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Notre Dame students and faculty reflect on the life and death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

| Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Last week, associate justice of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg died due to complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. 

Justice Ginsburg, also referred to as “the Notorious RBG” and the court’s “Great Dissenter,” led with strength in the face of adversity. She spent much of her early career fighting gender discrimination, before being appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She leaves behind a life-long legacy as a trailblazer for promoting and protecting women’s rights and furthering gender equality.

University President Fr. John Jenkins released a statement Friday evening addressing Ginsburg’s death, and recalled her visit to campus in 2016.

“I recall fondly her standing-room-only appearance in the Joyce Center in 2016,” Jenkins said in the statement.

Political science professor Christina Wolbrecht spoke to the importance of Ginsburg’s work and its influence on the lives of current and future generations of women.

“Few people in history did more to advance the equality of women than Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and all long before she sat on the Supreme Court. The series of cases she argued in the 1970s transformed and ensured the constitutional basis for sex equality,” Wolbrecht said. “There is no woman in this country whose life was not materially improved by Ginsburg’s work.”

Professor Eileen Hunt Botting, a political theorist whose scholarly interests cover modern political thought, feminism, family, ethics of technology and literature, also spoke of Ginsburg’s passing.

Courtesy of Riya Shah.

Notre Dame College Democrats and others gather to recognize Ginsburg’s death in a vigil at the grotto Sunday night.

“The loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg hit our country hard during a time of greater political and public health crisis, not only in the U.S., but around the world,” Botting said. “She had rightfully become a legal icon of a triad of egalitarian feminist values at the foundation of modern representative democracy: equality before the law; the right to non-discrimination on the basis of sex, gender or other social status; and equality of opportunity.”

First year Anjali Pellegrin said she was saddened by Ginsburg’s death, and discussed her admiration for the late justice. 

“RBG’s death made a lot of my greatest fears a reality; for me the Supreme Court is the greatest protector of the people and the minorities, and it’s so hard to see such a strong force for good go,” Pellegrin said. “As a woman, she was my idol and as an activist she was my hope. She will rest in power” 

Sophomore Isabella Garcia of Notre Dame College Democrats spoke to her regard for Ginsburg, and said she was upset by the politicization surrounding her death. 

“It was really monumental, but I think that, especially in this time, it really stings and reminds me that the election is so important,” Garcia said. “We’re in the 40-day stretch now. I’m thinking about the fact the Trump administration is going to try to nominate and push someone through.”

On Sunday evening, Notre Dame College Democrats held an unofficial vigil to remember Ginsburg’s life and recognize what she contributed to the advancement of historically marginalized groups’ rights.

When asked how students can work to honor Ginsburg’s memory, Garcia talked about the vigil and said specific practices are important in honoring her. 

“I think, especially on a Catholic campus, it’s important to recognize the fact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a Jewish woman, and so recognizing the traditional learning practices for that faith tradition has been an awesome thing to learn during this time,” Garcia said. 

When reflecting on how to honor Ginsburg’s memory, Botting said it’s best to remember the education that brought her to the Supreme Court.

“We must ensure that future generations of citizens read and learn about the egalitarian and liberal ideas that are the basis for our most cherished democratic rights and freedoms,” Botting said.

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About Dane Sherman

Dane Sherman is a first year Philosophy major from Seattle, Washington.

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