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tv   Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Conversation at Stanford University  CSPAN  September 19, 2020 5:30am-7:00am EDT

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of appeals for the district of columbia. in 1993, president clinton appointed her to a seat on the nation's highest court. ruth bader ginsburg delivered a lecture about her life and career at stanford university. after her speech, she sat down for a conversation and took questions from students in the audience.
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gentlemen, please welcome the provost. [applause] >> good evening, it's my great pleasure to welcome you to memorial church for the last lecture on a meaningful life. we are deeply honored to have, as our speaker, associate justice of the supreme court of the united states, ruth bader ginsburg. [applause] [cheering] >> this event, as you know, has a rich history at stanford. lecture afterin a a law professor decided to give it about the meaning of life. on the last day of his law
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class, one spring, the lecture was such a spirit -- a such a success that it turned into an theal tradition until professor retired. it was revived in 2008, supported by a generous gift by the foundation for global community, which established that henry and emilio rathbun fun for exploring what leads to a meaningful life. visiting fellow is selected to come to stanford to deliver this lecture and to spend time with our faculty, students, and staff. timebusy world, and in a of great change in our country, this lecture provides us a welcome moment for self reflection and moral inquiry. we are so fortunate this year to have ruth bader ginsburg as our
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wrath fund -- as our visiting fellow. many know her by another moniker rbg. the notorious rpg started several years ago in a tumbler blog put together by an admiring law student and it took off from there. today the justice finds herself not only a member of our nation's highest court, but a cultural phenomenon. brooklyn, she received her bachelor's from cornell university and her law degree from columbia law school area she was a professor of law at 1963 touniversity from 1972. in 1971, she cofounded the
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women's rights project of the american civil liberties union. as the aclu's from 1973 to 1980. she was appointed to the united states court of appeals for the district of columbia circuit in 1980. president clinton then nominated her and she took her seat on the court in 1993. closebiographical nowhere to adequately describing the person who is with us tonight. there really are not sufficient words to describe the impact she has had on the law, and on the advancement of women's rights in america. daringazing, pioneering, . they are all true. but they don't capture it.
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very few women went to law school 19 did. she faced enormous challenges -- in the 1950's. she faced enormous challenges. she turned her career to the ball -- the calls of battling discrimination on behalf of women and family -- and families everywhere. she became the first tenured female professor. at the women's rights project she argued six cases before the supreme court. she played an absolutely central role in establishing contemporary law on equal protections as it relates to equality between the sexes. many have called her the thurgood marshall of women's rights. the second woman to join the united states supreme court, serving at the time with justice sandra day o'connor, who has also been a visiting fellow here at stanford. justice ginsburg will be in conversation tonight with dean jane shaw.
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the professor of religious studies here at stanford. professor shaw previously taught history at oxford and just before coming to stanford she was the dean at grace cathedral. we look forward to an insightful and engaging conversation. if you will, please join me in welcoming to stanford, justice ruth bader ginsburg. [applause] [cheering] thank you.sburg: please, be seated. please. please be seated. thank you. thank you very much. but please be seated.
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i thought it might be an appropriate beginning for me to tell you a little bit about my life. and what i'm going to say to you comes from a book called my own words. it's the preface all in my own words. did you always want to be a judge? or more exorbitantly, a supreme court justice? school children who visit me at the court, as they do at least weekly ask that question more than any other. is a sign of huge progress judgeshipday's youth, as an aspiration for a girl is not at all outlandish. days, 1956, ancient
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when i entered law school. women were less than 3% of the lawyers in the united states. only one woman had ever served on a federal appellate court. appointed by franklin appointed toelt the sixth circuit in 1930 four. by the time i got to law school she was retired, and then there were none. today about half the nation's law students, and more than one third of our federal judges are women. including three of the nine seated on the u.s. supreme court bench. of u.s.ld more than 30% law school dean ships and serve as general counsel to 24% of fortune 500 companies. in my long life, i have seen great changes.
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how fortunate i was to be alive, and a lawyer, when for the first time in u.s. history became possible to urge successfully before legislatures and court the equal citizenship stature of men and women. there is a page out of place, please bear with me a moment. it should not be too far from here. onit is skipped, we will go to the next point. where i speak about teachers who influenced or encouraged me in .y growing up years at cornell university, european literature professor vladimir nabokovugh -- vladimir
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change the way that i read could .aint pictures choosing the right word in the right order could make a difference in conveying an image or an idea. from constitutional law professor robert e cushman and , irican ideals professors have learned of our nation's enduring values, and how our themess was straying from in the red scare years of the 1950's. but also how lawyers can remind constitutiont our seals the right to think, speak, and write without fear of reprisal from government authorities. at harvard law school, professor benjamin was my first and
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favorite teacher, he used the socratic method in his civil procedure class to stimulate, never to wound. he was the model i tried to follow in my own law teaching until 1980.963 at columbia law school, the professor of constitutional law, who later served on stanford's faculty for many years, he was determined to place me in a federal courtship -- federal clerk or chip come -- federal court clerkship. on graduation i was the mother of a four-year-old child. after heroic effort he succeeded in his mission. in later years he litigated cases heading to the supreme court. i became an aid in dealing with
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legal issues. and he never failed to help me find the right path. another often asked question when i speak in public, do you have some good advice you might share with us? yes i do. [laughter] from my savvy mother-in-law, advice she gave me on my wedding day. in every good marriage, she it helps sometimes to be a little deaf. i have followed that advice assiduously it not only -- assiduously not only at home through 56 years of marital partnership, i have employed it in every workplace, including the supreme court of the united states. when a thoughtless or unkind ,ord is focused -- is spoken
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best not to react in anger or annoyance. it will not advance one's ability to persuade. advice for my father-in-law has also served me well, he gave it during my cap years in night -- , when my husband marty was fulfilling his obligation to the army as an artillery officer in oklahoma. by the end of 1954, i pregnancy was confirmed. we look forward to becoming three in july of 1955. but i worried about starting law school the next year with an infant to care for. advice, ruth, if you don't want to start law school, you have a good reason to resist the undertaking. nobody will think the less of you if you make that choice.
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but if you really want to study worrying, andstop you will find a way. , by engagingi did a nanny on school days from 8:00 to 4:00. many times after, when the road was rocky, i thought back to way tosdom and found a do what i thought was important to get done. worklife balance was a term not when my children were young. but it is descriptive of the time distribution i experienced. my success in law school, i have no doubt was due in large measure to baby jane, my daughter. i studied diligently until 4:00
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in the afternoon. the next hours were spent playing silly games, singing funny's calm -- funny songs, reading picture books and aa feedingems, bathing and her. afterwards i would return to the law books, each part of my life provided respite from the other and gave me a sense of proportion. a classmate trained only on the its.acked i have had more than a little but of luck in life, but nothing equals my marriage to martin ginsberg. i do not have the words to describe my super smart, ever loving spouse.
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early on in our marriage, it became clear to him that cooking was not my strong suit. -- to ther lots everlasting appreciation of our children, we became four in 1965, marty made the kitchen his and became ship supreme in our even at loan to friends the court. marty coached me through the birth of our son. he was the first reader and critic of articles and briefs that i drafted. inwas at my side constantly and out of the hospital during two long bouts with cancer. i betray no secret in recording , i would nothim have gained a seat on the u.s.
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supreme court. that associate white house counsel rob mclean said of my nomination that i would say definitely for the record, ruth ginsburg should have been picked for the supreme court anyway. she would not have been picked if her husband had not done everything he did to make it happen. that everything including gaining the unqualified support of my home state senator, daniel patrick monahan, and enlisting the aids of many members of the legal academy and the practicing bar familiar with work i had done. i have several time said that the office i hold, now nearing bothars, is the best and -- most consuming job a lawyer anywhere could have. is tourt's main job
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repair fractures in federal law, to step in when other courts have disagreed on what the relevant federal law requires. because the court grants review -- hastly when other provided. the questions we take up are rarely easy. have indubitably right answers. but by being together at our conferences, and with more depth and precision through the circulation of an responses to draft opinions, we ultimately agree far more often than we divide sharply. to 2016, we were unanimous on the bottom-line
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casesnt in 25 of the 67 after the full briefing and argument. in contrast we divided 5-3 or 4-3. justice scalia's death reduced the number of justices. and we divided sharply only eight times. believe thatices they got it long, she is free to say so in dissent. i take advantage of that prerogative when i think it's important, as do my colleagues. disagreementsrong on issues, for example the control of political campaign ballot,, access to the affirmative action, access to , wetion, same-sex marriage genuinely respect each other and even enjoy each other's company,
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collegiality is key to the success of our mission. we cannot do the job the constitution assigns to us if we did not use one of justice scalia is favorite expressions -- justice scalia's favorite expressions, get over it. all of us revere the constitution and the court, we to leave the court in as good of shape as it wasn't we joined it. earlier i spoke of great changes i have seen in women's occupations. but one must acknowledge the scale -- the still bleak part of the picture. most people in poverty in the united states and the world over are women and children. women's earnings here and abroad with the earnings of men
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comparable education and experience. our workplaces do not adequately accommodate the demands of childbearing and child rearing, and we have yet to devise effectively to ward off sexual harassment at work and domestic violence in our homes. but i am optimistic that the movement towards enlisting the talents of all who compose we , aspeople will continue expressed by my colleague, the first woman to serve on the u.s. supreme court, justice sandra day o'connor, for both men and women the first step in getting power is to become visible to others. and then to put on an impressive show. as women achieve power, the barriers fall. as societies see what women can do, as women can see what women
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can do, there will be more women out there doing things and we will all be better off for it. to that expectation i can only say amen. [applause] dean shaw: justice ginsburg, it's a huge honor to have you with us. and you for accepting my invitation to be our sitting fellow. i do know the rest of the program is designed to foster thinking about what it means to
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lead a meaningful life. he spoke about that already. could you encapsulate what it means to lead a meaningful life for you? simply,ginsburg: to put it means doing something outside .f yourself students if you are going to be a lawyer, and just practice your profession, you have a skill, see you are very much like a plumber -- so you are like a plumber. if you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside of yourself. something to repair tears in your community. something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. that's what i think meaningful
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life is, one lives not just for oneself, but for one's community. dean shaw: that's wonderful. do you think that's the same as a purposeful life? justice ginsburg: yes, the purpose is what you aim for. playedaw: how has family a part in your own life and your own meaning in your life? justice ginsburg: it plays a very large part. it's one of the things that drew justice scalia and me together. we care a lot about families. change in life in the united states between the birth of my daughter in 1955, and my son in 1965 when my
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daughter jane started school, i was one of a very few working moms. 10 years later there had been an enormous change. it was not at all unusual to by the middleies 60's that made me realize it would be possible for the first time in history to move the law in the direction of what i thought equal citizenship stature for men and women -- and what i saw as equal citizenship stature for men and women. dean shaw: talk about your experience that led you to that work. justice ginsburg: in the days that i went to law school, when i was entering class at harvard, there were 500 students. only nine were women. there were no anti-discrimination laws.
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so employers were totally we don't wanting any lady lawyers here. or we once hired a woman, she was dreadful. and how many men have you hired that did not live up to your expectations? [laughter] anyways, things we did not complain about. harvard law school had nine women, there were two teaching buildings at that time. only one of them had a women's bathroom. , but ifu are in class you're taking a three or four hour exam, you had to make a mad -- to the building. but we never complained. it was just the way things were. 60's, the feminist
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movement had revived in the united states, in part as a result of the civil rights movement, but also as part of a worldwide movement, the u.n. had declared in connection with women's year, things were changing all over. possible to break down what is referred to as the separate spheres mentality, that is the woman's place was with the family, taking care of the home, and the man's place was outside. he was the representative of the family outside. of our laws were designed to fit that model of the stay-at-home woman and the work the day man. so in the decade of the 70's,
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almost all of the laws of that kind were like that. dean shaw: would you like to talk about one or two cases that are important? justice ginsburg: the first was the turning point case. if you go back -- up until 1971 the supreme court never saw a gender-based classification that it did not think was ok. the point against gainsta -- the hoyd a florida case. her abusive and philandering husband had one day humiliated her to the breaking point, she saw her young son's baseball bat in the corner, lifted it up and
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with all of her might she hit him over the head and he fell on the stone floor. then began the murder prosecution. in those days, in new borough county, they did not put women on juries. thought that a jury that included women might better understand her state of mind, not that they would have acquitted her, that her rage at that moment and they maybe would convict her of the lesser crime of manslaughter instead of murder. when the case came to the supreme court challenging the absence of women on the jury roles, the courts attitude was gwendolyn we don't call them for jury
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duty, but if they come into the clerk's office and sign up, we will put them there. how many men do you think would sign-up if they had the choice? so the supreme court didn't get it. the case before that, it was a case of a woman who owned a tavern, and her daughter was a bartender. the state of michigan, perhaps with the encouragement of the bartenders league, passed a law that said a woman couldn't tend bar unless she was the wife or daughter of the bar owner. the supreme court treated that case as part of the backing away from attempting to put down economic and social legislation. and that's how the case was taught when i went to law school. it was a retreat from the days of the nine old men, who gave, president franklin delano roosevelt such a hard time.
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he thought about packing the court. so that's what the precedent was and i described it as anything goes. then sally reid came along. sally had a young son. she and her husband separated and then later divorced. when the boy was with the law calls of tender years, sally was given custody. when the boy reached his teens, the father came to the family court and said now this boy needs to be prepared for a man's world. so i should be the custodian. sally, was distressed, and sadly she turned out to be right. the boy became solely depressed, and one day took out one of his father's mini guns and committed suicide.
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so sally wanted to be appointed administrator of his estate. not for any monetary reasons, there was barely anything there but for sentimental reasons. her ex-husband applied a couple of weeks later. the probate court judge told sally, sally was from boise, idaho. the law of the state of idaho, which idaho might toppy from california, but california had already changed its law. it read as between persons equally entitled to administer a decedent's estate, males must be preferred to females. well there was an obvious reason for that because in the days before married woman's property acts were passed, a woman couldn't contract in her own name. she would be sued for her own
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property. so if you had a choice between the man, the abled man and the disabled woman, naturally, we made sense to choose the man. sally reid thought that was wrong. she was an everyday woman who made her living by caring for elderly or infirmed people in her house. she thought it was wrong and that we had a legal system that could set it right. so on her own dime, she took that case to three levels of the court in idaho and it became the turning point. in the supreme court. after that, they were successful of cases, some brought by women, some by men. so if i can tell you my second case, which is a rival for my favorite, is steven wiesenfeld, whose wife was a math teacher in high school.
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she had a healthy pregnancy. the doctor came out to tell stephen wiesenthal that he had delivered a healthy baby boy, but that his wife had died of an embolism. stephen was distressed. he vowed then that he would not work full time until child was in school full time. and he figured out that between part time earnings and social security earnings, he could just about make it. he went to the social security office, for what he thought were child in care benefits and he was told we're sorry mr. wiesenfeld, these are mother's benefits. that case came to the supreme court. there was unanimous judgment but the court divided three ways on the reason for the majority thought.
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of course, this is discrimination against the woman as wage earner. she pays the same social security taxes as a male wager, but they don't net for her family the same protection. a few thought of it was discrimination against the male as parent, because he would have no choice. but to work full time. he would not have the choice of taking care of his child personally. and then one, a man who later became my chief, he was then justice rehnquist. he said this is totally arbitrary from the point of view of the baby. why should the baby have the care of a sole surviving parent if the parent is female, but not if the parent was male. that case was a perfect illustration of what was wrong with the separate spheres of mentality. the women working outside the home did not get equal pay.
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the men didn't have the choice to be a caring parent. and the baby would not have the benefit of the love and care of his father. all of these cases, none of them were test cases in the sense that the american civilities union, with whom i was affiliated, went out to find plaintiffs. they were just everyday people, who thought something wrong had been done, and who believed that we had a legal system that would respond to that wrong. prof. shaw: so what you think has to be done now still? justice ginsburg: i described the 70's -- though in those years, both legislatures and courts rigged the statute books
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of almost all of the gender-based classifications. what was left when the overt sex lines were eliminated was unconscious bias. people who didn't think of themselves as prejudice in any way. and my classic example for that is the symphony orchestra. growing up, i never saw a woman in a symphony orchestra. someone came up with the bright idea, let's drop a curtain between the people who are auditioning and the judges. it worked like magic. [laughter] almost overnight, women were making their way into symphony orchestras.
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i wish we could duplicate the drop curtain in every area but it isn't that easy. the other illustration that i give is a title seven case from the 70s against at&t for not promoting women to jobs in middle management. so the women who applied did well on all the standard measures and they made it to the last step, which was called the total person test. that was an interviewer interviewing the candidate for a promotion. women dropped out disproportionately, they failed the total person test, because the interviewer, who was almost always a white male, was discomforted of someone
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unfamiliar. member of a minority race, a woman, didn't really feel at ase. but comfortable with someone who looked just like him. that was in his comfort zone. how you get past that kind of how you get past that bias, even today, that's a difficulty. prof. shaw: let me change subjects. you mentioned symphonies. you love opera, famously. i think you are keen on the visual arts. i know you have favorite artists. you talked about how new volkov was influential on your writing. can you talk about the place in the arts and humanities in a meaningful life? justice ginsburg: they are essential.
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opera is my passion. can i tell them about an opera written by a law student a couple of years ago? it's called "scalia ginsberg." [laughter] a very talented musician who had been a music major. he then decided in his field, it would be helpful to know about the law. he enrolled in law school, constitutional law, and reading these dual opinions. ginsberg for the majority, scalia in dissent, ginsberg in dissent, scalia and the majority. he decided it can make a very funny opera. [laughter] so it opens a rage, the justices are blind, how can they possibly spout this?
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the constitution says absolutely nothing about this. but the great thing about our constitution is like our society, it can evolve. the plot is roughly based on the magic flute. scalia, he's locked in a dark room where he's being punished for aggressive dissenting. [laughter] i enter through a glass ceiling to help him get out. [laughter] and the figure that locks him up is the commentatore, a little resemblance to don giovanni's commendatore, but anyway. he says why would you want to help him?
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he's your enemy. i say he's my dear friend. and then we sing a duet that goes we are different, we are one. what is different in our approach to reading legal texts but one in our reverence for the constitution and the institution that we serve. prof. shaw: sorry, carry on. justice ginsburg: so, yes opera is my passion but i also love theater. the district of columbia is blessed with a number of fine museums, most recently, the african american museum. in the years i was on the dc circuit, 13 years, the national gallery was right across the street. so, i said pick my room instead of lunch and feel that i was in my own palace.
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there were never the crowds there, that, as there were at the metropolitan museum in new york. prof. shaw: so, in england, theres a bbc radio program called desert island discs, in which you get to choose eight pieces of music to take to a desert island. we don't have time for eight today. but perhaps you could choose one that couldn't live without if you were on a desert island. justice ginsburg: well i have to pick two. prof. shaw: two is fine. justice ginsburg: so, those are recordings of mozart, the marriage of figaro. and don giovanni. prof. shaw: great. good choice. [laughter] you talked about the opera about you and justice scalia, which is part, and it's part of your, the importance you give to collegiality. and you talk a lot about the ways in which you and your colleagues on the court are very
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collegial to each other. you shake hands in the morning, you eat meals together. do you think we can expand that kind of collegiality to a broader civil and public discourse? [laughter] justice ginsburg: when i was growing up, the first branch was very different than it is today. that persisted -- i would think back to 1993, when president clinton nominated me with a good job i now hold. i had been general council to american civil liberties union for several years. the vote was 96-3 in my favor. my biggest supporter on the judiciary committee was not the then chair, senator biden. although he was certainly in my favor. but it was orrin hatch.
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i think today he wouldn't touch me with a ten foot pole. [laughter] justice ginsburg: we have -- we are still friends. but if it came to a vote on me, i don't think he would be the supporter that he was in 1993. and it was similar with stephen breyer, when he was nominated the next year. it was well into the 90s, a vote in his favor. it hasn't been that way for the four most recent members of the -- four most recent members of the court. and it's been on both sides of the aisle. i wish there were a way i could wave a magic wand and put it back. when people were respectful of each other, and the congress was working for the good of the
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country and not just along party lines. someday, there will be great people, great elected representatives who will say enough of this nonsense, let's be the kind of legislature the united states should have. i hope that day will come while i'm still alive. [applause] prof. shaw: so, your husband marty, as you said, was a great cook. eating together is one way that we can have collegiality actually and talk. well, across differences. do you have a memorable meal you would like to tell us about? justice ginsburg: i'll describe one meal that was a great challenge for marty.
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the scalias and my family celebrated new year's eve together. and usually, you know he was a great hunter, he would kill bambi. we would have venison. [laughter] but this particular new year's, he killed a wild boar. [laughter] finally a recipe that would be palatable. that was a real challenge for marty, but he did it. prof. shaw: we are going to open up to student questions in a moment, but i want to point out the fantastic tote bag you have. it says "i dissent." justice ginsburg: it's got me on the other side. [laughter] [applause]
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this is the name of a book by debbie levy, who is a lawyer, but decided all things considered she'd rather write children's books, and she's been very successful, and the publisher liked her books so much that they made these tote bags. prof. shaw: i personally love it that justice ginsburg is carrying the tote bag. [laughter] so how is it to be -- also because of the book "notorious rbg," you are known to every generation, including quite small children. you are not just a public figure, you are an amazing public figure to every generation. how is that? [laughter] justice ginsburg: you know what was copied for the notorious rbg. it's the notorious big.
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prof. shaw: yes. justice ginsburg: famous rapper prof. shaw: yes. justice ginsburg: and when i was told that this was the tumblr these law students created, i said perfectly understandable, we have one thing in common. "you have something in common with notorious big?" of course, we were both born and bred in brooklyn, new york. [applause] starting that tumblr i think is a good example of how young people should react to things they don't like. this was a second year student at nyu law school and when the supreme court decided the shelby county case, this was a case that declared a key part of the voting rights act of 1965 unconstitutional, she was angry.
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and then, she decided anger is a useless emotion. it doesn't advance your cause. so then she decided she would start this tumblr, and it began with my dissenting opinion in the shelby county case. and then it took off into the wild blue yonder from there. prof. shaw: so you are a role model for many. that's an understatement. you are a role model for many, many people. who have your role models been? because you lost the page where you talk about them so i'm giving you the chance to talk about it now. justice ginsburg: growing up, there weren't too many, because women were hardly there, so i had one real and one fictitious. the real one was amelia earhart. prof. shaw: yes. justice ginsburg: the fictitious one was nancy drew. [laughter] [applause] justice ginsburg: but later in life, i had the good fortune to meet the first woman ever to serve on a u.s. district court.
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she was burnita shelton matthews. by the time i got to the d.c. circuit, she was in her 90's. i would lunch with her whenever i could to hear her stories. she had been counsel to the national women's party. she was going to law school at night. she participated in the suffragist parades, and she picketed the white house, but she would never say a word. she would hold up her sign, votes for women, and not speak if she was hassled by the police. because she didn't want to risk her chances for admission to the bar. well it happened that when chief justice taft decided the supreme court should not be housed
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inside the capital, as it was until 1935, but should have its own building, the site on which the supreme court now stands was occupied, a good part of it, by the headquarters of the national women's party. so the government condemned the property. they argued this is just a ramshackle old building, it's not worth anything. burnita shelton matthews, whose specialty was eminent domain, she called as a witness a member of the older inhabitants of d.c. , who testified that not only was that site the temporary capitol when it burned in the war of 1812, it was also a prison for notorious confederate spies. the government was still not have none of it. she produced a photograph of a most notorious confederate spy
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happened to be a woman inside that building. the government caved, and burnita shelton matthews won for the national woman's party the largest condemnation award that the u.s. government up till that time had ever paid. she was a woman from mississippi, so she spoke with a soft southern accent. she wore a lace collar and cuffs but she was a woman of real steel. and you think what it was like, for me, it was a piece of cake in comparison to what it was like for those women. prof. shaw: and mentors? justice ginsburg: mentors. well, there were no, no women were teaching in law schools when i went to law school. no women were teaching in the arts college at cornell.
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but i did mention my dear teacher at harvard, the first class i ever took was civil procedure. and i was captivated by the way the class was conducted. there was a woman i met much later. she was a stanford graduate. her name was shirley mount hufstedler. she was a judge on the u.s. court of appeals for the ninth circuit. the second in history. i've mentioned florence allen in 1934. shirley was the second. she was appointed by president johnson. then president carter made her the first ever secretary of the department of education. she started and she launched
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that department and did an excellent job. and it was more than rumoured that if carter had a vacancy on the supreme court, shirley hufstedler would, would fill it. she was such a great lady, when it turned out that carter would not have a supreme court seat to fill, he did have a reception in her honor. he invited all the women he had appointed over 25 to district courts, 11 to courts of appeals. and he said at that reception that he hoped he would be remembered in history for changing the complexion of the federal judiciary. he did, and no president ever
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went back to the way it once was. so shirley, when i got to know her, was what you would call a role model, or a mentor. prof. shaw: and you've been very good at saying how important that is to do that for other women throughout your career. justice ginsburg: yes. prof. shaw: yes. thank you for that. [laughter] i think there are lots of students who would like to ask questions. so, i'm going to just invite students to come and do that, to come to the central microphone, but i need to just remind you of a few grand rules. please state your name and what class you're in. are you a freshman? are you a sophomore? are you a graduate student? please ask only one question. express the question as briefly as you can. and however passionate you are, please resist the urge to make a
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statement as well. [laughter] that way more of your classmates can ask more questions. may i also say that we, we are all delighted that justice ginsburg is here. so we'll take that as a given so you don't need to preface every question with how delighted you are. i think she knows. that way too we can have more questions. thank you for that. justice ginsburg has also asked me to remind you that she cannot answer questions on certain topics as follows. she cannot answer any question about any issue pending before the court. or likely to come before the court, which would include the legality of recent executive orders. [laughter] she's just not allowed to talk about it, okay? [laughter] and nor can she make any comment on the current nominee to the supreme court. if you can observe those rules that will be great because then she wouldn't have to say no to you. thank you.
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so first questions, are they ready? just have to put your hand up and come to the center. i think someone's going to help. but in the meantime, i think someone's going to also help fix justice ginsburg's microphone a little bit. i have many questions. if students don't have any questions, i can just keep going. [laughter] >> hi. my name is alice. i'm a graduate student here, not in the law school. i wanted to ask you what would you recommend right now for the young people that we are around here to get involved in those issues that are floating right now or in more general the issues for women rights and that are around, i guess?
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justice ginsburg: we have a diversity of public interest groups in the united states. if i would take my own example, so i was a flaming feminist and the question was, how could i make a difference? i decided that i would affiliate with the american civil liberties union because it was then the principal civil liberties defender in the united states. it had up to then concerned itself with first amendment questions free speech, press, freedom of religion. but i thought it was appropriate for it to get into the business of equality, both racial and gender. so, it's hard to do anything alone, but if you get together with like-minded people, join organizations.
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if your passion is the environment, there are any number of organizations that you can affiliate with. >> hello, my name is jorge cuerto, and i'm a master's student in computer science. my question is, 100 years from now, when people are talking about ruth bader ginsburg, what do you want them to remember? [laughter] justice ginsburg: that i was a judge. [laughter] [applause] justice ginsburg: who worked as hard as she could. to the best of her ability, to do the job right. [applause]
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>> hi, may name is sasha lendower and i'm a freshman. i was wondering, you spoke about the importance of deafness both in your marriage and on the court kind of selectively. so how would you balance that with a, like hearing and speaking out against things that seem wrong to you? justice ginsburg: how did i balance --? like your ability to be deaf to certain things. justice ginsburg: my ability to -- >> she's asking, you gave the advice that i think your mother in law had given you on your wedding night. she used to be deaf sometimes. how do you balance that with when you need to speak out? justice ginsburg: being deaf is what other people say, not to what i said. but if you- [laughter] the one thing you don't do is react in anger or annoyance. a sense of humor helps enormously. for example, i was arguing a
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case before a three-judge federal court in trenton, new jersey. it was a gender discrimination case, and one of the judges asked me a question. he said, well i thought women have an equal chance today? why even in the military they do. so i answered, your honor, the air force still doesn't give flight training to women. he responded, my dear. don't tell me that. women have been in the air forever, i know from experience with my own wife and daughter. [laughter] so what does one do? you don't say, "you sexist pig"" [laughter] you say, "yes, your honor," and i know many men who don't have their feet planted firmly on the ground, and then you race ahead with your argument. [laughter] [applause]
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>> hi, i'm jordan i'm a freshman. i'm was wondering how you define your relationship with other female justices on the court. and how female friendships have propped you up throughout your life. justice ginsburg: sandra day o'connor was the closest, i did have a big sister but she died when i was very young, so, sandra was as close to being a big sister to me, as one, one could wish for. when i was a new justice, she didn't try to douse me with lots of information, she just told me what i needed to know to get by those first few weeks. and she was important to me and, -- in 1999, i had colorectal cancer.
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and sandra had breast cancer and was on the bench nine days after her massive surgery. she advised me. first, she said, "you're going to get so much mail, so many well wishes, don't try to answer any of it. just concentrate on getting well. i felt that i had to show up on that first monday, in, in october. i had two weeks between my surgery and when court began. and then sandra said, so you're having chemotherapy. be sure to schedule it for friday, so you can get over it during the weekend. [laughter] she also had excellent rapport with our chief, in fact it was rumored -- and not only were they both at stanford law school
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time, but that he had once dated her. [laughter] and now, my female colleagues that just granted, have them there. if you came to an argument these days, you would see that justice sotomayor and justice kagan are not shrinking violets. they're very active in the colloquy that goes on at oral arguing. during the years justice scalia and sotomayor overlapped, they were in competition for the justice who asked the most questions at oral arguments. [laughter] scalia generally edged her out just by a bit, but, but nowadays she wins hands down.
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[laughter] >> hello, my name is priya and i'm a freshman. i was wondering if any of the ways in which you approach adversity in your professional career helped you, and, combating any challenges you faced as a mother and in your courageous battle with cancer? justice ginsburg: it is never to have a defeatist attitude. i told the story earlier this afternoon about my model, when i had pancreatic cancer, was the great mezzo-soprano, marilyn horne. when she was diagnosed with that often deadly disease, she said, "i will live." not that "i hope to live." so that was my attitude too. i was going to beat this.
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one of the things i did and after the colorectal cancer bout, i did a few public interest announcements, because i was trying to encourage women to get colonoscopies. women think of breast cancer and they think of ovarian cancer but they don't realize what a killer of women colorectal cancer can be. so that attitude is, i'm going to surmount this, whatever, whatever it is. the same thing when my husband had cancer at a very young age. we never thought about the possibility of giving up. we just took each day at a time then did the best we could.
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[applause] >> my name is aliya, i'm a junior. i was, raised on a small tribal community in new mexico named santo domingo pueblo. and when i was in high school, justice sotomayor visited and this affected me greatly, seeing a woman of color speaking to my community. my question is, what communities do you aim to speak to? and what types of people do you aim to inspire? justice ginsburg: what kind of people do i speak to? i speak to students from second grade to the postgraduate level. we're often visited by school groups. i must visit about half a dozen law schools every year. just before i came to stanford, i was at the virginia military
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institute that has done a great job of integrating women. and washington and lee, its neighbor school. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> hi, i'm molly, and i'm a sophomore here. my question for you, is i find myself in arguments a lot and i am curious to know how you see best to construct a sound argument that is purposeful in, persuading people from the other side to kind of get on board with you. [laughter] justice ginsburg: we are trying to persuade each other all the time. it begins when we are considering what request for you to grant. then at oral argument, very often questions are asked, not so much to listen to the response from the lawyer but to
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influence a colleague's thinking. then we have our conference, which doesn't run on very long, when we go around the table and say how we think the case should come out. and then it continues and sometimes if you can't be persuasive orally, your writing may be persuasive. and i was once assigned a dissent by my senior colleague, john paul stevens. it was a dissent for two. and in the fullness of time, that decision came down 6-3. the two had swelled to six. so every time i'm in dissent, i am hoping that there will be a repeat. [laughter] it hasn't yet happened, but, hope springs eternal. [laughter]
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>> my name is julia, i'm a graduate student. has there ever been a time since you've been on the supreme court where you took a side of that was opposite your personal morals because you thought the constitution was on the other side? justice ginsburg: if i were queen, there would be no death penalty. but i take part, i don't do what justice marshall and brennan did, said the death penalty under any and all circumstances is a violation of the 8th amendment ban on cruel or unusual punishment. instead, i take part in those arguments and do the best i can. to move the law in the direction in which it seems to be going. i think i mentioned earlier that last year across the country, there were only 20 executions compared with 98 ten years ago.
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and there were only five states in the united states that held executions, even within those five states, only particular counties. >> hello, my name is chinado. i'm a junior from nigeria and i'm studying chemical engineering. my question is, what role do you see the court playing, like you mentioned, you want to see a reversal of the rising polarization we have in society now. do you think the supreme court should play a more vocal role in speaking to the public and reaching out, rather than this more recessed role they've traditionally held in society? justice ginsburg: the supreme court, unlike the political branches of government, is a totally reactive institution, as once fine court of appeals judge said -- the federal judges don't make the conflagrations, they do
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what they can to put them out. so, we don't have an agenda. this year, we're going to take care of say, same sex marriage or voter ids. we respond to petitions that come up in cases that begin at least two levels before. so the first thing i will read to inform myself is what other judges have said about the case, what the trial court judge said, the court of appeals. so they don't have any agenda of our own. we take cases when -- and i said in my opening remarks -- when other courts divide on what the law of the united states is, that's what we see as our principle mission. to keep the law of the united
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states, more or less, uniform. >> hi, my name's biel mccauley and i'm a first year law school student. this is kind of a constitutional law question, but i was wondering, do you to any extent believe that the presence of law enforcement officials at a peaceful protest or rally, impinges on people's first amendment rights? justice ginsburg: do i think the presence of law enforcement officers at protests, if they are well trained, if they know that people have the right to speak their minds, they are there to make sure that there is no violence.
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so i think properly trained police are tremendously important. i think in the recent protests in washington, d.c., we saw about working very well, with police respectful of the people who had come to protest. >> i am jonathan. i am a freshman. you and justice scalia were obviously very good friends, almost family, so what would you say were the biggest lessons you guys taught each other? justice ginsburg: we both thought it was important not only to get to the right result, the right result, but to write in such a way that at least other judges and lawyers, and hopefully, more than that would understand -- i would sometimes criticize an opinion of his in draft and say this is so over the top, you're not going to be as persuasive. i couldn't always persuade him to tone it down, but -- [laughter] -- and he would correct my
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grammatical errors. [laughter] >> hello, my name is brittany stinson. you've obviously been a part of, and witness to, many advancements for women. what do you think is the biggest threat facing women and gender equity today? justice ginsburg: i mentioned the problem of unconscious bias. that's not so easy to overcome. work-life balance is another, we don't have, in the world of employment, nearly the flexibility that we should have. i had envisioned that in this electronic age, one, for example, you have the entire law library at your fingertips, that it would be much easier for employers to accommodate.
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but it will take women and men who care about this to make the change in the law firm mentality. i know that it's possible because i was married to a man who was a partner in a very large law firm. everyone in the tax department which he headed, everyone was gone by 7:00, because at the time, that was the time to go home for dinner. in other departments, the culture was that you, you have dinner at the firm, you come back, work. it can be done. and i think the law firms will be much healthier places and do as well financially, if they
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accommodate their employees and make it possible to have a balanced life. >> my name is jessi dolman and i'm a junior here. i was wondering as it applies to both individual lives and the processes of justice, do you believe in fate or do you believe that we are masters of our own fate? justice ginsburg: both. [laughter] >> is there like a percentage there? justice ginsburg: i worked hard to do the best i can, but a little bit of luck, a little bit of divine grace can certainly help. >> i am a phd student in chinese literature. so, in the silicon valley, people are very optimistic about the potentials of artificial intelligence. some speculate that with increasing automation, there'll be less and less jobs and they suggest the idea of universal basic income.
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as a justice, what do you think of that idea? thank you. justice ginsburg: it is a grave concern. i think we have to do a much better job than we do now to educate students into what they can do with their lives, to have the skills, to be part of this electronic age. >> hi, my name is dustin, and i'm a senior. and recently with all the change that's been happening, a lot of people have been expressing encouragement that you eat more kale, so to speak. [laughter] so that you can continue doing the public service work that you're doing for as long as possible and, to that tune, i, i was wondering who do you want to
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eat more kale in washington? [laughter] justice ginsburg: who? justice kennedy -- [laughter] [applause] there are a three of us on the current court who are well beyond what the french call a certain age well being. [laughter] so it's justice breyer, the youngest, and then the two octogenarians, justice kennedy and me. a very important part of my life is my personal trainer, who has been with me since 1999, and now also trains justice kagan, and most recently, justice breyer. [laughter] >> my name is cole goldman. i'm majoring in human biology. i'm a sophomore. you've talked much today about
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your friendship with justice scalia. scalia. justice ginsburg: scalia. [laughter] >> do you have a favorite dispute with him that you remember especially fondly? justice ginsburg: do i have a favorite? >> dispute. justice ginsburg: his dissenting opinion in the virginia military institute case is quite over-the-top. [laughter] justice ginsburg: we were, exchanging drafts. i should tell you, this is a good example of our relationship. so i circulated the opinion for the court. i am about to go off to my circuit judicial conference, when scalia comes into my chambers and throws down a sheaf of paper and says, ruth, this is the penultimate draft of my dissent in the vmi case. it's not quite ready to
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circulate to the court, but i wanted to give you as much time as i can to respond. so i took it on the plane. it absolutely ruined my weekend. [laughter] but i appreciated the extra time i had. [laughs] well, in a way of bit too much, so i'm quoting the university of virginia case. it wasn't until 1970 that the university of virginia at charlottesville began to admit women. so, there was a case in the district court, and i referred to the university of virginia at charlottesville. footnote comes back. there is no university of virginia at charlottesville. there is only the university of virginia.
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[laughter] then i put the university of virginia at charlottesville in quotations. quoting from judge marriage, who is a very fine district judge in the eastern district of virginia. made no difference. he still, he still kept it. [laughter] >> i am going to interrupt to say i think we have time for one more question. >> what an honor. [laughter] >> justice ginsburg, i'm park, a sophomore studying computer science. today, you remarked that a great thing about the constitution is that it can even evolve with the society. at the same time, i think there are core values of this nation that must be remembered and protected especially these days. so my question is, which beliefs and values of this society do you believe must be changed? which ones must remain and how do you distinguish one from the other? [laughter] [applause]
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justice ginsberg: well, some things that i would like to change. one is the electoral college but that was -- [cheers] [cheers and applause] that would be why our constitutional amendment, which is amending our constitution is powerfully hard to do, as i know from the struggle for the equal rights amendment, which fell three states shy. what do i think is enduring? congress shall pass no law respecting freedom of speech of the press. that right to speak your mind and not worry about big brother government coming down on you and telling you the right way to think, speak and write. that's tremendously important.
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i got to see how important it was when i was going to college in the heyday of senator mccarthy, and our country was straying from its most basic values. but there were people, many of them lawyers, who helped bring us back to the way it should be. equality, nor shall any state deny to any person, the equal protection of the laws. an idea that was included in the constitution in 1868. with the 14th amendment. it's not in the original constitution. i think most of you know why. although, our declaration of independence says all men are created equal, you couldn't put an equality norm in the original constitution or in the bill of rights because of the stain of slavery. so now, i think the notion -- i explain it in terms of the
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opening words of the constitution, "we the people of the united states in order to perform, to form a more perfect union." so we start with "we the people" in 1787. a rather small class, they are white, they are male, and they own property. look at "we the people "today, all the people who are excluded, from people who are held in human bondage, native americans were not part of "we the people." women were not part of the political constituency until 1920, when the 19th amendment finally was adopted. so that the idea that "we the people" is an embracive term that covers everyone who dwells in this fair land. that is a major theme of our
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constitution today. >> it's also a very good note on which to end. thank you very much. [applause] [raucous applause] justice ginsburg: thank you. thank you. >> thank you! [cheers and applause]
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she was nominated by president clinton to the supreme court and confirmed in 1993 as the second woman to serve on the high court. she died at her home at the age >> president trump will be campaigning in north carolina this afternoon. watch live, getting at 6:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. online at or listen to the free c-span radio app. " washington journal," more reaction to the death of ruth bader ginsburg. we will check in with jeffrey rosen


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