Ketanji Brown Jackson

In Contentious Senate Hearings, These 10 Minutes Focused on Black Joy

In an emotional speech, Booker called Jackson a "harbinger of hope" and sought to celebrate her accomplishments.

Over three days of marathon Supreme Court confirmation hearings, nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson has been hit with a barrage of intense questions — including several claims from senators that have been debunked or contested by fact-checkers and other moments better described as rants.

The questioning of Jackson's qualifications, which include a Harvard Law degree, multiple judgeships and time on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, has colored what could be a historic moment: the confirmation of the first Black woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court.

So when it was Sen. Cory Booker's turn to speak during the hearings Wednesday, he took a different approach: focusing on the joy he felt at seeing Jackson so close to ascending to the highest court in the country.

Booker said he was "not going to let my joy be stolen" and told Jackson, "You have earned this spot. You are worthy. You are a great American."

"You're a person that is so much more than your race and gender. You're a Christian, you're a mom, you're an intellect, you love books," Booker continued. "But I'm sorry, it's hard for me to look at you and not see my mom ... my cousins, one of them who had to come here and sit behind you. She had to have your back. I see my ancestors in yours."

Both were holding back emotion during the speech. Jackson dabbed her eyes multiple times, and Booker repeatedly thumped his hand on his chest as his eyes welled up with tears.

Booker worked several figures from American history into his roughly 10-minute remarks, including Jackson's hero Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court, and Booker's hero Harriet Tubman.

After Tubman escaped slavery, she went back into the South to free other enslaved people. And she regularly looked to the North Star as a guide.

"She never gave up on America," Booker said. "No matter what they did to her, she never stopped looking up. And that star, it was a harbinger of hope. Today," he said, looking to Jackson, "you're my star. You are my harbinger of hope."

"This country is getting better and better and better, and when that final vote happens, and you ascend onto the highest court in the land, I'm going to rejoice. And I'm going to tell you right now, the greatest country in the world, the United States of America, will be better because of you."