L. Aspen Domeracki Harris, Class of 2013, lives and works in Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. seemed deserted that day, but more people than expected were walking up the National Gallery. It was strange thinking of how best to avoid the crowds while also knowing we were going to the same place. The National Gallery — with its winding paths climbing a steep hill — is designed to draw one’s attention to the United States Capitol, and yet no one seemed to notice. Everyone was looking across the street. We were all making our pilgrimage to say goodbye.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed the night before, and already flowers covered the security barricade in front of the Supreme Court. Some had written messages of love while others had drawn portraits of her wearing her Supreme Court robes. There were students wearing shirts from their law schools, groups of women holding one another and crying, young girls wearing shirts with the justice stylized as a princess — or the Notorious B.I.G.
But one family stood out to me. It was a father with his small children, patiently explaining the importance of coming to honor someone they had never met.
Justice Ginsburg was first introduced to me by a college friend who shared her temperament: sotto voce and reserved but unshaken in her passion. The crowd of mourners who had come to say goodbye seemed to reflect this quality. It was a day full of quiet, yet deep, emotion.
Justice Ginsburg would have been proud.
Though resolute in her beliefs, Justice Ginsburg was good friends with people who had very different values and opinions. Her friendship with Justice Antonin “best buddy” Scalia is a ray of hope for what our country can achieve if we think about things openly and intelligently. She was the symbol of fighting for what you believe in but in a way that invites those who may not agree with you to listen.
It is an art currently missing in America.
While Justice Ginsburg’s dissents came from the left, the results of her work now benefit women from the left and the right. It is because of her fight that girls have the right to play sports in high school. It is because of her fight that women have the right to get a mortgage without a male cosigner. It is because of her fight that all jury pools must include women. Justice Ginsburg represents hope for women of both parties as a great defender and advocate because she didn’t just advocate for rights that still seem controversial today. She leaned to the left, but still found a way to unify the young and the old, Democrat and Republican and all genders.
Justice Ginsburg found success later in her life but used that as motivation to help other women find their voices sooner. She had exacting standards that pushed those around her to be the best they could be. She believed everything she wrote should be understood by anyone who picked it up, regardless of whether they went to law school. By pushing for her dissents to be easily read, Justice Ginsburg allowed for the law to be understood by everyone and accessible to the people she served. She had an unwavering dedication to the women in this country.
The sight outside of the court less than 24 hours after her passing would indicate the women of this country were equally dedicated to her. As I moved along the crowd down the barricade, more and more chalk messages and signs contained pleas for the president and the senate to wait until the people have had their voices heard in the upcoming election.
A young woman in her early 20s was on her hands and knees writing the words “@Mitch, I do not consent” in blue chalk.
If Justice Ginsburg could fight for our rights, shouldn’t we all be fighting for her last rite, to have her final wish — “[to] not be replaced until a new president is installed” — honored?