The following editorial appeared Thursday in the Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff:

Sandra Day O'Connor came to Northern Arizona University last week to talk about civic engagement.

As a retired Supreme Court justice, O'Connor is worried that too many students don't know how our democracy works, much less how to change it.

But for many students about to enter a tough job market, hearing about her early years facing - and overcoming - gender discrimination in the workplace was a wake-up call.

"It was very interesting to see just how hard it was for her to get hired," one student told the Daily Sun after attending O'Connor's sold-out talk.

As a newly minted attorney, O'Connor had one of the best pedigrees possible: a law degree from Stanford University. But this was the 1950s, and law firms were offering women jobs as secretaries, not lawyers.

So O'Connor turned to the public sector, getting her first job in a county attorney's office in California. She later worked as an assistant attorney general in Arizona before being elected to the state Senate, then winning a seat on the Maricopa County Superior Court. She was later appointed to the state court of appeals.

Today, women regularly fill all those roles and more in politics and government.

But in 1981, it came as a shock when a Republican president, Ronald Reagan, nominated O'Connor to the Supreme Court, where she served as the first female justice for nearly a quarter-century.

Today, O'Connor is aligned with a good government movement in Arizona that is looking to bring civil discourse back to public policymaking and civic education to the classroom.

And with her track record as inspiration, we don't see how her younger listeners can resist taking up her challenge.