A Tribute to American Hero Ruth Bader Ginsburg

An American legend, icon, pioneer, and a personal hero of mine has died all too soon. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a groundbreaking and outspoken Supreme Court justice, devoted wife, mother, and grandmother. She was so much more than the decisions she made and the robe she wore. Her story is one that is rich, nuanced, and powerful beyond words. 


Growing up in the aftermath of World War II in a low income, Jewish family, Ginsburg always felt like an outsider, yet she often said that is what made her the empathetic person she always was. She viewed every person, case, and decision through a lens of care and compassion while giving each the time and attention it deserved without bias. An example of this was her friendship and appreciation of the very conservative justice, Antonin Scalia. Despite disagreeing on almost every issue, the two remained close, took vacations together, and went out to lunch frequently until he passed away. The two even had an opera written about their bond. 


Furthermore, Ginsburg’s defining quality was her work ethic. This was influenced by her parents who were always striving to give her a better life than the ones they had. Her mother, Celia, who dreamed of attending college but was never able to, always stressed the importance of education to Ruth. Unfortunately, Celia Bader died the day before Ginsburg graduated high school and did not get to see Ginsburg go off to Cornell University, achieving both of their dreams. 


As is the hallmark of her life, Ruth Bader Ginsburg persisted through tragedy and graduated from Cornell first in her class, and went on to be one of the very few women admitted to Harvard Law School in 1954. She married Martin Ginsburg, whom she met at Cornell. They shared a beautiful love story that unfolded throughout the next five and a half decades, until the day he died. It included lovingly raising their children, Jane and James, with the same values that had been instilled in them: education, equality, and faith.  


Ginsburg also had to balance caring for her young daughter and husband, as he was suffering through treatments for testicular cancer, in addition to completing assignments and exams for both herself and Martin. Once he recovered, they relocated to New York and Ginsburg graduated from Columbia University Law School. After graduation, Ginsburg became a professor at Rutgers University and then Columbia University. At the same time, she served as director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Then, in 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. 


President Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993 and based upon her impressive record, she was confirmed by an almost unanimous Senate vote of 96-3. This made her both the second woman and the first female, Jewish appointee to the Supreme Court. Some of her most notable decisions (this list could be pages long) include United States v. Virginia, in which Ginsburg’s words and leadership decided that all-male Virginia Military Institute would accept female applicants. 


In both Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and the recent Affordable Care Act case, Ginsburg fought for women to have access to birth control, explaining her refusal to leave "women workers to fend for themselves." Ginsburg also advocated for the rights of people with disabilities in the case of Olmstead v. L.C. In her opinion, she wrote, “States are required to place persons with mental disabilities in community settings rather than in institutions when the State’s treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate.” When it came to the equality of those in the LGBTQIA+ community, Ginsburg advocated for nationally legalizing same-sex marriage in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges.


There were countless cases in which Ginsburg stood up for women, the LGBTQIA+ community, and many other disenfranchised groups. She was a champion for those who she believed needed an ally, and she always did what she believed was just. When her peers sat still, Ginsburg moved, fought, and gave a voice to the voiceless time and time again. She made history and beat cancer four times in the process. She was an unstoppable force and an inspiration to all. Rest in power, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. May her memory be a revolution.