By Cheyenne Haslett
Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to ever serve on the highest court in the land, has been diagnosed with dementia and is battling the early stages of the disease, she announced in a public letter addressed to “friends and fellow Americans” on Tuesday morning.
O’Connor retired from the Supreme Court in 2006. She was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 when she was 51 years old.
“Some time ago, doctors diagnosed me with the beginning stages of dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease,” O’Connor wrote, explaining that the condition has progressed to the point that she can no longer participate in public life.
“Since many people have asked about my current status and activities, I want to be open about these changes, and while I am still able, share some personal thoughts,” she said. Her primary goal since retiring from the Supreme Court 12 years ago, she said, has been promoting civic engagement – advocating for Americans to “understand our Constitution and unique system of government, and participate actively in their communities.”
She spoke of the program she wrote, iCivics, which teaches children across the country.
“I will continue living in Phoenix, Arizona, surrounded by dear friends and family. While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings in my life,” O’Connor wrote.
“As a young cowgirl from the Arizona desert, I never could have imagined that one day I would become the first woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court,” she added.