Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the hero of most every woman, young or old. Hearing her speak on September 11, the anniversary of America’s great tragedy, went a long way to lifting the wave of melancholy I always feel on that date.
Justice Ginsburg graced the stage of the Auditorium Theatre in conversation with Judge Ann Claire Williams (of the U.S. Seventh Circuit), who she later mentioned was the only person she wanted to have this vulnerable, candid conversation with. That’s who Ginsburg is, as we learned, the absolute sweetest, most genuine human.
“Is she gonna talk about Trump?” the man behind me said with a sneer. I too wondered if she would bring up today’s political climate; however, she spoke ill of no one. She may have alluded to not being the most content with today’s happenings, but there was no blaming, finger-pointing, or insult, which I found to be classy and respectful.
Ginsburg, after all, was known for her strong personal friendship with the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, with whom she disagreed vigorously on virtually all issues that came before the court, but shared a love for opera.
Instead, the event was focused on Ginsburg’s entire life. This was a rare treat for me and fellow audience members, as we learned about her humble beginnings in New York, and her rise to the top of her class at Columbia Law School. (Seriously, you guys, number one in her class. There were only nine women in a class of 555!) We learned of the blatant sexism that pervaded the legal profession; many jobs were only available to men, and Ginsburg applied for countless positions before becoming a clerk through a personal connection.
She quickly moved up the ranks. She was a law professor and volunteer attorney for the ACLU, where she played a critical role in cases involving women’s reproductive rights. She was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993. She talked to us about case after case in which she fought for, well, simply what was right. Her valiant work paved the way for many in the field, as she noted that now her goal for the Supreme Court is to have “nine female justices.” I agree, Ruth.
The lessons were innumerable; she noted that envy, anger and remorse were three emotions that don’t lend themselves to anything. She was immediately cool, calm and collected before us, having seen so much struggle and hardship, yet ending up with a strength that is all her own.
My favorite moments occurred in the beginning of the 1.5-hour conversation, and at the end. In the beginning, Ginsburg noted that the one silver lining of tragedy is that Americans come together, but she wants to see this extend beyond the walls of tragic events. And in the end, a Roosevelt University student sang an operatic ballad for Ginsburg, a proclaimed lover of opera. As the performer went to curtsy and depart the stage, Ginsburg quickly got up to give her a hug. The joy Ginsburg possesses is truly a gift, and I can’t wait to see what she brings to the Supreme Court next, and subsequently, to our lives.