Notorious RBG

Megan is a senior at Peddie who, along with 17 other Peddie students, recently visited the Constitution Center in Philadelphia for an evening with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

When I first spoke to Ms. Hogarth about going to see Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speak at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, she said that she had never before seen so many young people excited to see an octogenarian. There was a waiting list even before the promise of Chipotle on the way home, so I guess that’s just the kind of spirit that Peddie students have. Together with Mr. Bickford and Ms. Hogarth, we got on the bus to Philly and visited the Constitution Center, unsure what to expect of the Justice.

Though we were probably the youngest ones there, the Center was packed with people just as excited as we were. Several college students were wearing shirts that said “Notorious RBG” which not only offered a comparison to Biggie Smalls, but gave a nod to Justice Ginsburg’s recent outspoken behavior and all around fierceness that comes from being the oldest female justice on America’s highest court. She came onstage to standing applause from the audience, and the talk began.

Moderator Jeffrey Rosen opened with discussing Ginsburg’s role as the first Supreme Court Justice to preside over a same-sex marriage, and this set the precedent for the evening. Issues that many would call controversial were spoken about with ease, and Ginsburg was unafraid to call out fellow justices for decisions that she disagreed with. She discussed same-sex marriage, voting rights, and many instances of gender inequality. Though she is a member of the liberal part of the court, she believes that politics do not drive the justices’ duties. She said that she would never support a justice for the purpose of getting what she wants in the future, and no other justices would either.

One main issue that Ginsburg prides herself in ameliorating is the position of women in America. She fully supports a woman’s right to choose, and her “most satisfying case” was granting equal pay for equal work for a woman who received less pay than the lowest ranking employee of the company she worked for. She expressed an aversion to the recent striking down of the Voting Rights Act, and believes that minorities are being silenced by government. She compared it to the literacy tests for black voters when the Fifteenth Amendment was passed, and did not mask her disappointment with the blocking of the act.

Towards the end, Justice Ginsburg even brought up some of the issues that the court would be reviewing in the coming months, like school prayer, federal election campaign finances, and other items that sound like they would be on an episode of The West Wing in 2001. But here we are: issues that were important ten years ago, twenty-five years ago, even fifty years ago are still being discussed and that just goes to show how our society changes (or doesn’t change). And, the Constitution still remains the Supreme Law of the land after all these years. Justice Ginsburg exposed not only the flaws of the court, but its strengths as well. Seeing the subjects we discussed at length during U.S. History last year come into play in real life was informative and useful, and I’m excited to learn more about the court during my AP U.S. Government class this year.