Saying Good Bye to A Woman of Courage

By Leslie Grossman, Faculty Director, Executive Women’s Leadership

I thought Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) would live forever…. or so I hoped and prayed. She heroically fought off cancer since 2009. She was a significant person and lived a significant life.  Even her passing was significant.  According to midrash (Jewish wisdom), only the most righteous people die on Rosh Hashanah. It is undeniable that Ruth Bader Ginsberg was righteous. She stood for justice, gender equality and civil rights. She inspired, and will continue to inspire, women and young adults to be bold, courageous, outspoken, humble and kind.  She is acknowledged by those, whether they agreed or disagreed with her opinions, as a tenacious dissenter and contemplative jurist.

How did Justice Bader Ginsberg become a living legend and icon? 

She didn’t look like Wonder Woman, yet she was considered equally heroic. She didn’t have the strength of Superman, though she exercised feverishly well into her eighties, and surpassed him as a champion of justice.  She didn’t have the velvety voice of Oprah Winfrey, yet her Brooklyn accent, inspired millions.  She didn’t choose words comparable to Maya Angelou’s in her poems, yet she is one of the most quoted Supreme Court Justices in history.

When I searched for RBG books on Amazon, I counted more than 20 books and DVDs and hundreds of products from action figures to mugs to face masks with her quotes or her likeness.  How many public figures can claim such visibility in their lifetime? RBG is proof that beauty truly comes from within. 

It is heartening at this time of divisiveness during one of the most contentious elections of our time, that we have a worthy icon to inspire us to listen more, pause and find a way to disagree. 

Justice Ginsberg advises, “Choose words carefully, then speak your mind (without raising your voice).”  She also said, “If you feel your rights are denied for reasons you don’t agree with, press on and steadily move past your barriers. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

When asked at a talk at Harvard Law School in 2015 to give advice to women, she said: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

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Leslie Grossman, Faculty Director, Executive Women’s Leadership, The George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership