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The Energizer Blog

  • Writer's pictureEileen McDargh

Three Lessons from a Lion: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Friday, September 18 my phone went crazy with texts. E-mails began flooding my in-box. Shock, Sorrow, Dismay, Pain, and Anxiety echoed in all of them. Even in the press reports that came in rapid fire, not one person expressed satisfaction that this lioness of gender equity and fairness was gone. She was a warrior for justice, equality, and democracy.

I’d say that’s a pretty heady legacy. I cried when I heard the news. So did my neighbor Steve. So did my sister and my twin brother.

Forgetting the politics of this moment and that some factions are not-so-quietly gloating that they can stack the court and influence outcomes for years to come, RBG’s legacy of consistency and integrity superseded differences. Her friendship with Justice Anthonin Scalia until his death in February 2016 brought together two people of vastly different ideologies. He was a gregarious conservative, she a soft-spoken, self-described “flaming feminist litigator.”

"As annoyed as you might be about his zinging dissent, he's so utterly charming, so amusing, so sometimes outrageous you can't help but say, 'I'm glad that he's my friend and colleague," she said of their relationship in 2008 and reported again in The Hill. Here are three lessons we can learn from Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Lesson #1: Friendship does not depend upon agreement but rather respect.

Bullying, name-calling and demeaning an individual only fuels animosity and partisanship. Ginsburg mirrored the ability to be brilliant in her court rulings and writings but then could turn to a so-called adversary and look for what was good in that person. Imagine if more people did that today!

Lesson #2: Tenacity, resilience and clear values triumph in the end.

Ginsburg never wavered from her belief that women have a place at all tables. It took her 30 years to finally be approved for the Supreme Court. But along the way, RBG was consistent in her actions to open the world of work and education for women. Imagine entering Harvard Law school, the only woman among 500 men, and being asked why she took the place of a man? I am guessing that comment was one of many she endured in her path to seek equality for women.

Lesson #3: Humor is ALWAYS a good wild card.

Soft-spoken and tiny, RBG could come up with a twinkle in her eye, laugh over being compared to the rapper RBG (Notorious) and find herself riding an elephant in India with fellow judge Scalia. In later years, as her writing became sharper and caustic, she nevertheless found time to be a regular character of Kate McKinnon's on Saturday Night Live; the subject of the biopic On the Basis of Sex, starring Rogue One's Felicity Jones; and perhaps most recognizably, the inspiration for a wellspring of T-shirts, tattoos, Halloween costumes and Internet memes.

In keeping with the lessons from RBG and the idea of legacy, I believe I need to be better at modeling her 3 lessons. What about you?

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