As the national spotlight shines on Amy Coney Barrett during her traverse to the United States Supreme Court, amid protests in D.C. and calls that her nomination be stalled, hardworking American families are getting to know her a little bit better. One fact that has come out is her commitment to her family, faith and other people. We’ve learned, too, that she and her husband responded to natural disasters far from home by opening their home by adopting two orphaned children.
There is no way to spin this: at its core, the decision to adopt is a decision to put someone else’s needs ahead of your own. The Barretts could have continued in their comfortable life as most of us do — for whom the plight of people in a distant country may mean nothing more than a token donation online.
When the tragedies in Haiti made news, and the world responded with aid and donations, the Barretts went further than most. They stepped in to personally work to give a new life to someone who had lost everything. And then, when tragedy struck Haiti again, they again responded by opening their home to another orphan.
I, too, was adopted and know that it is impossible to overstate the impact this has on a person’s life. The Barretts’ commitment to adopting two children, in addition to raising a special needs child of their own and their other children, should be celebrated, not condemned.
Like the Barretts, my parents were Catholic, and before I knew what adoption was, they told me I was special, even though I had been given up by my natural mother. It took me until I was a parent myself before I really started to understand just what parenting meant and to raise another’s child is a labor of love. It’s that same type of selflessness that Amy Coney Barrett and her husband are demonstrating plainly for all Americans to see.
Her qualifications for the job are obvious and unquestioned. Her story is inspiring, much like the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg whose seat she would fill. Her legal acumen, personal character, fairness and intellect are universally acclaimed by those who know her: Notre Dame Law School students; fellow Notre Dame Law School faculty; and law clerks with whom she served at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Well-known liberal legal scholar Noah Feldman, with whom she served as a law clerk in the late 1990s: “I know her to be a brilliant and conscientious lawyer who will analyze and decide cases in good faith, applying the jurisprudential principles to which she is committed. Those are the basic criteria for being a good justice. Barrett meets and exceeds them.”
Yet during the confirmation hearings, senator and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris similarly tried to suggest that Judge Barrett’s strengths are in some way weaknesses. She insinuated that Judge Barrett was somehow insensitive to the challenges facing ordinary individuals. But one look at her family makes clear that Barrett sees the suffering of individuals as something she has a personal responsibility to help alleviate. Judge Barrett’s strength of character is clear — as are Sen. Harris’s transparent attempts at character assassination for craven political purposes.
Americans saw firsthand that Amy Coney Barrett’s demeanor and poise are exceptional, her temperament is unflappable, and her empathy is unmatched. These are attributes that should be celebrated, not attacked. But in a sure sign of desperation and debasement, attack these qualities is exactly what some of her detractors have attempted to do.
In nominating Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump has made a sterling choice. No one knows for sure how a justice will perform on the court — but we can already see that she is a jurist whose judgment, priorities and empathy are exemplary.
I realize that for some senators the decision to confirm is a complicated one, but I encourage the Senate to confirm Amy Coney Barrett and for Alaskans to let your voice be heard on this important imminent vote.
Mia Costello is a senator in the Alaska Legislature representing Senate District K – West Anchorage.
• By Mia Costello