RBG: An American trailblazer

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Caroline Hendrix, Senior Writer

On Friday, Sept. 18,  U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at the age of 87. Justice Ginsburg paved the way towards gender equality, leaving an indelible mark on the world we live in today. Ginsburg cannot be described as anything short of an icon to many generations. She led by example, overcoming her struggles while helping others to do the same and facing endless backlash and taunts from which she did not back down.

While many see Ginsburg as a leader and a powerful progressive force on the Supreme Court, many are also completely unaware of how she earned her seat on the bench. I have found that the strongest force in her life was family; Ginsburg’s parents valued education and instilled in her the drive to do well and to achieve her goals, regardless of the limits others imposed on her on account of her gender. Ginsburg shared that her “mother taught [her] to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your person, be independent.” And Ginsburg was a lady. She never allowed her emotions to overtake her in court, rather using taunts and criticism as a basis to teach instead of screaming or arguing. She explains in an interview in the 2018 documentary, “RBG” that she saw herself as a kindergarten teacher in court, successfully challenging the norms and beliefs of most people in the room on gender roles, abortion rights, race-based voter discrimination, LGBTQ+ rights and more. Her husband was also a critical player in her life and when he was ill during her time at Harvard Law School, she was able to do her work, help him with his work and care for both him and their child, sacrificing sleep for her goals and her family. And while her husband was very vocal about her skills, talents and abilities when she was more shy and humble, those precise skills, talents and abilities are what got her to be an Associate Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many are displeased that the current president is rushing to nominate someone to fill Ginsburg’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, especially considering it was one of her last wishes for a nomination to wait until after the 2020 Presidential election. The 2018 “RBG” documentary explained that she was not a justice who took a political stance in and out of the courtroom without regard to other perspectives; Ginsburg sought common ground and was willing to compromise, working together rather than against justices with opposing views. Ginsburg herself explained that one should “fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” Thus, rushing to fill a seat that Ginsburg filled for so long and so well is not in the best interests of our nation. A candidate that has the legal skills, experience, drive and passion anywhere close to her could not be found in a year, no less a week. 

I have learned in my courses this semester that death is not where life ends. Ginsburg’s legacy can and will live on as long as we as the United States and beyond enforce and fight for what she has spent her whole life fighting for, regardless of our gender identity or political alignment. Ginsburg believed that “real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” Her leaps towards gender and racial equality through the court have given us a starting point, not an endpoint, and we have to use the rights and determination that she has given us to keep pushing forward. 

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