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“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that we lost an icon last week. The nation came together to mourn for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who served on the Supreme Court for 27 years. As a mother I said a little prayer of gratitude for the world she left behind – a world that was made better by her work, for all the girls and the boys.
Ginsburg was an American jurist and the second woman ever to serve as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. She was a trailblazer and a feminist icon. She was a proponent of the equal rights for women and men, and left behind a legacy of searing arguments and a history of service to others.
I hope our children can take away the following nuggets from the life and work of the very famous Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or as she was called the notorious RBG.
When RBG and her husband Marty were studying together at Harvard Law, Marty was diagnosed with cancer. RBG not only attended her own classes, she typed up her husband’s notes while at the same time caring for their little daughter at home. She was then unable to secure a job in a single firm in New York City because she had three things working against her – she was a woman, a mother and a Jewish. Later in her career she had multiple stretches of cancer and she was always back on the job after her surgery and continued working right through a painful treatment. Despite all these struggles she never gave-up and continued to push through.
To quote RBG, “So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” What a great inspiration that can be for children to hear that. Children who listen to her story can find inspiration in the fact that nothing comes easy. It’s only through perseverance that one can make progress. It helps to see that people who achieve great things don’t have it easy and that will give the next generation the courage to fight through setbacks in their lives.
Find your circle
Justice Ginsberg had innumerable accomplishments under her belt and to say that she achieved everything without anyone’s help would be wrong. Ginsberg’s husband Marty was her biggest cheerleader. He supported her whole-heartedly until he passed away in 2010. In his own words penned in a letter, Marty mentioned, “My dearest Ruth, you are the only person I have loved in my life… And I have admired and loved you almost since the day we first met at Cornell some 56 years ago.” RBG once said, “…I became a lawyer because Marty supported that decision unreservedly.” Most of the time RBG and Marty were united in defying stereotypical roles of gender at home and work.
While we draw inspiration from RBG’s story of resilience it is important to remember that no one can scale mountains on their own. It is necessary to find people who will support you, challenge you and help you achieve your dreams.
Find your strength inside
RBG once said, “I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.” Her strength came from her unbeatable will to fight for issues she believed in. It is important to point out that she stood at a little over 5 ft tall and according to her colleagues she was shy but spoke with resolve.
Why that is important? Because when we think of a confident leader we have a very orthodox view of a tall, well-built man. RBG looked nothing like that but her whip-smart presence and words commanded a respect that we’ll remember forever. Imagine all the little girls and boys who will feel empowered from this and will know that their voices are powerful.
Don’t be afraid to stand alone if it’s the right path
“I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”
One of the famous RBG quotes, this represents her life’s work, which has been to fight for the injustices done against women. More often than not she was alone in her fight for women’s rights. She didn’t stand by her ideals because it was easy but because it was the right thing to do. She always spoke what’s right and spoke about a world that is ideal, and not necessarily the one that exists. Her unwavering faith in her own stance with truth led to changes in the society that no one thought would be possible.
What better way to mentor the next generation than to tell the story of a leader who fought and changed laws so that women and men could have the same rights. RBG did not just “say women’s rights…”, she said, “the constitutional principle of the equal citizenship stature of men and women.” This is an important conversation to have with not just girls but boys who must know that “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”
How can your action help others
“We are here today to honor how one person — our honoree, Ruth Bader Ginsburg — knocked on closed doors, opened them and held them open for others.” That’s how the Dean of Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Lizabeth Cohen, introduced Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg at the luncheon where she was given the Radcliffe medal. As a Jewish woman and a mother Ginsberg’s life is filled with stories of discrimination. Not only did she fight the unfair situations and persevered, she used these occurrences to fuel her passion to remove such injustices.
Justice Ginsberg led by example in her fight for women’s equal rights. She paved the way for moms earning their law degree, championed working moms and argued that equal pay protection clause must apply to both genders. She called out countless social and economic disparities faced by women and families, every single day of her life as a jurist.
As parents we all want to raise kids who will one day lead with empathy. Ginsberg’s life offers numerous examples where her action made the world a little better and a more just place to live. She showed us that people with power have great responsibilities and must be held accountable to that.