The Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) mourns the passing of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and celebrates her life and work as a champion of civics education who played an essential role in the creation of numerous civics learning programs, including several at APPC. Justice O’Connor died on Dec. 1 at the age of 93.
The Annenberg community fondly remembers Justice O’Connor, the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, as a force in revitalizing civics education and an inspiration to students. A friend of APPC founders Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, Justice O’Connor worked closely with Leonore Annenberg and APPC Director Kathleen Hall Jamieson at Sunnylands, the Annenbergs’ historic estate in Rancho Mirage, Calif., to develop civics programs that are jointly sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center and The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands.
“Justice O’Connor reminded the nation of the importance of civics education, founded the influential iCivics project, and with Justices Breyer and Kennedy shaped the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics’ work on the Constitution,” said Jamieson, who was a friend of Justice O’Connor’s. “The APPC family mourns her death even as it celebrates her life and legacy.”
Beginning in the early 2000s, Justice O’Connor was instrumental in guiding the development of civics programs, starting with the Constitution Project, founded in 2001 by The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands. Today, the Constitution Project – a project of Sunnylands and APPC’s Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (LAIC) – is responsible for the creation of a series of award-winning documentaries on landmark Supreme Court cases for educators and students that are available for streaming at Annenberg Classroom, a project of LAIC.
In 2004, Justice O’Connor attended a retreat at Sunnylands that was organized by Jamieson in her role as program director for The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands. Joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Anthony M. Kennedy, Justice O’Connor met with Jamieson, Carnegie Corporation of New York President Vartan Gregorian, and Mrs. Annenberg for what was to be the first in a series of meetings focused on ways to improve teaching the U.S. Constitution. That year Justice O’Connor also took part in the first annual Supreme Court Institute in Washington, D.C., organized by APPC, giving high school students the opportunity to participate in a conversation with her, Breyer, and Kennedy.
In a 2005 program sponsored by APPC and Sunnylands, Justices O’Connor and Breyer held a conversation with students entitled “Our Constitution: A Conversation with Justices Stephen Breyer and Sandra Day O’Connor,” which is available on Annenberg Classroom. The following year, Justices O’Connor, Breyer, and Kennedy rejoined for additional “Conversation on the Constitution” programs on Judicial Independence and on Key Constitutional Concepts. The video series of conversations is available here.
At the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication (ASC) in November 2008, Justice O’Connor presented the APPC-ASC Leonore Annenberg Lecture on “The Constitution, the Courts, and Civic Education.”
In 2009, Justice O’Connor founded the nonprofit organization iCivics, a leader in online civics education programs, which collaborated with APPC on a group of online games now available on iCivics and Annenberg Classroom.
Read Sunnylands’ tribute to Justice O’Connor.