Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has just the thing to bring together all those partisans in Washington: beer and chalupas. O'Connor, speaking to a full house Monday night at the Sixth & I Synagogue, talked about how the O'Connor House in Arizona and how it got its start.
"We use it as a place where civil talk leads to civic action," O'Connor said. "In the present we're using O'Connor House to get legislators together over beers and chalupas [to] see if they can't get acquainted with each other and solve some of Arizona's problems."
It was with O'Connor that the food and brews trend got its start. "I was a legislative leader, I would cook some Mexican food sometimes, chalupas or something ... and I'd buy some cold beer," she explained. "And then I'd invite some key people on both sides of the aisle from the legislature."
The first female Supreme also joked about how much the Court has changed since she started the job. "When I visit the Court today and look up at that bench I see three women sitting there," she said to robust applause. "There are also six men," she deadpanned with a giggle. "But it's a lot better."
She says the female justices haven't asked for her advice. "I don't think there's anything they should ask me, maybe how the lunchroom works and how to get better lunches," she laughed.
She also talked about ways she learned to survive life as a Supreme. "On the first day, one of the justices was a justice, he was a former major athlete and he took my hand and I thought I was going to die," she recalled. "Tears sprang out of my eyes, there was nothing I could do ... it was Byron White." O'Connor then demonstrated, using moderator Politics and Prose Owner Bradley Graham as her guinea pig, how she thumb-warred her way out of the death grip. "So ... I grabbed his thumb," she exhibited.
O'Connor is also responsible for bringing fitness to the bench. "The very first day that I got to the Supreme Court of the United States, I got on a telephone and I called the YWCA here in Washington, D.C." she said. "I asked if they could find someone who could come to the Court and teach an exercise class early in the morning ... and they did."