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Lessons to be Learned from Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Legacy

Posted on September 24, 2020
Image of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wearing her black robe and infamous white collar.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman nominated and conformed to the United States Supreme Court died on Friday evening as the Jewish New Year began. Many found their way to the steps of the Supreme Court to honor the Notorious RBG and her legacy. And now, she is the first woman to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol.

There are many lessons to be learned from RBG – her resilience, her dedication, her fortitude, and how she approached disagreements. There is one other lesson—and that comes from the support and honor bestowed upon this larger-than-life woman by her colleagues on the Supreme Court. The Court is composed of openly conservative, moderate, and liberal justices, meaning there were, and continue to be, incredible differences of opinion.

Justice Clarence Thomas, a clear conservative wrote about Justice Ginsburg, “Through the many challenges both professional and personally, she was the essence of grace, civility and dignity. She was a superb judge who gave her best and exacted the best from each of us, whether in agreement or disagreement. And, as outstanding as she was as a judge, she was an even better colleague – unfailing gracious, thoughtful, and civil…The most difficult part of a long tenure is watching colleagues decline and pass away.” He ended with, “And the passing of my dear colleague, Ruth is profoundly difficult and so very sad. I will miss my dear friend.”

Justice Sotomayor, considered a liberal judge, wrote of Justice Ginsburg, “an American hero…fighting for the equality of all people, and she was a pathbreaking champion of women’s rights…I will miss Ruth greatly. She welcomed me to the Court with a warmth I could not have expected, and I came to feel a kinship with her. She was someone whose wisdom, kindness, and unwavering support I could always rely on. I will forever cherish the moments we shared.”

One of the newer conservative justices, Neil Gorsuch, who filled the long open seat of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia (also a dear friend of Justice Ginsburg) wrote, “We are blessed by the happy memories that will remain, like traveling with Ruth to London where (to her delight) an uninformed guide kept calling her ‘Ruthie,’ or all the opera she tried valiantly to teach me, or her sweet tooth at lunch, or the touching stories of her remarkable life with Marty. We will miss Ruth and our hearts go out to her family. May she rest in peace.”

And controversially-appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh, also a conservative, wrote, “A meticulous and pathmaking judge, she held herself to the highest standards of precision and accuracy in her beautifully crafted opinions. Ans she inspired all of us to try to meet those same exacting standards. I learned from her principled voice and marveled at her wonderful wit at our weekly conferences and daily lunches. Justice Ginsburg paved the way for women to become lawyers and judges.”

Over the years, the Court has become more politicized and I don’t intend to debate the issues surrounding the reasons or implications of this, my point is that these eight justices who fall along the ideological spectrum, ranging from highly conservative to highly progressive, all found ways to communicate and listen to one another, even the most liberal of the justices. These are lessons we could all benefit from.

In the workplace and in our personal lives there are few people with whom we agree 100% on everything. Our lives and experiences inform our beliefs and opinions, so clearly there will be differences, you and I will see things through different lenses. Ruth Bader Ginsburg had the ability to listen, question, inform, and educate those who disagreed with her. I am certain the conservative wing of the Court disagreed with her with all of their being. Yet, stories across the news have told us she was able, as the second woman on the Court, to help her male counterparts understand why a woman would not know she was being paid less than a man or what it would be like for a 13-year-old girl to be searched.

As this political season amps up, and even beyond, there will be disagreements. I come from a line of what became known as table-thumpers. The banging of a fist on table to get one’s point across was often, but the people at the table listened to one another. Ruth Bader Ginsburg had this quality and it’s one we desperately need now.

May her memory be a blessing, and may we all take a page out of Justice Ginsburg’s book!


Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor, Goodwin College
Assistant Dean, Graduate College
Drexel University

Source: WUSA9 News

Posted in leadership-management-skills