Moving forward to honor RBG
Story | Julia Liston
Ruth Bader Ginsburg just kept going. She graduated quietly from high school the day after her mother died from cancer and went on to attend Cornell in the fall. She cared for an ailing husband with cancer while raising a family and earning a law degree. She didn’t give up when law firms wouldn’t give her a job based on her sex. She spent her career fighting for the basic civil and human rights of others. She fought through bouts of cancer privately while serving on the highest court in the country. She fought until she just couldn’t anymore.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg had more fight in her left foot than most of us can hope to ever have. And she fought in a manner that truly redefines what it means to “fight.” She wasn’t violent, aggressive or agitated; she was deliberate, thoughtful and measured. She just kept going.
While RBG might not have been the reason I went to law school, she is, and was, certainly a large part of why I graduated. My majority female graduating law class wouldn’t have been so if she hadn’t grinded through law school as one of nine women in a class of 500. And my majority female class is what kept me going day after day during school. Without the women I met, those three years would have been a lot less bright. Her opinions and dissents were something we looked forward to reading when most of our legal lessons came from old white men. We would huddle together reading her decisions and reveling in her steady and strong wisdom. Last night, the first message I received after the announcement of RBG’s death was from one of those women to the rest of us.
RBG was the modern Supreme Court’s greatest dissenter. She said “[d]issents speak to a future age. It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today but for tomorrow.” RBG certainly spoke to a future age – we wear RBG tee-shirts, and drink from RBG mugs and hang RBG posters in our offices. No other Supreme Court Justice has been as idolized by future generations as Ruth. Millennials in particular have hailed the senior justice as a hero, an idol, a role model and more – characterizations that speak volumes about the weight this generation places on freedom and equality for all.
So, just as RBG was planning for tomorrow, we must do the same. After we’ve had time to mourn her loss, with her dissents as our playbook, we must honor RBG in the most fitting way possible – by taking purposeful action in our everyday lives to promote and encourage equality and justice. By voting in elections and making our voices heard. By standing up for what we believe is fair and right. By engaging in civil life and taking seriously our role as American citizens. We must, like RBG, keep going.