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Remembering the Wisdom of RBG

Just over a month ago, an icon left us. Now, we’ve assembled some of her most memorable quotes to guide us all towards better lives along with a list of books to help us get there.
by Eugene Yiga | Oct 28 2020

Whether or not you agreed with her politics, there’s no denying Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an icon. The Notorious RBG, as she became known thanks to the tumblr, book and film of the same name by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, fought landmark cases as a lawyer and presided over and argued for watershed rulings as a Justice.

Ginsburg, who passed away from complications due to pancreatic cancer on September 18, 2020, was an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court for 17 years. A life’s work of such magnitude could never be condensed, so instead, we’ll let her words speak for themselves. Here are seven RBG quotes—and a few books from the Blinkist library—that might help you reflect on what her wisdom can bring to your own life.

“We should not be held back from pursuing our full talents, from contributing what we could contribute to society because we fit into a certain mold — because we belong to a group that historically has been the object of discrimination.”
— Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Born Joan Ruth Bader in 1933, Ginsburg grew up in Brooklyn. Despite being a Jewish woman and therefore no stranger to discrimination, she excelled at Cornell University and then Columbia Law School from where she earned her law degree in 1959, tied for first place in her graduating class at Columbia. As a lawyer she made waves for her astute approaches to landmark legal cases, and later became only the second woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court.

“So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.”
— Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ginsburg’s life wasn’t easy and she experienced her fair share of hardships, including losing a sister to meningitis and her mother’s death from cervical cancer the night before her graduation from Cornell. While she was accepted into Harvard Law School—where she would later be one of only nine women and wasn’t even able to borrow books from the library because only men were allowed to enter—she first had two spend two years as an army wife in Oklahoma while her husband Martin taught at the artillery school. Later, she transferred to finish her studies at Columbia Law School when the couple had to move to New York for his work. But every ‘wrong’ turn, including failing to get any offers from law firms when she first graduated, led her down an exciting path.

“Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
— Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ginsburg became a lawyer not just for its good career prospects but also because she wanted to help people. However, she realized that she had to be smart about how she did so. For example, instead of protesting in the streets during the women’s rights movement of the 1970s, she used her skills as a lawyer—she’d majored in government and constitutional law—to fight for equality. By volunteering to argue a case about men’s rights in the home, she managed to create a legal precedence that would provide equal rights and opportunities for women in the workplace.

“When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”
— Ruth Bader Ginsburg

There are two pieces of advice Ginsburg received from her mother. The first was to be independent and the second was to be a lady. By ‘being a lady’, her mother meant that her daughter should always be measured and calm in her arguments and not lose her cool. Indeed, during her time as a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, she focused on building consensus and finding compromise to move things forward rather than making big demands that would lead to deadlock.

“You can disagree without being disagreeable.”
— Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Although Ginsburg was mostly considered a moderate, things changed as the United States Supreme Court shifted to the right when President George W. Bush installed two new conservative judges. Over time, she began to voice her dissent more often and eventually became part of the liberal wing. And yet this didn’t stop her from maintaining her decorum and finding common ground with her ‘family.’ For example, she was good friends with Antonin Scalia despite their opposing views, and was able to connect over their shared love for opera—there’s even a comic opera about them!

“When contemplated in its extreme, almost any power looks dangerous.”
— Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Even though serving on the highest court in one of the world’s most powerful countries put her in an incredible position of power, Ginsburg didn’t use this for her own personal gain or in a way that would hurt other people. For everyone in a position of power, it’s important to accept the responsibility that comes with that. At the same time, it’s also important to hold those with power to account, and stand up for the injustices in the world, both big and small.

“Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true.”
— Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Perhaps it’s not surprising that someone who pursued a career in law loved reading. Ginsburg’s love for literature goes as far back as the passion for learning her mother instilled in her as a child. As a girl, she loved reading Nancy Drew novels and, in college, she would even smuggle books into the bathroom at sorority parties so that she could study while her peers had fun. Books changed her life and they can change your life, too. That’s why we at Blinkist are so passionate about making reading accessible. All it takes is fifteen minutes to learn something new!

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