RGB In Her Own Words

April 1, 2021



“One lives not just for oneself, but for one’s community.”

Justice Ginsburg on how she defines a meaningful life. She graduated top of her class from Columbia Law School in 1959. She began working with the American Civil Liberties Union in the 1960s, and by 1971, she founded their Women’s Rights Project. She was appointed as federal judge in 1980 by Pres. Carter and joined the nation’s highest court in 1993 after she was nominated by Pres. Clinton.

“The attitude is ‘I’m going to surmount this – whatever it is.’”

Justice Ginsburg on how she approached adversity in her career, as a mother, and in her battles with cancer. Her perseverance, even in defeat, evoked change. In 2006, the Court ruled against a woman paid less than her male counterparts that sued for discrimination because she missed a deadline. In her dissent, she wrote that the Court failed to comprehend “the insidious way that women can be victims to discrimination.” A 2009 federal law overturned the decision.

“I had a life partner who thought my work was as important as his, and I think that made all the difference for me.”

Justice Ginsburg on her late husband and “best friend” Marty, who died in 2010. They met while attending Cornell University and went on to have two children, Jane & James. She credited her supportive husband with helping her reach potential and often cited the following advice given to her by her mother-in-law: “in every good marriage, it pays sometimes to be a little deaf.”

“The judiciary – unlike the legislature, unlike the president – is a reactive institution. We have no agenda. We respond to the cases that are out there. Courts don’t initiate change. People do.”

Justice Ginsburg when asked how the Court contributed to the push for equal rights for women. She explained it’s not the Court’s role to *initiate* change but to trail behind society and respond to the people’s will for changes by putting its “stamp of approval” on change already underway.

“I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be.”

Justice Ginsburg on the one decision by the Court she would want to overrule. In 2010, the Court ruled in Citizens United v. FEC that the First Amendment prohibits the federal government from imposing limits on political spending by corporations and unions, allowing unlimited campaign ad spending.

“Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.”

Justice Ginsburg on how she wants to be remembered. She later said she wants to be remembered in 100 years as “a judge who worked as hard as she could to the best of her ability to do the job right.”

Justice Ginsburg will lie in repose at the Supreme Court Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, she will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol before her burial in Arlington National Cemetery next week.

by Jenna Lee,