All of a sudden, I find myself wondering why I'm not on Obama's short list for the next Supreme Court justice. True, I've never been a Law School Dean, but I have so many of the other qualifications of his nominees:
1. Law School Graduate -- CHECK! No requirement that you be a Harvard law school grad, but just that you Graduate, which I did, er, uh, Cum Laude Baby!
2. Not A Judge -- CHECK! Who said you need to be a judge to be on the Supreme Court?! No One! Lots of Supreme Court Justices were never judges; in fact, in the old days, the majority held other offices. Some of the more famous non-judges who became Great Justices include John Marshall, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, William Douglas, William Henry Moody (just think -- if I lived here in Haverhill back in the late 1800s, I would have lived just four doors away from Justice Moody -- further proof that ALL things eventually lead back to Haverhill) and Earl Warren, just to name a few of the spectacular several.
3. Princeton University Graduate -- CHECK! Alito, Sotomayor, and now Kagan! Tremendous. Still beat out by 6 Harvard Law Alums, but this just confirms what we've always believed regarding our Undergrad education being superior.....
4. Female -- CHECK! No need to explain.
5. Daughter of immigrants -- Almost Check! Great Grandaughter of immigrants and first in my immediate family to attend college.
6. Liberal Democrat -- CHECK! Some ill-informed fans of Fox News might consider this a negative, but many, many others consider it Totally Positive.
7. Single Without Children -- ???? Now I know why I'm not on the short list. Because, Today, in order for a female with liberal Democratic beliefs who attended Princeton and then went on to become a lawyer practicing part-time, to become a Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, she must not be married or have children. Of course, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is married and has children, as was Sandra Day O'Connor. But apparently those were the old days, under the Reagan and Clinton Presidencies, where Women Did It All. Under the Obama Presidency, it is sufficient for female justices to excel at their careers, no marriage or children required.
Sotomayor's and Kagan's single, childless status got me thinking. Especially as I find myself at somewhat of a crossroad in my own career, deciding where to go and what to do next, now that the kids are mostly out of the nest. These days, is it possible to have it all and be at the very top of your career? These two women, heralded for their intelligence, successful careers, and General Superiority in all things Intelligent and Wise, have personal resumes with a few holes. Probably intentional, but holes nevertheless.
And it got me thinking . . . What message is this sending my daughter? We have a President that I support virtually wholeheartedly. His own wife graduated from Princeton and has a legal degree from Harvard. In fact, she had her own professional success before she gave it all up to become the President's #1 supporter. Michelle Obama fits all the criteria for being a Supreme Court Justice herself, except that she is married with children. What message is the President sending his own daughters in selecting a woman with such a serious hole in her personal resume? If Kagan were a man, would her/his single status raise flags about her/his ability to judge? In recent history, David Souter is the only male justice not married and without children; all the others are/were married and have tons of children (Scalia -- who was rejected from Princeton and attended Georgetown, not that that's important -- has nine).
Elena Kagan is no doubt a highly qualified, extremely intelligent and successful legal scholar and advocate. By all accounts, she did an excellent job managing and bringing people together while she was Dean of Harvard Law. There is general consensus that she will be appointed to replace Justice Stevens (married with four children; highest GPA ever at Northwestern U. School of Law). And she will likely be on the Court for a very long time, as she is only 50 years old.
And that's where the rub is. If husband and children are on your CHECK list, it may take significantly longer to reach the highest echelons of your profession. Especially if you're a lawyer. We shouldn't be suprised by this, but it is somewhat disheartening nonetheless.