supreme court justice sandra day o'connor presents a history of the high court and profiles several of its former justices. .. >> what's the matter? right into it? oh, dear. now can you hear better? i actually didn't get an offer for my first job so let's just get the introduction changed a little bit.
[laughter] i happily attended stanford law school, and in the process, i met my husband to be, john o'connor, and he was a year behind me in law school. we decided to get married, and i graduated from the law school and we both liked to eat, and that meant one of us is going to have to work come in since i was out of law school, that was me. and i thought no problem getting a job. there were at least 40 notices on stanford's bulletin board at the law school, from law firms in california saying stanford law graduates, we have this, we would be happy to talk to you about job opportunities, give us a call. there were 40 different messages from different law firms in california on the bulletin board. so i called every one of those notices. not a single one would even give
me an interview. i said why? they said we don't hire women. and that was the way it was. i got out of law school i just about 1952, but isn't that amazing? they wouldn't even talk. and i really did need to get a job. [laughter] i heard that the county attorney and san mateo county california, the county seat is in redwood city, had one lawyer on the staff so i thought that's encouraging. i will go see. i made an appointment. in california they lack the county attorney, and so they are always glad handers and he gave me an appointment to see them and they went to meet him. he was very nice, very agreeable. and he said he had indeed had a woman on staff at one time, and she did well and he would be happy to have another.
and i had a good resume, and i would be fine. but the problem he had was that he got his money from the county board of supervisors and he got only so much money a year, and he had spent his money and he had no more and, for the year so he was not able to hire anyone else. and he was so sorry because he felt probably a good be hired, but not without any money. and then he said also, i'll show you around the office, and he did. and he said, as you can see i don't have a vacant office for another deputy. so i had to figure something out. and so i said, well, i understand, i know you don't have any money right now to hire anybody, but i will work for you for nothing until such time as the supervisors give you a little more money. i said, i'll do that. that kind of took his breath away. and then i said, and i measure secretary. she's very nice.
there's room in her office to put a second desk if she wouldn't object. and that was my first job as a lawyer. no pay, and i put my desk in with the secretary. but i loved my job. it was so interesting. i like everything i got to do. it was very exciting for me, and so that's what i did. and it worked out fine. i don't remember now how long i was there before he managed to find a little money in his account with the county. until i think somebody, somebody, one of the deputies must have left for another job and it opened an office. so everything turned out all right, but it was pretty tough sledding getting the first job. i felt sorry for the other women
who were in law school and getting out and looking for work, because there was no real opportunity for women lawyers at that time. i'm reading a new book out by -- what's her name? sharon who? [laughter] i've been reading that. [laughter] and it's a good story. you better read it, too. but it's amazing how things have changed, and i'm very glad that i was able to be a little bit of that change. in america for women. and i was working happily along in my job in arizona when i was sitting -- i become a judge on the court of appeals, and i was in my office one afternoon and the telephone rang, and i answered and the operator said,
this is the white house calling. is justice o'connor their bikes i was a justice at the point on the arizona court. and i said yes. and they said well, it's the president calling. would you put her on? i said this is she. [laughter] hello? and it was ronald reagan on the phone, and he said, sandra? i mean, how about that? first name basis. [laughter] and i said yes, mr. president. and he said, i would like to announce your nomination tomorrow for the supreme court, is that okay with you? [laughter] that is quote unquote what happened. [laughter] and the kind of gold and i said, well, yes mr. president, i think it is. and that's what happened. he had sent three people from
the attorney general's office out to arizona to check on my record. i had served in some capacity or the other in all three branches of arizona's state government in the preceding years. and, of course, i had left some kind of track record behind, and i think the president had sent people out to uncover press coverage of anything that i had been involved with, and look at papers in connection with my record. and i guess they haven't uncovered anything that looked scary, so we decided to do that. and i was at home the day the wanted to come out and really talk to me. and my husband and i have built a sun-dried adobe house in the phoenix area when we moved there in 1967. now, that was a real challenge
because you can buy burnt adobe. they are so common, but in this country today, it's very hard to go by sun-dried adobe's. those are the adobe bricks that somebody has made and then dried them in a frame in the sun into their drive and fairly firm. and that's what we wanted to use. i met a man who lived on cattle track road in scottsdale, and he built some sun-dried adobe houses, and he could tell us how to get some sun-dried adobe. so we followed his advice and got some rum and found a starving young architect who was willing to design a house, even if it was with sun-dried adobe, and so we got this house bill. and i just loved it. it was so fun. until you have seen and touched sun-dried adobe, you probably can't appreciate why i liked it so much, but it looked good. it feels good, and it's
wonderful in arizona sunshine. it really is. so that's what we used to build our house, and i loved it very much. when the president made his call, and i agreed to come back to washington, d.c., we learned that housing prices in d.c. are very high. [laughter] so we had to sell our little sun-dried adobe house, and raise a little money so we could get something to live in in d.c., and we did. and that was painful to have that happen. and an interesting thing has happened since, and i'm wondering from a topic but it's kind of interesting to hear. we have formed now in arizona a program using our old house, and so it's been purchased back by a nonprofit little organization to
support the oak honor council, and we use it as a place where civil talk leads to civic action. and i like that because in the years -- [applause] it's what we need a lot more of, congress needs to, state legislators needed. and when i had that house, when we were living in and i was a legislative leader, i would cook some mexican food, children's or something that stay hot -- childers or something that stay hot on the stove, i would buy cold beer and i would invite key people on both sides of the eye of the legislature and just have them come over to have a bite to eat and a beer. and when you sit around like that and speak casually in a friendly manner as you would with you on friends or
acquaintances at your own house, you just feel better about knowing people and relating to them come and we were able to make friends, enough, that we solve the state's problems. it worked. and that's what i would like to see more of. in the present we are using o'connor's house to get legislators together over beers and chalupas, and see if they can't get acquainted with each other and solve some of arizona's problems, and i think it's working. so that's the effort now. and what i felt when i was in my years at the court before i retired was that we were failing to teach young people in this country anything about how our government operates, how it runs. two-thirds of high school grads
today score below proficiency on any kind of civic test. only one-third of americans can name the three branches of government, let alone say what they do. i mean, imagine that. only 27% can identify the purpose of the u.s. constitution, and it's right there in the title. [laughter] less than one-fifth of high school seniors can explain how citizens participation helps democracy. only 22% of eighth graders can name any purpose met by the u.s. supreme court. now, that's very painful for me. [laughter] among 14,000 seniors in college
who participated in the survey, the average score on the civic exam was just barely over 50%. that is an f. now, this lack of knowledge does lead to disengagement. about half of the 14-year-olds in the united states say that their political attitude is indifferent or alienated. they have no interest. and i just think that we have to reverse that. we ought to care about that in this country. when our constitution was adopted, we didn't have public schools in america. that came later. in fact, it was about 30 years after the constitution was adopted that people began to say we need some schools in this country to teach the young people how this new government of ours works, how it is supposed to work and how they are a part of it.
well, they were right. we did need to educate the young people, and that's what started public schools. and today, we are having public schools that no longer teach civics. they don't require them for high school graduation, classes in civics. they are barely taught. i don't know about you, but when i went to school i went to great school and high school in el paso, texas. i grew up on a ranch. it was too far from town to go to school, and my parents sent me off to el paso or i have maternal grandparents living, and so i took my schooling their. we had civics all the time. i got sick and tired of it, to tell you the truth ass but i think that's a lot better than having none. so i was very concerned at the time when i announced my retirement about the lack of any
nationwide attention to teaching civics. i decided in my retirement that i would have time to do a little volunteer work, and maybe i could get started to teach civics, so i started something that we call i civic. we have ipads and ipods and i everything so i thought i civic would be good. [laughter] and it is. and we got it going. what i did was a simple, the most wonderful group of teachers who really know the subjects and put these young people, particularly in middle school should know about civics. and so with her help and with the help of some experts in writing of exams and things, we put together the icivic
website. and what we do is create games on the website. it's www.i civics.org. i want you to look at it. so don't forget. i will remind you again what it is so you can write it down. but we have games on of young people play and they are fun to play. we have not i think about 19 up, and it's great fun. the young people get on and they'll stay on all night until the parents say now, go to bed, turned it off, go to bed. and it's terrific. teachers have started using this that school find that it's very satisfactory. the main problem today is that most of the schools don't list the civics anymore as a subject to be taught. so it makes it harder for the teachers to find time to teach civics. but that's been my major effort
since stepping down from the court is to start and continue and expand the teaching of the ice ethics here and we now have a minimum of 30,000 young people a day who are plugged into icivics. i want a lot more than that. that's just the start, but it's extremely effective. university in texas data study of it, and took the program and put it in three or four schools in this area in texas somewhere near baylor and left in place for a while and tested the students. and baylor came back with not a good review. out raised review. they said it's incredible that it really is effective. and so that's my major effort that. that's i'm spending my time as a retired justice. i also said occasionally with
some of the federal courts of appeal. now, you know the federal courts consist of district courts, where trials in federal cases are tried, and then if the loser appeals, the appeal goes to a federal court of appeals and we have a number of federal circuits courts of appeal. they're scattered around the country. and i volunteered to sit with some of those courts of appeal, and then if you lose there, your own application relief is with the u.s. supreme court. they are grant of jurisdiction is discretionary with the court, ma and not too many cases are granted. so that's how the system works today. and i volunteered, periodically, to sit on one of the federal courts of appeal and hear a number of cases two or three days. and today, i went to the supreme court myself, i was here, and i
heard a case argued, and it just happened to be a case which i had heard as a volunteer judge when i sat on the ninth circuit some months back, and heard that case. and we rendered a decision, and the losers didn't like the result, and they filed a petition with the is suffering court, which took the case, and was argued today. so why the pleasure of getting in the courtroom and listening to the lawyers argue about the case that i have participated in deciding some months before at the court of appeals level. so that was fun to do i have to say. and i think what we've done tonight is to see if you didn't have areas questions that you thought you might like me to talk about, and we will try some of them. if they don't go so well, out the back and abandon those and just talk.
[laughter] [applause] spirit of justice, i have some other questions here. >> i don't like having to turn my neck your direction. [laughter] >> as you say, your honor. [laughter] >> i've asked her not to interrupt me what i ask these questions. [laughter] could you describe what you are thinking or feeling the first and/or last time you walked through the curtain to take your place on the court bench? >> well, the first time is pretty scary. the last time you are used to it, but the first time was really amazing.
and i couldn't believe that i was, in fact, now sitting as a member of the u.s. supreme court, a court that had never before had a woman on its panel of judges. and that was a very special event for the court. and i think it's made a difference. when i visit the court today, as i do today, and look up at that bench, i see three women sitting there today. [applause] >> there are also six men, but the overall effect is a lot better. [laughter] >> they gave me my own mic year. are there any traditions or rituals that go on behind the scene at the court? and that you are fond of?
>> oh, yes. start with the first. it is the practice at the court when you meet each day to go on the bench, or to send discuss cases, for each justice to shake hands with every other justice. now, that is really special. i don't know how you feel about that, but to shake hands with someone, come on over. [laughter] yeah, okay. to shake hands with someone is meaningful. it really is. i mean, touched her hand and shake them, and it's much more effective to work together as a court and decide the cases. and that was just marvelous, but on that first day, come back -- [laughter] one of the justices was a justice, his name --
[laughter] he was a former major athlete, and he took my hand, and i thought i was going to die. [laughter] i mean, honestly. tears sprang out of my eyes. there was nothing i could do. he killed me. it was byron white. now, do you member who he was? my god, he was a professional football player, and i don't know what else. he was amazing, but he about killed me. and so i learned what to do. see what i'm doing? i grabbed his from. [laughter] -- is some. i did that for the remaining years that he and i were both on that court. >> i think i will stand back
here. you thinking that judges have unique perspective? if so, in what way and how does it includes? >> i don't think they do, really. overall, male or female, as a justice you've gone to law school, you've studied law and you've had some experience, maybe as a trial judge or a state judge or in your law practice, something. and so you come there with some experience that is shared. so i don't think you come in with some preset attitude or experience that is vastly different from that or all the other justices. i really don't. now, could be at some stage of some preceding that as a former wife and mother, i might look at
some domestic relations case with somewhat different views than maybe a justice who would never been married or had children, that's possible, but i don't think by and large you find many with totally different approaches. >> do you think cameras should be allowed in the court while cases are being argued? >> that question is posed about once a year to members of the supreme court. i guess largely by media people who are accustomed to covering events of courts. and so far the supreme court has not permitted cameras to come into the supreme court chamber. it probably doesn't matter much as a practical matter. because i nighttime everyday a cases are heard of the court, you can get a full transcript of
everything that was said that date in the courtroom by the lawyers and the judges, the justices. it's all transcribed and available and in writing. so it's completely available, almost immediately, and i don't think that the absence of seeing that on a television screen as opposed to reading in whatever form it comes out is that significant. people are accustomed in this country to seeing everything on the television, so it's a little frustrating i guess for some to think that it isn't fair. but i don't think it's a cause for major concern because of the fact that in fact it is there in writing. you can see what was said. >> what advice would you give a young female attorney interested in becoming a judge? >> oh, well, if you want to be a
judge, first of all you got a pretty dashing you got to be a pretty good law student. you need to prove that in law school and elsewhere you have established a record of someone who does understand and no legal principles, and who can write well. that's very important. because as a judge are probably going to have to write your opinions and express yourself well. so that's important. and you want to be able to demonstrate based on articles that you've written and published and books you've written and published, that you have some capacity to understand legal issues, and write about them. i think that's very helpful in the selection of an appellate court judge. >> the court has had its moments of partisanship dating back to the beginning. do you feel looking back at recent history that us back to
world war ii that partisanship is causing him stability today? >> well, i don't think it's as bad as it may be was in earlier times in the nation's history. i really don't. when you look back in the early days of the country, at thomas jefferson and some of the things that went on on the court when he was there, when john marshall was our chief justice, they were second cousins, approximately, maybe second once removed, i'm not sure. they were cousins but they weren't the kissing kind. [laughter] they didn't like each other. it was really unpleasant, and yet they had many issues to resolve that affected our nation. and it's amazing that we got through all those days and did well. we don't have anything like that today. we have many cases where the justices may end up disagreeing on the bottom line.
you're not going to find 9 cents every time. once in a while, but usually there is some division of opinion on the court and that's very normal. but in the early days of the country there was some real hostility among some of the justices, i'm sorry to say. >> what's the number one question the other female justices have asked you about being on the supreme court's? >> they haven't asked me anything. [laughter] they just go to work and do it. what should they ask you? >> i don't think there's anything they should ask me. maybe how the lunchroom works and how they can get better lunches and things. that would be the only kind of thing i could tell them probab probably. >> was there any decision you made that based on that was interpreted or otherwise followed up that you now wish you had voted differently on?
>> i don't look back. now, that's one thing i've learned in life. and that is to do the very best you can every day with whatever problems you have and are required to decide, make a decision, and then don't look back. i don't look back. i'm sure i've made plenty of mistakes, but i don't need to look back at them. [laughter] i've been there, done that. >> here's another advice question. based on the state of the current job market, what advice would you give someone considering law school? >> well, i'm going to tell them that they won't perhaps immediately have the kind of job they want because it seems to me there are more lawyers available for higher than there are jobs available for lawyers. and it's tougher to get a job as
a lawyer right now than it used to be. so it may be a more challenging choice of a place to work. i'm sure it will even out over time, but if i being asked that by someone who was in law school today, i would tell them not to rush to get up because they might have a hard time getting a job. >> in cases that depend on science and technology expertise, how do you identify and then find such expertise? >> well, i don't have to do that as the judge. i only have to decide each case based on the evidence presented to the court. and in a case of an appellate court, which the supreme court is, the evidence has been introduced and presented at the trial court level.
in the first, the case, that's what the evidence comes in. and it's a matter of record. it's a matter that is in the record on that case. so if you want to look back as the appellate court judge at what was in the record at the time the case was resolved, it's all there in writing. it's all there in the record. you don't have to fish around, and you're limited to deciding it based on what is in the record. >> will any of the stories in this book make it into your eye civics curriculum? >> oh, and the new book? >> yes. spent i doubt or a i might've pt it and already. i don't think so, no. no, i don't think so. >> why do all of the big controversial cases, out at the end of the year? >> well, they don't all, but i would say maybe a majority tend to come out at the end of the
year because the cases that into producing several opinions, both for and against the decision, both opinions supporting it and those dissenting opinions that do not support it, and they require writing, and sometimes considerable writing to produce a descent, or an opinion of green with the majority but for different reasons -- agreeing with the majority. it takes a long time to write those up and that means that often the last cases to be handed down for a term tend to be the cases that are produced the most amount of writing because it took more time to put all that together. spent justice, i have one more question. what do you do to unwind after a particularly stressful day?
>> well, that's not my practice to worry about how to unwind at the end of the day. i like to start my day with some kind of exercise. that's how i like to start. and the first thing i do, the very first thing -- the very first day i got on the supreme court of the united states, i got on the telephone and i called the ywca here in washington, d.c., and talk to somebody there on the staff. and i asked if they could find someone who could come to the court and teaching exercise class early in the morning. and they said they thought they could find someone, and they did, and they sent a young woman down. and she stayed with us for a number of years, giving us an exercise class early in the morning on at least three days a week. and that's what i wanted to i don't about you but i like starting my day with an exercise
class. it just gave me more energy for the rest of the day. i thought it was a great way to start my day. and i think the court still enjoys the privilege of having an exercise class our early in the morning. >> will you stay and sign some books for everyone? >> well, not for everyone. there's too many people. [laughter] and i will sign into i get out, okay? anyway, it's been nice to talk to you. [applause] >> visit booktv.org to watch any of the programs you see here online. type the author or book title and the search bar on the upper left side of the page and click
search. you can also shoot anything you see on booktv.org easily by clicking show on the upper left side of the page and selecting the format. booktv streams live online for 40 hours every weekend with top nonfiction books and authors. booktv.org. >> we are at the concert political action conference in washington, d.c. david is the editor for human events and former columnist for "the denver post." you talk about for issues going into obama's second term. can you describe the? >> there's dependency which is not just about welfare and food stamp and things like that but a general fundamental change in the way that people react to each other in government. we have dead which is self explanatory but i think the problem is a lot worse than people imagine. there is surrender, which is foreign policy chapter and it's not a neocon sort of argument
that it's more of reflection of how we believe our place in the world is what it is. and, finally, death which is inevitable for most of us and is about abortion for the most part. >> this book is being published now in march. how long did you have to put the book together and we thinking of obama's second term? what was the timeline? >> i didn't think that romney would win. i wrote that. but i'd put this together rather quickly. i've been thinking about it but the book, it's not a huge book because how much can you read about the four horsemen really? but it is a slim book but it took about a month to write. >> currently we -- the budget situation, what are your thoughts? >> i think there's an ideological divide in washington now that's going to be hard to come to sort of any consensus or agreement on what to do. we are in bad shape. i like the paul ryan budget they
cannot recently. the paul ryan budget that came out recently to understand a lot of the ideas in that budget into think republicans need more ideas. i'm happy sort of in the direction that party is going. >> what do want people to take away from this book in regards to the second turn? >> politics matters and it's not just about popularity but it's about policy and politics can be disruptive -- destructed. i'm a libertarian about the world and i think that the book warns people that these problems are a lot worse than the thing and they don't just go away. we have to do something about it. >> can you tell us about what you do? >> i'm a new editor, and we put out what i like to think of is accessible but smart content about politics and culture and books and all sorts of things that are going on. and we have some great writers and we will be bringing you contribute support him. it's an old publication in 1944.
hands. >> all 2572 pages. i read this. you don't have to. weeding obamacare as he walked was going to happen in the next 18 months. it's not a political book. it's a guide. it will help you avoid the landmines of some the unintended consequences and real blows, body blows of the leftist 18 months spent what are the first things to take affect? >> some of the art provisions have already taken effect but what's happening now is people who get their coverage through the job and most of us do, are getting clobbered. they're being called into the boss' office and told him so, we are dropping your coverage where as in some places where pushing down to part-time status because the losses employers have to offer coverage and not just any coverage. it has to be one size fits all essential benefit package that costs about twice as much as what many employers currently offer. so one of the biggest things that's happening this year is
that people are losing their on the job coverage or their full-time job status. spent this book was published by regnery. you mention is not a political book. >> actually not a political but because my focus is on spent on health care. my day job is that i prevent hospital infections. this is a book that says things if you're a baby boomer in your 50s or early '60s, line up your doctors not come your cardiologist, even if you're healthy. because if you wait, you're not going to be defined edged doctor willing to take you on as any patient. >> over 2500 pages in the law. you look at every page. were there things you like? >> one of the biggest surprises in section 3000, which awards bonus points to the hospitals justospend the least forcing yoo understand that medicare needs to save money, but spend the least for senior, i wouldn't take my beloved dog.
so i wouldn't take my mother to the hospital that spends the least for seniors? we have a lot of data that shows the lowest spending hospitals have higher mortality rates from things like heart attacks and pneumonia. so you don't want to choose the hospital speaker what are the three things people should know about this law speak with one is to be careful about medical privacy. we all confide things to our doctors and trust it stays there. now your medical information will be entered into an electronic database. the goal is a national database. people on all sides of the political spectrum from the far left to the far right are very concerned that you're losing your medical privacy. to talk to your doctor about keeping two sets of books. that's number one. number two, be aware that if you have a heart condition, for example, and you usually see a specialist, don't be bamboozled about all the talk that you don't need to see what anymore. there are a lot of provisions in this law to make it harder to
specialist. keep seeing a specialist. and number three, is to get to the health insurance exchange, don't be bamboozled by the bronze, silver, gold and platinum choice. it's all the same essential benefit package. so go for the cheaper one because unless you're very sick, the platinum plan is going to rip you off betsy mccaughy has looked at over 2500 pages of the affordable care act and she put in her book, "beating obamacare." thanks so much. >> so nice to talk with you. thank you for talking about the book. you are watching c-span2 with politics and public affairs. weekdays featuring live coverage of the u.s. and. on weeknights watch key public policy events. every weekend the latest nonfiction authors and books on booktv. you can see past program to get our schedules at our website and youc