The Senate Judiciary Committee has completed its hearings on President Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Yesterday, the senators made their final remarks and heard witnesses testify about her character and qualifications. The American Bar Association, which rates federal judges, noted that it has found Judge Barrett to be “well qualified,” its highest rating.
Since Republicans hold a twelve-to-ten majority, the committee is expected to approve her nomination when it votes on October 22. This would set up a vote on the Senate floor the week of October 26. Since Republicans hold the majority in the Senate, her confirmation is widely expected.
How a blank notepad made headlines
Judge Amy Coney Barrett is Catholic and obviously a woman. Both facts make her nomination noteworthy: only 22 percent of Americans are Catholic; only five of the 119 Supreme Court justices in American history have been women. If confirmed by the Senate, she will become the youngest Supreme Court justice since 1991 and the first mother with school-age children to serve on our nation’s highest court.
She did not achieve her remarkable success through family connections or wealth, but through hard work and a passion for excellence. This fact is worthy of reflection as evidence of our country’s founding creed that “all men are created equal.”
In my lifetime, I have seen presidents who came from families of wealth (John F. Kennedy, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump). But I have also seen presidents who came from humble beginnings (Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan). One rose to prominence through military service (Dwight Eisenhower). Two were raised by single mothers (Bill Clinton and Barack Obama).
Judge Barrett is especially known for her brilliant intellect. At one point, Texas Sen. John Cornyn stated, “You know most of us have multiple notebooks and notes and books and things like that in front of us. Can you hold up what you’ve been referring to in answering our questions?” She held up a blank notepad that was sitting in front of her.
She knew that the confirmation process would be “really difficult,” but Barrett said she decided to accept the president’s nomination in order to serve: “I’m not the only person who can do this job, but I was asked, and it would be difficult for anyone. So why should I say someone else should do the difficulty? If the difficulty is the only reason to say no, I should serve my country.”
“Everybody can be great”
President John F. Kennedy declared in 1962, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”
Doing things because “they are hard” to “the best of our energies and skills” is especially urgent in these difficult days. The good news is that, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated so eloquently, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”
He explained: “You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second [law] of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. You can be that servant.”
No one in American history typified this fact more than the man historians rank as our greatest president.
“His principled vision and his disarming modesty”
I’m reading David Reynolds’ expansive new biography, Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times. Reynolds reports that Lincoln’s father, Thomas, witnessed the killing of his father by Indians, making him an orphan at the age of ten.
Abraham’s mother, Nancy Hanks, was born out of wedlock; she died at the age of thirty-four, when Abraham was nine years old. Abraham attended five schools for short terms, for a total of less than one year.
And yet, Reynolds says of our sixteenth president: “At America’s most divided time, Lincoln pushed hard toward justice while keeping the whole nation foremost in his mind. He progressed cautiously, shrewdly, inexorably. With honesty. With humility. With winning humor. And in the end, with his thoughts on all Americans, regardless of party, religion, or race.
“His principled vision and his disarming modesty remain an inspiration to everyday Americans and political leaders alike. Freedom. Equality. Justice for everyone—even for the most marginalized or oppressed—contained within one nation. This was Abe, in his democratic fullness” (his italics).
“The Lord is my rock”
God consistently calls us to serve him and each other with sacrificial courage (cf. Joshua 1:9; Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 31:24; 1 Corinthians 16:13). However, our greatest courage comes from our trust in our omnipotent Lord.
No one in God’s word typifies Abraham Lincoln’s rise from obscurity to greatness more than King David. Toward the end of his life, he could look back and testify: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior” (2 Samuel 22:2–3).
I count ten times he used “my” to describe the intimacy of his relationship with his Lord.
The only attribute more impressive to me than Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s intellect and integrity across this week’s hearings has been her calm and courageous faith. I have no doubt that she could echo David’s testimony as her own. She chose to serve her country because she has chosen to serve her Lord.
Why do you need to make the Lord your rock today?