people, bothsidesism, hemming and hawing trying, you know, twisting their hand, wringing their hands right now what the next step will be.

Isn't that precisely what you want as a Supreme Court justice when the -- when it hits the fan, the privilege the fan (ph), sometimes you have to decide and decide she did.

BORGER: And she did it without regret. You get the sense of her, including in your interview with her that once she made a decision, that was it. There were no regrets.

BLITZER: Yes. She was a powerful woman. "We thank you. We love you. We will never forget you." That was from her son, Jay.

BISKUPIC: Her son Jay did such a nice job. And he even started out saying, if I lose it in -- with tears, as so many people in the --

BLITZER: You could see the grandchildren.

BISKUPIC: Yes, they were all in tears. He said, I've instructed people to start playing music. But you know, he's -- he was obviously so close to her in terms of her work. And also what was going on around the family dinner table and told just beautiful stories that, as Laura said, just put her in the home as well as in the Supreme Court.

And one other thing I just remark about the chief, you know, the chief has been very proud of the fact that he had helped with her confirmation as a young lawyer. And he mentioned that only later did he find out that she was a little bit impatient and thought that she didn't get him -- he didn't get her the materials fast enough. But he didn't say that was Sandra Day O'Connor, no fluff.

PAGE: You know, there were a lot of tears. There was a lot of laughter during this service. And that isn't true of every memorial service. But it's clear that she had a sense of humor. And she was willing to take some -- I mean, on some things, she was taking a little bit of ribbing like, being impatient with the young lawyer at the justice work for not being fast enough for. And that's -- there's something very affectionate about the fact that they all felt free to have these moments of remembering her wisdom humor.

COATES: It wasn't fun that way, tender moment when the sun showed that a lot of her skills were transferable, right?


COATES: You all thought in front of her argument is because she was a trained lawyer. No, this was trained interrogating mother, right? And so that was the issues. My three sons kept going through my head every time and just knowing that how there was a fluidity in her life. And again, going back to an entire human being on the bench deciding for an entire nation of human beings.

BORGER: She was a connector.


BORGER: You know, she was a connector of people. I mean, I love the story about her taking her law clerks on fishing trips.


BORGER: I mean, really, that was above and beyond and a connector at the court making people go to lunch, egging on Clarence Thomas, who didn't want to go to lunch, saying you're going to go to lunch.

BISKUPIC: I'm sure much of her family also appreciate how many references to her husband John, and they were amazing dancers. You know, I think a couple of the speakers referred to the fact of what a love affair she had had with her husband John, who gave up a lot to move to Washington with her in 1981. Essentially gave up a really serious law practice to come here and, you know, just start start anew.

So when she gave up the Supreme Court position in 2006, she was repaying him in some way. But I had not known that part about the disco dancing.


BISKUPIC: I knew that they were great at ballroom dancing, but I did not know that she had also taken up disco dance.

BLITZER: Hoping there'll be some video, in case, we'll be able to see that, guys. This was really a special moment for all of us, a truly historic figure and we're grateful to Sandra Day O'Connor for all that she did. She did for women, she did for men, she did for everyone. And we are so, so grateful.

Thanks to all of you for joining us. And to our viewers thanks very much for watching our special coverage of the funeral for the Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. I'll be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern in The Situation Room. Much more

news coming up then. In the meantime, CNN News Central starts right now.