June 2019: Advocacy, Athletics & Adventures
"The glory of each generation is to make its own precedents."
- Belva Lockwood (Lawyer, Professor, and first woman sworn into the Supreme Court of the United States)
When I reflect on the past month, I see how much I have in my life, how much I still have to do, and how grateful I am to those who are on this journey with me.
Each year, a group of fifty Harvard Law alumni are sworn into the Supreme Court. I was lucky enough to be among this group of grads this year. One of the benefits of being part of this group is getting to know the other graduates. I was one of the youngest graduates being sworn-in, and the eldest were from the class of 1972. It was a privilege to hear about the work that the alumni are doing around the globe.
I was sworn in on a Monday morning in June, which means the Court was announcing opinions. When we arrived outside, the news media was there, ready to report on the opinions. No media is allowed inside the court though. We went through security and waited in the hallway for over an hour with all the other alumni. Finally, we were escorted to one of two formal conference rooms where we had a special breakfast. There was another law school across the law having a similar ceremony to ours. It was Washburn University, where my father went to law school! My dad was my guest for the day and he was able to talk to a few of the alumni from his school getting sworn in!
The time came for us to line up and enter the court. We were the last ones to enter and the court was full when we filled the seats at the front that are reserved for members of the bar. The aisles are very narrow and there was no way for Zoe to guide me. I took her leash and let her walk in front of me, with some nerves, but she did great. When we got to the seat, I was uncertain if she would fit. It was smaller than most seats I had squeezed her under. She sensed the importance of the moment and fit herself under the tiny area, not moving the entire 40 minutes we were in the courtroom. The Court read three opinions: First by Justice Kavanaugh, then Justice Sotomayor, and then Justice Thomas. After the opinions were read, the admissions to the Court began. All of our names were read and we stood before the court and took an oath. The Court was dismissed and we exited and returned to the conference room.
We were asked to take a seat for a photo opportunity. Soon after, Chief Justice John Roberts came into the room. He welcomed us and started to give us a talk about some of the paintings in the room. The photographer interrupted him and asked him to take a seat, because, “Zoe was finally being good!” I couldn’t believe it, Zoe had been good all day, but it was still funny! Justice Roberts laughed and said that he had rarely been told what to do in his own Court, but since Zoe was being good, he would sit!
In the afternoon, we had a private tour organized by a friend that clerked with the Supreme Court. It was excellent and we learned so much about the history of the Court and our country. I was especially interested in all of the exhibits on the role that women played in the court. Ms. Belva Lockwood was the first woman sworn into the court. At that time, the Supreme Court kept a list of all the women that were sworn into the bar and they did so until 1920. The list is on exhibit in the court. There is also one of Justice Ginsberg’s famous jabots on exhibit, as well as a great exhibit about Justice O’Connor, who was the first woman Justice. Check out this post to see more pictures!
Last month, I also had the opportunity to connect with several leaders that support the causes that are at the heart of my work, including disability issues and violence against women. We met Congresswoman Slotkin (#MI08) and Congresswoman Spanberger (#VA07), who are both women leaders that have served our country. I look forward to working with them on these issues. Read more here!
In addition to the above advocacy, we celebrated Global Accessibility Day and gave you some great tips on how to make your social media more accessible, based on a question from one of our followers. Remember, making your posts accessible will ensure that they reach the widest audience possible, whether you are trying to sell goods, advocate for a cause, or share a picture with your blind friends! See this post for more information.
Another question we answered from followers this week was about Zoe’s annual eye appointment that is sponsored by Stokes RX. To read more about this great event, check out our post here.
I made a very quick trip to Houston, Texas for the Texas State Time Trials to get more racing experience. I reached out to Pamela Ferguson, a friend from Vanderbilt and very experienced cyclist and tandem pilot a few weeks earlier about potentially racing with her. She not only offered to pilot me in the time trial, but opened up her home. I didn’t want to go all the way to Texas unless there were at least two races, so I reached out the race director to see if he could add an additional tandem race (there are usually multiple opportunities for singles (half-bikes!), few opportunities for tandems to race. He eagerly accepted and added another tandem race. The second race interfered with Pamela’s team race, so she helped find another pilot for me, who was new to tandem racing.
Katie Solbo piloted for the very first time in our 40K and did an awesome job. Joseph Matta helped get my bike together and packed up and Jim Payne watched Zoe during races! All of this lead to two gold medals and a great weekend of fun, learning, and friendship. At the end of a weekend like this, I am so grateful and reminded of the things that vision loss has brought into my life that I would otherwise not have. We are headed to National Championships this week--wish us luck!
June is one of our favorite months because it is PRIDE month! I love Pride month, because it helped me learn to be unapologetically and publicly proud of being disabled, of being an LGBTI ally, and of being who I am. I learned so much when I was working with the LGBTI community and for the first Special Envoy of LGBTI issues at the State Department in 2015. Using a cane or Zoe is not something I was always confident about or proud of. Erasing the feelings of isolation and non-acceptance are something that we all have dealt with at some point. I have dreams, like many others, that the disability community can see themselves and will be represented in the world and that no one will feel alone or ashamed of who they are. Let’s all celebrate our differences together this month and work to make the world a more kind, caring, and empathetic place.
When my parents were in town for my Supreme Court swearing-in, we went to the Capitol Pride Parade as a family. It was quite an adventure! It was my dad’s first time attending a Pride Parade. When my mom was asked by a young man at the parade if it was her first pride parade, she proudly said, “No. I went to Pride when I was in Berlin.” Everyone standing around us cheered! When I read the quote from Belva Lockwood, the first woman sworn into the Supreme Court, that I started this post with, “The glory of each generation is to make its own precedents,” I think about all that our and previous generations have done to make this sort of inclusion possible. If you haven’t been to a Pride Parade, I encourage it. You will feel love, inclusion, and will walk away feeling proud. Proud that we have created a space and time to celebrate who we are. No matter who you are, if you are there and celebrate inclusion you will feel pride.
Most of you know that music and meditation are important to me, and it's how Zoe and I start our day. Each newsletter, we will be highlighting a song or piece from our mindfulness practice that we want to share. This month we are listening to Lady Gaga's freedom anthem, Born This Way. It's an old song, but has become a powerful shield for marginalized communities around the globe. What are you listening to this month? Post a pic or video and tag #ZoesPack.
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter to read interesting articles about disability issues—these posts are different than our social media posts on Facebook and Instagram.
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