Sandra Day O’Connor says she has dementia, ‘probably Alzheimer’s’
PHOENIX — Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court, said in a letter released Tuesday that she has the beginning stages of dementia and “probably Alzheimer’s disease.”
O’Connor, who was raised in Arizona and currently lives in Phoenix, said her diagnosis was made “some time ago” and that as her condition has progressed she is “no longer able to participate in public life.”
The 88-year-old called on “new leaders” to “make civic learning and civic engagement a reality for all” as she did with her non-profit iCivics.
“It is my great hope that our nation will commit to educating our youth about civics, and to helping young people understand their crucial role as informed, active citizens in our nation,” she added.
She also called on “private citizens, counties, states, and the federal government (to) work together to create and fund a nationwide civics education initiative.”
O’Connor said she would continue to live in Phoenix as she battles dementia in the final chapter of her life.
“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,” she said.
“How fortunate I feel to be an American and to have been presented with the remarkable opportunities available to the citizens of our country.”
In a statement, Chief Justice John Roberts said he was saddened by O’Connor’s news, but “not at all surprised that she used the occasion of sharing that fact to think of our country first, and to urge an increased commitment to civics education.”
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement that “it is on all of us to carry on her legacy and to ensure her lessons remain fresh to every new generation of Americans.”
O’Connor was nominated by President Ronald Reagan and took her seat on the court in 1981.
She announced her retirement in 2005.
O’Connor’s announcement came a day after a story by The Associated Press that she had stepped back from public life.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.