Jackson Confirmation Prompts Pride Among GDS Alumni

A sign promoting Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson before her confirmation. Photo by Annabel Hilzenrath.

Students and faculty gathered in the Forum to watch Ketanji Brown Jackson become the first Black woman to be confirmed to the Supreme Court on April 7. But current GDS students weren’t the only ones invested in the hearings; several alumni interviewed by the Bit were thrilled by the news. 

Jackson, who joined GDS’ Board of Trustees in 2019 and serves on the External Affairs Committee and the Facilities Master Planning Committee, was nominated to the Court by President Biden on February 25, and was confirmed on April 7.

“I’m very happy,” Rachel Yavinsky ’01, a current GDS parent, said. She attributes Jackson’s success to her hard work and intelligence. “I was really proud of how well she did and how well she spoke about GDS,” Yavinsky added. 

Tamara Lawson ’92, a current GDS parent, was very impressed by Jackson during the confirmation hearings. “Judge Jackson was supremely qualified—overqualified, compared to past nominees,” she said. “[She] had the comportment and the presence that is perfect for Supreme Court justices.” Lawson thought that those close to Jackson who came to speak on her behalf, including the chair of GDS’ Board, Lisa Fairfax, proved that “every point in her career prepared her for this huge opportunity.”

During the hearings, Senator Ted Cruz questioned Jackson about her position on the GDS Board and, in particular, about critical race theory and its alleged role in the school’s curriculum. Adrienne Biel ’01, who has a fourth-grader at GDS, was not surprised by Cruz’s questions, which she deemed “ridiculous. He had something that he wanted to say, even though it really had nothing to do with her,” Biel said, adding that she thought Jackson handled the questions well. “She stayed to her point and didn’t get flustered at all.”

Yavinsky told the Bit that she showed her first-grader a short, edited video of a part of the hearing when Jackson spoke about the history of GDS. “She was like, ‘Why is that man asking her those questions? Why are they being like that to her?’” Yavinsky said. She explained that she told her daughter that the senators were “afraid of her power, afraid of how smart she is and how successful she is,” and said that she “didn’t really have a better way of explaining it.”

Michael Schaffer ’91, a current GDS parent and senior editor at POLITICO, wrote about how the GDS alumni community reacted to Cruz’s questioning. “Online, [GDS] alums tweeted out Cruz’s derision as an emblem of pride,” he wrote. 

Julia Blount ’08, a former middle school history teacher at GDS, found the hearings interesting from a historical perspective. “Over time, the Supreme Court confirmations have gotten increasingly more political,” she said. “I was curious about some of the questions that came up.” She added that the alumni community was very active on social media, discussing the coverage the school was getting, and was intrigued to see GDS in the news in relation to the Court. “I definitely thought and went, ‘Oh my goodness! I can’t believe GDS is in the middle of a Supreme Court hearing!’”

Nora Abramson ’97, a current GDS parent, said she was “horrified” by the line of questioning that Jackson received from Cruz. “I think it just showed to me how polarized the country is,” she said. She added that Cruz “was whipping up the Republican base” on the very things that drew GDS parents to the school.

Blount noted how important the confirmation of Jackson was not just because she will be the first Black woman to serve on the court, but also because a woman of color, Vice President Kamala Harris, presided over the final vote. “In my lifetime—well, ever—there’s never been two women of color, Black women, in the highest level of two branches of the U.S. government at one time,” she said. “It was very powerful to recognize that in two branches of government, there are now women of color and Black women at the top.”

Lawson reiterated the significance of Jackson’s race and gender as a Supreme Court Justice. “It was just a beautiful thing,” she said. “That was just a joy to watch.”