When I was younger and studied history, I saw pictures of people crying in the streets when President John F. Kennedy was shot. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand how his death touched people who didn’t personally know him so deeply that they were weeping in the streets. And then we lost Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And as I could not hold back my own tears upon learning of her death, I began to understand the impact that people can have on our lives. How deeply we can feel their loss, even if we have never so much as been in the same room with them. So, I spent time this weekend mourning someone whom I have never met, but who was my biggest inspiration to fight for what I believe in.
Because, we all know that Ruth Ginsburg saw injustice and took on the systems and structures that perpetrate it. She was a “champion of race and gender equality. A pioneering lawyer on women’s equality. A civil rights hero. A feminist symbol. A major pop icon. Notorious RBG. A key justice on the nation’s highest court.”* There is no woman in the United States, and much of the world, whose lives were not made better by her fierce determination and her work. She blazed so many of the trails that we travel. You can learn more about her life and accomplishments here.
And less than a year into my tenure as your Executive Director at the League of Women Voters of California, I am reminded again, on a deep level, of why I came here. To keep blazing trails for justice. To carry on the legacies of those who came before us and made it possible for me to have and use this voice. To carry that torch and keep working to empower people to have and use their voices because we have that right. To continue the fight for justice in all of the ways it impacts our society. To work along with talented and committed women in building a better future by empowering other people.
I cried this weekend. A lot. But I also found a keen, new sense of resolve. Because it is up to each of us to carry our torches. We are living in trying times, through a moment of great difficulty in society and the world. Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a lot of difficulty in her life, including losing her mother at a very young age. In one of her speeches, she said that loss and hardship fueled her fierce determination to accomplish her dreams and achieve justice for others. “I wasn’t going to just sit in the corner and cry” she said defiantly. Ginsburg’s refusal to crumble or be defeated is an inspiring and defining part of her legacy.
I encourage you to take the time you need to feel what this loss means to you. And when you are ready to wipe away the tears, pick up the torch. Be inspired. Imagine the future that can be if we all keep pushing. Pick up her legacy. Be fiercely determined. Never forget that a 5’1” tall woman was a giant who changed the world - and we can keep that spirit alive.
May her memory be a blessing.
Stephanie Doute, CAE, Executive Director, League of Women Voters of California