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If you like Anthony M. Kennedy's story, you might also like:
David Boies,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Rudolph Giuliani,
Alberto R. Gonzales,
Frank M. Johnson,
George J. Mitchell,
Ralph Nader,
Anthony Romero,
Albie Sachs,
Barry Scheck,
John Sexton and
Antonio Villaraigosa

Anthony M. Kennedy's recommended reading: Nineteen Eighty-Four

Related Links:
Supreme Court of the United States

The Supreme Court Historical Society

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Anthony Kennedy
Anthony Kennedy
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Anthony Kennedy Interview

Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

June 3, 2005
New York City

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  Anthony Kennedy

You grew up in California, in the state capital. What was it like growing up in Sacramento in the 1930s and '40s?

Anthony Kennedy: It was a wonderful town and a wonderful time. What's the movie with Jimmy Stewart? It's a Wonderful Life.

As I look back, many of my parents' closest friends were in the government of the State of California -- the Director of Public Works, the Chief Counsel for the legislature, the head of the Franchise Tax Board -- and these people were very proud to be public servants. And, people talk sometimes about the British civil servant, being absolutely committed, people of great integrity. This is what those people were like in California when I was growing up. And, they had this idea of public service, and looking back now, I suppose that was a formative influence on me. At the time you meet someone who is a role model, you don't realize that he or she is a role model, but then you look back and you understand what some of the formative influences in your life were. And, I think being in the government of the State of California, they had this pride that carried down to me, and I'm very proud to be a government servant.

What were you like as a kid? How would you describe your childhood?

Anthony Kennedy: We had a very vibrant, active household. My father had a rule that my mother always had to set a couple extra places at the dinner table, because people would come from out of the city, from out of the state to see him and consult him. He was a great attorney. And he would bring them home for dinner because he wanted to be with us. And we were taught to stay at the dinner table and to participate in the conversations.

Anthony Kennedy Interview Photo
I did not particularly like school, and I would run away, in a sense. I would run home to read. So they made up a job for me at the state legislature. I was the only page boy the State Senate ever had. I was the page boy there for a number of years.

What age were you when you were a page boy?

Anthony Kennedy: I think I started in the fourth grade and did it through the eighth grade, so I was this young, little kid. It probably stunted my growth because of all the cigar smoke they had in those days. As a result, I knew Earl Warren very well, on a somewhat professional basis. Professional, as in I was a nine-year-old page boy and he was the Governor. We knew his children and played in the Governor's Mansion and so forth. I have a letter I've given to the Supreme Court Historical Society, in which he wrote and said, "You're going to go very far in government." I'm very proud of the fact that I knew well someone who later became the Chief Justice of the United States.

Did you always know you wanted to do this for a career?

Anthony Kennedy: Oh, there was really, really no choice. My dad was an attorney. I think he knew he would not have a long life. He was a solo practitioner. He would take me to his trials in Northern California, in these little towns because he was lonely. I'd say, "Oh, I have a geometry test." He said, "I'll teach you whatever you need to know." So, I probably saw ten trials before I was out of high school and took notes at the counsel table, and worked late in his office typing documents. So, it was not a question, "Would you be a doctor or a lawyer or a priest?" It was just assumed.

You were always a lawyer in training?

Anthony Kennedy: I suppose. I really wanted to be a doctor.

What didn't you like about school?

Anthony Kennedy Interview Photo
Anthony Kennedy: I was bored. The Sacramento Public School system was a very good system. I didn't run away all the time, I dropped in and out. When I started in the later years of junior high school and high school, I really got to like it.

Were you a good student?

Anthony Kennedy: I was a good student. I was kind of a study nerd, I guess.

What books were important to you? What did you read as a child?

Anthony Kennedy: I read everything that I could get my hands on. My father loved to read Dickens, so we would read that out loud. We'd read Shakespeare out loud, adventure books. People don't read them anymore. Howard Pease was a mystery writer for boys, and his hero was a kid who ran away from home and he became a mate on a ship. It was called The Tattooed Man. It was kind of a kids' version of Herman Melville.

Were there teachers that were important to you?

Anthony Kennedy: Very! I had a wonderful fourth grade teacher who I think was formative. She gave me extra things to read to keep me interested.

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This page last revised on Sep 23, 2010 15:28 EDT
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