Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Nov 12, 2022 in Blog, Essays, Personal, Politics | 2 comments

My Encounter with Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor



Here’s a story you might enjoy:

In 1989, I was a student at the Foreign Service Institute. This was to be my first assignment, headed off to Romania.

Entirely by coincidence, a new American Ambassador had just been appointed to Romania by President George H.W. Bush. The new ambassador’s name was Alan “Punch” Green. He was a Bush campaign donor, so he got picked for an ambassadorship. That was common then, and it’s common now. Amb. Green was a really nice man, but he had zero qualifications.

All new ambassadorial appointees must first be approved by the Senate. If approved, next they get sworn in. Usually, an official ceremony takes place at Main State, inside the diplomatic room up on the 8th floor. The oath is usually administered by a dignitary, meaning a big name people recognize. Small ceremonies might get 15-20 people. A big ambassadorship may attract 400-500 guests, plus the media. This crowd was closer to 15-20. After all, it was Romania.

Naturally, I was invited to attend. But then I arrived late and walked in just as the swearing-in ceremony was about to begin. I rush up near the stage, next to steps leading onto a small riser. There was an older woman standing there at the bottom of the stairs, probably in her 60s, dressed in a blue business suit. There were some other speakers who went first, and as public events go, some really lame attempts at humor. Typical boring government stuff. I forgot exactly what I mumbled out loud, but it was something stupid, making fun at one of the speaker’s lame attempt at humor. Standing directly next to me, the woman in the blue business suit tilted her head and looked at me kind of annoyed, but then she laughed. I didn’t pay much attention to the lady, figuring she was a secretary, or something.

So, Punch Green goes up onstage and then they introduce the special dignitary who will officially swear him in to be the ambassador. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor.” The woman next to me in the blue business suit clears her throat, steps forward, and walks onto the riser. I’m thinking — holy shit.

The ceremony concludes a few minutes later after Amb. Green officially gets sworn in and then there’s a short receiving line, with the family, pictures get taken, and of course, Justice O’Connor is there also, and I must walk through the line to pay my respects. I shake Amb. Green’s hand, and next in line is —— Justice O’Connor. I’m trembling. Literally shaking like a leaf. I can’t remember saying anything to her because I’m pretty much speechless after making a fool of myself earlier in the presence of a SCOTUS justice, and as I’m passing her in line she leans forward and whispers, “did I do okay?”

Man, I lost it. She sure had a wicked sense of humor, that’s for sure. That would be my one and only encounter with a SCOTUS justice, the first woman in history ever appointed to the Supreme Court.

To call that experience “intimidating” would be a big understatement.



  1. That’s a *great* story, Nolan! 8;)

  2. yes, we dont take time to comment, but like all the posts Nolan

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *