RBG: A Legal and Cultural Maverick
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has led an unparalleled life of purpose in advancing equal rights and changing the entire landscape and world for American women. As I consider her inspiring life, I believe her being perseverant, unconventional and creative are the determining factors of her success and continued, long-lasting impact.
Justice Ginsburg is uncommonly perseverant.
Born in Brooklyn, NY to loving parents who were first- and second-generation Americans, RBG has blazed a trail of success throughout her life. Despite having graduated from Columbia Law School in 1959 (tied for first in her class), not a single law firm in New York would hire her as no firms were hiring women. Thus began her career in pursuing equal rights in 1963 as a Rutgers University professor teaching a course on Women in the Law – where she was also paid less than her male counterparts. And in 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU where she systematically worked to end gender discrimination through her efforts representing hundreds of cases – winning 5 out of 6 cases tried before the Supreme Court. She was appointed the second woman and 107th Justice to the Supreme Court in 1993. Ginsburg’s strategic approach to building a body of work over time and seizing opportunities as they came, is widely applauded and recognized as a brilliant way to make enduring change.
Justice Ginsburg is unapologetically unconventional.
Justice Ginsburg always led with courage, authenticity and purpose. She does not apologize for who she is and what she stands for in this world. People describe RBG as having a quiet magnetism, being very reserved and for being an incredibly deep thinker. It is known Justice Ginsburg uses her words carefully and rarely engages in small talk. In a world where many believe extroversion and gregariousness equate to being a leader, RBG demonstrates there is exceptional power in quiet insightfulness and thoughtfulness. Justice Ginsburg also continues to redefine a person of 85 years. She pushes herself twice a week in workouts with her trainer that rival the intense athletic workouts of people half her age. RBG resists conformity, and for years offered centric opinions on many cases brought to the Supreme Court. As the make-up of the Supreme Court evolved, so did Justice Ginsburg’s opinion into more of a dissenting opinion on particular issues. And while RBG is unapologetic for how she lives, she is able to apologize when she is wrong as demonstrated in a recent event where her comments were unbecoming of a Supreme Court Justice.
Justice Ginsburg is serenely creative.
What many may not know about Justice Ginsburg is how she uses balance and creativity to help support her success. As a wife of 56 years to her husband Marty (recently deceased), and a mother to her two children Jane and James, the importance of family is never lost on RBG. Both RBG and Marty spoke publicly of being in a shared earning/shared parenting marriage, and Justice Ginsburg has stated meeting Marty was by far the most fortunate thing that happened to her. Caring for a family and facing the challenges of balancing work and life took a tremendous amount of serenity and creativity. Rarely does RBG get overexcited and she always finds unique ways to get things done. Justice Ginsburg also steps out of the swirl of her Supreme Court role to regularly attend the opera with her family, and has been an avid opera aficionado since she was a young child. Justice Ginsburg has stated “you can’t have it all, all at once,” yet she has found a way to have and do as much as possible while still maintaining balance.
I thank Justice Ginsburg for her courage, and for always speaking truth to power. I ask myself and all of you to reflect on the legacy and life of RBG, and strive to be mavericks — perseverant, unconventional and creative — as we lead ourselves and others.