Remembering Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Photo Courtesy of The New York Times

Photo Courtesy of The New York Times

On September 18, 2020, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a fierce advocate for women’s rights, passed away.  In an already tumultuous year filled with many tragedies, Justice Ginsburg’s passing was beyond devastating for many Americans.  However, moments of grief were quickly filled by fear and uncertainty about the future of the Supreme Court and the nation.  When asked how they initially felt about Justice Ginsburg’s passing, Colby Kurasaki ‘24 stated, “I was devastated. I was also worried for the future of the Supreme Court.” A sophomore shared similar thoughts and commented, “My first thoughts were about the person who replaced RBG since that’s what the news were talking about, but it’s pretty messed up to care more about what a person’s death entails than who that person was.” 

Photo Courtesy of Oyez

Although many are preoccupied by the open seat on the Supreme Court, Punahou Academy students remember and admire the work and character of Justice Ginsburg.  When asked what part of Justice Ginsburg’s legacy they will remember the most, many noted her work for gender equality.  Eden Crisler 23’ stated, “I will remember her work on women’s rights the most, specifically on property ownership and reproductive healthcare. She is a role model to me for women’s rights.” Another student replied, “I will always remember RBG as a persistent person, one who was never willing to give up. And that shows; since she was so determined, she was able to accomplish so much. She showed me that you should always keep fighting for what’s right, no matter how tough that may be.” Although Justice Ginsburg was by no means perfect, her passion, persistence, and hard work helped move our country forward, especially for women.  She ensured women would not have that same struggle she faced of being denied job opportunities based on her sex.  Through arguing cases at the Supreme Court and eventually joining the bench herself, Justice Ginsburg left a legacy of laws and opinions that have undeniably advanced the United States towards equality. 

 In addition to breaking down the legal barriers for women, Justice Ginsburg helped women to overcome their mental barriers, showing them they could be anything they set their minds to.  One sophomore commented, “She inspires me because if someone can work up to the Supreme Court…despite being a woman, it shows that it just takes enough grind to make it to the top.”  She showed women that they do not need to sacrifice parts of themselves to advance in their careers.  Justice Ginsburg was dedicated to her job on the Court, but she also made time to be a wife, mother, friend, opera fan, gym-goer, and more.  She also faced many battles outside the legal world with her health.  Throughout her numerous battles with cancer and other health conditions, Justice Ginsburg persevered and fought for her vision of America.  

Along with Justice Ginsburg’s work for gender equality, Academy students also admire her friendship with conservative Supreme Court Justice Anthonin Scalia.  One Academy senior stated, “I admired her for so many reasons, but her friendship with Justice Scalia I found especially sweet because of how different they are. Their friendship is a great example of how very different people with very different values can still wonderfully coexist.” Leo Kim ‘22 expressed similar thoughts, commenting, “I also found her friendship with late Justice Scalia heartwarming, as that is a relic of the past when politics were more partisan and there were [fewer] right-wing extremists.”  In our current highly polarized political climate, it is sometimes hard to remember a time when ideological differences were not seen as moral defects.  Justice Ginsburg and Scalia’s friendship demonstrated how two people with different views can coexist but also how their differences help them to improve.  Justice Ginsburg noted in an interview how Justice Scalia quickly sent her his dissent in U.S. v. Virginia so that she could strengthen her majority opinion.  Although this type of friendship may seem impossible in today’s climate, their friendship serves as a reminder of what we should aspire to. 

Photo Courtesy of Teen Vogue

One does not need to look far to see Americans’ love for Justice Ginsburg.  From the thousands of memorials throughout the nation to numerous movies and books sharing her story to her own moniker as the “Notorious RBG,” Justice Ginsburg has touched the lives of many. It is evident that her legacy will extend far beyond the current discussions about the open seat on the Supreme Court.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy is seen in the everyday lives of women across the country and remembered in the minds and hearts of Americans. Ezra Levinson ‘23 noted, “In the Jewish tradition, when someone dies we say זכרונם לברכה (zichronam livracha). Translated to English, it means ‘may their memory be a blessing.’ I don’t think that all of Justice Ginsburg’s rulings were equal or just, but there’s no doubt that she inspired a huge number of people to push our society towards equality and justice, and I believe that her memory is already a blessing because of that.” Although Justice Ginsburg’s passing marked the end of her battle for equality, she left a legacy that many Americans will use to carry her fight forward.