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After 232 years, Ketanji Brown Jackson is the first Black woman on the Supreme Court

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

It's a moment that will likely be replayed for years to come. Ketanji Brown Jackson, speaking at the White House Friday, said it has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON: But we've made it.

(APPLAUSE)

JACKSON: We've made it, all of us, all of us.

RASCOE: Her confirmation was a moment of triumph for many Black women, but it came after a bruising set of hearings that included deeply personal attacks. Minyon Moore is a political strategist and a member of the administration's team that helped make Jackson's confirmation happen. She joins us now. Welcome.

MINYON MOORE: Welcome. Thank you.

RASCOE: First, can you talk about what your role was on the team of advisers for this Supreme Court process?

MOORE: My role was to build public support for the judge, to make sure everyone knew about her exceptional qualifications, to inform the public of this nomination. And I think we succeeded at that.

RASCOE: So you're a Black woman who has been deeply involved in politics for a long time. Were you surprised by the line of questioning that Jackson faced during her hearings regarding her sentencing of people convicted of possessing child pornography? Her opponents pushed this idea that she was somehow soft on sexual offenders, even though even conservative legal experts said it was meritless. That, to me, seems to go beyond disagreement on legal ideology.

MOORE: Well, I wasn't - well, there were two things. I think the judge understood her own record, and she understood that she was in the mainstream of this country when it came to those issues. If - but it's different sitting in the hearings because she was prepared for the questions. It was almost as though the questioning was deliberate. It was meant to be personal. It was meant to send a signal outside of the hearing room. And I think the - it became a level of badgering that really, I think, stunned us all. But even with that, we were also very, very pleased at the way she handled those questions and in large part because she understood her own credentials. She understands the law. She understands the Constitution. So no matter how they came at her, what they couldn't do is destroy in her the intellectual capacity of what she understands about the law.

RASCOE: Do you believe that Democrats did enough to protect and to push back against the attacks lodged against Jackson? I mean, obviously, Senator Cory Booker did speak out. But do you think that more should have been done?

MOORE: Well, listen, we are incredibly grateful for Senator Cory Booker, Senator Padilla, Mazie Hirono, Klobuchar - the entire Democratic body of the judicial committee. But we're also incredibly grateful for all the voices that were on the outside of the hearing that were speaking up on her behalf, that were echoing what - some of the words of Senator Booker - we're going to let - we're not going to let anybody steal our joy. So what you didn't see was the millions of people coming to her defense. And some were Democrats. Some were Republicans. And some were independents. And we were grateful for that. So I contend, because I was part of building the public support, her echo chamber outside the hearings was great. It was large, and it was really the wind beneath her wings.

RASCOE: You know, I saw and heard from Black women online and in person who felt so much pride at this confirmation. And you see that in Vice President Harris's remarks. But it was - you know, it really was a long time coming. What do you say to those people who are still so frustrated by how long this has taken, by how nasty they feel the process was? Like, how do you square that in your mind?

MOORE: Well, I square it in the same way she squared it when she was on that Harvard campus - persevere. I have been in this process personally for a very long time. And what I learned from the Dr. Maya Angelous and the Coretta Scott Kings and the Reverend Willie Taplin Barrows and all those great women who have gone on - what I learned from them is you cannot get weary. You cannot get fake. Because what they do know is if you get weary, somebody else will take your place. So I say use the word persevere...

RASCOE: OK.

MOORE: ...And inscribe that in your heart.

RASCOE: That's Biden administration strategist Minyon Moore. Thank you for speaking with us.

MOORE: Thank you so much for inviting me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.