She sat, calm and dignified. Seated across from the U.S. Senate Judicial Committee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is in full view of the world and fully engaged in a highly contentious Senate Confirmation hearing. She uttered a word–something I had said on many occasions and was a favorite of my mother—persevere.

Judge Brown-Jackson recalled the advice given her by a stranger on the grounds of Harvard University in what was, by her own account, a very trying and challenging first year. She remembers when she doubted herself and whether or not she was prepared for the Harvard experience. To persevere is to continue a course of action in the face of difficulty and with little or no prospect of success. In standard terms, to persevere is to face the discomfort or obstacles of a less than ideal situation and deal with it. Push forward or stand fast– but deal with it. Figure it out, accept that circumstances may not be fair or just, then buckle down and beat the odds, outpace the naysayers, and silence the haters. Excuses will never serve you well, but perseverance will separate those who could have from those who did.

In his passionate and heartfelt closing remarks to the SCOTUS nominee, Senator Cory Booker said she reminded him of his mother. Just by that word perseveres, she reminded me of mine, which was a favorite of hers. Yes, the full facial features of a broad nose, high cheekbones, full lips, and dark chocolate brown complexion could remind many of us of a family member. She doesn’t appear to be Indonesian, Polynesian, or Asian. She enjoys the freedom to marry the man of her choosing. However, only a few generations ago, that choice would have broken laws over which a judge not unlike herself would have had to rule is not in any way or to any degree in denial of that fact. She embraces her heritage. It would appear by her testimony that her parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles are an essential source of her pride and fortitude, her perseverance.

Ketanji Onyika Brown is a West African name meaning Lovely One. Her name may have even been the source of unwarranted humor and teasing among the ranks of what she called Prep School students. Despite this, she persevered. She distinguished herself as a top undergrad and a Harvard Law student. She is on the verge of being confirmed as only the fifth female justice on the SCOTUS. She will be the first Black female, the name Justice Ketanji Onyika Brown Jackson, Lovely One, will long be remembered in the pages of American history. Along with others in American history who share her gender and heritage, by their examples, we will teach generations what can be accomplished and achieved if only we persevere.

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