60 Sandra Day O’Connor Quotes from the First Woman of the Supreme Court

These Sandra Day O’Connor quotes are empowering, educational, and truly inspirational.

Sandra Day O’Connor was one of the most popular women in politics and law in the United States of America.

She is a retired attorney and politician who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

O’Connor was the first woman to hold the position and she held it for more than two decades.

Her credentials as a lawyer caught the interest and attention of President Ronald Reagan who nominated and confirmed her post.

He believed in her ability to lead and make good decisions for the country.

Looking into O’Connor’s previous work in law, you can tell that she truly deserved the highest position an attorney can get.

She was a powerful figure in Arizona as a judge and has been one of the most influential women in the world.

Enjoy these Sandra Day O’Connor quotes and sayings!

Don’t forget to also check out these Ruth Bader Ginsburg quotes on standing for justice.

Check out our most popular quote article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily inspiration. 

Check out our inspirational quotes category page for more inspirational life quotes.

Best Sandra Day O’Connor Quotes

1. “The freedom to criticize judges and other public officials is necessary to a vibrant democracy.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

Everyday Application: The freedom of speech, as it reads in the constitution is a corner stone of our democracy. The amendment states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The amendment protects you from the government, not public opinion or private employers though!

2. “Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

Everyday Application: Doing your best is always the best way to approach a problem. Doing your best means that you are trying as hard as you can do something. This includes sacrificing leisure time, making hard choices, and not wasting time. Every task that we do should receive our best effort.

3. “We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

Everyday Application: Whether it is our friends, family, mentors, or religious figures we always have someone or something in our corner. However, often times we accomplish things because of the people who bring adversity to our lives. Therefore, nothing is really ever accomplished by us alone. We have either a killer support system or a great catalyst…sometimes both!

4. “I don’t know that there are any short cuts to doing a good job.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

Everyday Application: Doing a good job, means hopefully, you gave it your best effort. It might feel like people take short cuts to success, but you putting in the work and doing a good job will teach you so much more in the long run!

5. “This chance will stand before you only once.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

Everyday Application: Seize the day, especially when you are presented with an opportunity. You have to treat each chance that you are given as if it is a one time opportunity. In truth, it very well might be, and if you operate under the assumption that there will be another chance, you could miss out on something that you were meant to take.

6. “Liberty finds no refuge in a jurisprudence of doubt.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

7. “I think I learned to appreciate and treasure each day, because you don’t know how many you’re going to be given.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

8. “Slaying the dragon of delay is no sport for the short-winded.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

9. “If I stumbled badly in doing the job, I think it would have made life more difficult for women, and that was a great concern of mine and still is.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

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10. “Each of us brings to our job, whatever it is, our lifetime of experience and our values.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

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Sandra Day O’Connor Quotes on Law and Justice

11. “Unfortunately civility is hard to codify or legislate, but you know it when you see it. It’s possible to disagree without being disagreeable.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

Everyday Application: You can disagree with someone without resulting to name calling and belittling. Our differences help us come up with the best ideas to solving a problem when we can work together and communicate kindly. Treating each other with basic civility goes a long way in having your voice heard.

12. “In my work a good library is essential. It enables me to learn the background and previous discussions of the various issues I am called upon to decide. It provides the stability and continuity for the rule of law.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

Everyday Application: Books are a wonderful source of knowledge. They can teach us anything from self-development tips, law, and leadership. Books are also a great source of entertainment. You are what you consume, so check out some of these great books to up your life game!

13. “Yes, I will bring the understanding of a woman to the Court, but I doubt that alone will affect my decisions.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

Everyday Application: A good solution to a problem takes the perspective of many into account. It is never a bad idea to understand how something is going to impact people other than yourself.

14. “The proper role of the judiciary is one of interpreting and applying the law, not making it.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

Everyday Application: The definition of a judge is “a public official appointed to decide cases in a court of law.” They are not law makers, they are interpreters of the rule of law. Here are few qualities that make up a good judge: judicial temperament, intelligence, ethical behavior, integrity, and experience.

15. “I care very much about women and their progress. I didn’t go march in the streets, but when I was in the Arizona Legislature, one of the things that I did was to examine every single statute in the state of Arizona to pick out the ones that discriminated against women and get them changed.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

Everyday Application: You can fight injustice in whatever way you can be most helpful. You could picket in the streets, write your legislature, write articles, or help change laws! Use your strengths and know what you can contribute to a social cause. Everyone’s efforts matter!

16. “I finally gave up my little law practice and stayed home for about three years. You have to do what you can to keep the family going. But I wanted to get back to work. So I got another babysitter and went to work as an Assistant Attorney General.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

17. “The framers of the Constitution were so clear in the federalist papers and elsewhere that they felt an independent judiciary was critical to the success of the nation.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

18. “The prima facie evidence provision in this case ignores all of the contextual factors that are necessary to decide whether a particular cross burning is intended to intimidate. The First Amendment does not permit such a shortcut.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

19. “Statutes authorizing unreasonable searches were the core concern of the framers of the 4th Amendment.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

20. “I sort of thought the framers of the Constitution were talking about the rights of individuals, not corporate entities.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

21. “When I went to law school, which after all was back in the dark ages, we never looked beyond our borders for precedents. As a state court judge, it never would have occurred to me to do so, and when I got to the Supreme Court, it was very much the same. We just didn’t do it.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

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Sandra Day O’Connor Quotes with Life Lessons

22. “Young women today often have very little appreciation for the real battles that took place to get women where they are today in this country. I don’t know how much history young women today know about those battles.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

23. “Commitment to the rule of law provides a basic assurance that people can know what to expect whether what they do is popular or unpopular at the time.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

24. “Having family responsibilities and concerns just has to make you a more understanding person.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

25. “Parents should continue to become more involved with their communities, and more involved in their children’s education.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

26. “The family unit plays a critical role in our society and in the training of the generation to come.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

27. “You have citizens who don’t understand how government works and they’re kind of soured on it. All they do is criticize. They have no idea that they can make things happen.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

28. “The destiny of the woman must be shaped to a large extent on her own conception of her spiritual imperative and her place in society.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

29. “Be aware that even before you have reached your ultimate professional destination, if you always strive for excellence, you can and should have a substantial impact on the world in which you live.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

30. “As a citizen, you need to know how to be a part of it, how to express yourself – and not just by voting.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

31. “We pay a price when we deprive children of the exposure to the values, principles, and education they need to make them good citizens.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

Sandra Day O’Connor Quotes Reflecting on Her Life

32. “I loved my husband very much, and it was heartbreaking to have him develop Alzheimer’s disease, and to stand by and watch him decline in his ability to take care of himself.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

33. “I wanted to be a cattle rancher when I was young, because it was what I knew and I loved it.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

34. “And I went off to Stanford, I was pretty young and pretty naive. And I had a professor I really loved, who was himself a lawyer.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

35. “The power I exert on the court depends on the power of the power of my arguments, not my gender.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

36. “How dare you make my life a felony.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

37. “I need to retire from retirement.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

38. “What was a problem was the excessive amount of media attention to the appointment of the first woman and everything she did. Everywhere that Sandra went, the press was sure to go. And that got tiresome; it was stressful.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

39. “I had become increasingly concerned in recent years about the lack of civics education in our nation’s schools. In recent years, the schools have stopped teaching it. And it’s unfortunate.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

More Sandra Day O’Connor Quotes on Justice and Government

40. “So how as a nation can we sit around and eat Mexican food, and drink beer and make friends? That’s the question. If we can do that on a broader scale, I think we’ll come out of it all right.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

41. “I don’t know how a judge can concentrate on being fair and impartial when he or she is faced with possible jail time for making a decision that others deem incorrect.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

42. “We hold that the reckless disregard for human life implicit in knowingly engaging in criminal activity known to carry a grave risk of death represents a highly culpable mental state that may be taken into account in making a capital sentencing judgment not inevitable, lethal result.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

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43. “Half the states have stopped making civics and government a requirement for high school. Half.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

44. “The government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

45. “Cyberspace undeniably reflects some form of geography.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

46. “My sense is that jurists from other nations around the world understand that our court occupies a very special place in the American system, and that the court is rather well regarded in comparison, perhaps, to their own.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

47. “In order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry, it is necessary that the path to leadership be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

48. “Society as a whole benefit immeasurably from a climate in which all persons, regardless of race or gender, may have the opportunity to earn respect, responsibility, advancement and remuneration based on ability.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

49. “I think the important thing about my appointment is not that I will decide cases as a woman, but that I am a woman who will get to decide cases.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

50. “If parents instill a sense of civic-mindedness – and there is no better way to do that than by example – their children will probably follow.” –Sandra Day O’Connor

Sandra Day O’Connor Quotes About Justice

51. “There was no hostility at the court when I arrived.” ― Sandra Day O’Connor

52. “It was better for me when I was joined at the court by a second woman. When I was there alone, there was too much media focus on the one woman, and the minute we got another woman, that changed.” ― Sandra Day O’Connor

53. “I think most people didn’t want to do court duty.” ― Sandra Day O’Connor

54. “The members of the court were just delighted to have a ninth member – male or female. They were all kind and welcoming.” ― Sandra Day O’Connor

55.  “Most high courts in other nations do not have discretion, such as we enjoy, in selecting the cases that the high court reviews. Our court is virtually alone in the amount of discretion it has.” ― Sandra Day O’Connor

56. “My concern was whether I could do the job of a justice well enough to convince the nation that my appointment was the right move.” ― Sandra Day O’Connor

57. “I like to think that the court will continue to be held in high regard by the public. I think it should be.” ― Sandra Day O’Connor

58. “I don’t think it’s the court’s perceived role to do some explaining of a political nature.” ― Sandra Day O’Connor

59. “Suppose you had a cross burning in a play or a movie… Would that be intimidating?” ~ Sandra Day O’Connor

60. “For students, understanding the separate and unique functions of each branch of government can help them understand how different kinds of government officials can help solve different kinds of problems.” ― Sandra Day O’Connor

What did you learn from these Sandra Day O’Connor Quotes?

These Sandra Day O’Connor quotes indeed mirror her role in justice and law in the United States.

Her statements have been important in shaping the future of law in the country.

Many have and will continue to learn from her words.

As one of the most powerful and influential women in the world, O’Connor proved that she can be at par or even surpass the experiences and achievements of men in the field.

She proved how a woman can do more in politics and in law.

Her great contribution was recognized when President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

What’s your biggest takeaway from these Sandra Day O’Connor quotes and sayings?

Do you have any other favorite quotes to add?

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