Lessons from a Legend: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg succumbed on September 18th, 2020 to pancreatic cancer, the dreaded disease that had plagued her since 2009. She earned her nickname “Notorious RBG” through years of fighting for equality. She once said, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” As a result of that belief, she was able to stand firm in her convictions and respect those who disagreed with her. That ability to work together for the common good is sorely needed in our present society.

When asked about her legacy she replied, “I want to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. That’s what I think a meaningful life is. One lives not just for oneself but for one’s community.” She has left that legacy and left it to the greatest degree having spent a lifetime thriving in the face of adversity.

Ruth Ginsburg never let her personal struggles diminish her drive for academic excellence. Just as my mother taught me lessons that helped me to survive against all odds, Ginsburg was greatly influenced by her mother who ingrained in her a love of learning during her youth. Our mothers played a highly significant role in who we became as we both grew to become trailblazers in our own rights. While I could never measure up to her accomplishments, I have spent my life attempting to make the world a better place for all people. She has been my inspiration.

I was born during the Great Depression as she was, and my family was extremely poor. While I was not aware of her at that time, as I grew older and learned about her and what she had to overcome, I was encouraged to keep striving to overcome any stumbling blocks in my pathway. I have followed her as a role model and have admired her for never giving up. While I could never reach her status in life, I have always felt that what small good deeds I could do might be significant to others.

Ginsburg had a difficult time getting a job despite her high academic record because of her gender. It appeared that she had three strikes against her because she was a mother, was Jewish and was female. She began to pursue and eventually gain a position that enabled her to devote her life to women’s rights. She eventually worked against gender discrimination for both women and men. She became known as the Champion of Gender Equality. Our nation has, indeed, lost a justice of historic statue who worked endlessly and with determination for our community. Even when she was ill with cancer she kept bouncing back like a “bad nickel” and showing up on the job. She changed the world for American women and gender equality. When I learned that she was only five feet one inch tall, and I am only five feet two inches tall, I realized that we both could be viewed as unlikely trailblazers. That lady was tough as could be because of her intellect and positive attitude. My toughness sprang from my determination and the fact that I have always been a “hope whisperer.”

I loved it when I learned that Ruth Bader Ginsburg became a rock star when she was in her 80’s, since I was also in my 80’s. She was featured in a documentary, an operetta, regular Saturday Night Live sketches and on the cover of Time magazine. She appeared to handle her celebrity status with wit and charm which made me admire her even more. Would that we all could have the desire to do good, the intellect to achieve, the determination to overcome, and the heart and wit of a rock star. She was one of a kind and my hero.