Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Lesson for Our Times

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice who was a fierce advocate for gender equality, died last Friday.

In a statement released by the nation’s highest court, read, “Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”

As co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, Ginsburg said, “Women’s rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, trained on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom all people should enjoy.”

Ginsburg, described by many as smart, direct, and dedicated to equality issues, was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

“With the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Clinton said in a statement, “America has lost one of the most extraordinary justices ever to serve on the Supreme Court. She was a magnificent judge and a wonderful person—a brilliant lawyer with a caring heart, common sense, fierce devotion to fairness and equality, and boundless courage in the face of her own adversity.”

“As a young attorney,” vice-president Joe Biden observed, “she persisted, overcoming a lot of obstacles for a woman practicing law in those days … she continued until she moved herself into a position where she could end up changing the law of the land.”

Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, whose husband clerked for Ginsburg a decade ago, placed Ginsburg’s achievements in a broader context.

“She imagined the best for our country. She imagined the law being one that would protect all of the American citizens and could also be used as a document to find our North Star. At a time when equality was not given to women, she fought for us, and she fought for us with grace, with humility, with persistence with chutzpah and with knowing that law better than anyone else.”

Holtzblatt’s message for her congregation is a message for all of us.

“I want to ask you tonight, as you think over this news and as we all ponder what this means for us in the days and weeks ahead, that we not make this about the year 2020.

“Justice Ginsburg is so much bigger than 2020 and this moment that we are in. She is one of our great American heroes and she asks us to think big, to dream big, to be creators and to live in her legacy of justice.”

However, it was Ginsburg’s strong friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia, her ideological opposite, where she left us with an important final lesson. The two traveled together and spent New Year’s Eve, together.

“We were best buddies,” Ginsburg said of Scalia.

Revered as an icon of equal justice, Ginsburg taught us that you can still be good friends with those you disagree with — a lesson we all need right now.

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