We all have moments that are frozen in our memory. The exact time we learned about a major world event or made an impactful decision. The recollection of a personal milestone. A visceral feeling of pure joy or sadness or anger.
A few in my lifetime:
- Being cramped in small classroom in 9th grade as we watched the Space Shuttle Challenger take off… then explode;
- Turning on the tv early one September morning and watching in horror and confusion as the second tower collapsed;
- Clad in my pajamas sitting on the couch with my partner, Nancy, fingers crossed, as the Supreme Court decision came in striking down Proposition 8 and, therefore, making gay marriage legal in California;
- Surrounded by my beloved Gateway team, making the decision to close Gateway High and Gateway Middle last March to concerns about COVID-19.
On Friday, I had another one of those moments. Nancy, and I were driving to Santa Cruz to begin a weekend-long celebration of my mom’s 80th birthday. I was trying to transition to weekend mode, but at the same time, I still felt tied to my cell phone to make sure all was well at school. I looked down at my phone and saw that I had five new text messages, rarely a good sign.
After battling cancer multiple times and needing intense medical care on and off for years, my hero, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, had died.
Like many of you, I am devastated and grieving at the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And, at the same time, I want to throw a world-wide RBG Appreciation Party.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and legacy changed the opportunities available to generations of women and girls, as well as how we view our place in the world. She inspired us to hope, to think, and most importantly, to dissent.
At only 5’ 1”, she was the definition of strength. She fought discrimination, convention and systemic barriers. She battled cancer four times. And, have you seen her workouts???
I love the way she relied on both her intellect and her heart. She was never the loudest or the flashiest, but, she knew what she stood for, she was committed to the public good, and she was dogged and strategic in her pursuit of it.
She was a brilliant mind, a fighter, a trail blazer, a tireless champion of the underdog, a pop culture icon, and someone who truly believed in the importance of listening to those with different perspectives.
Often, leaders are called “fearless.” Our fearless leader. I bet Ruth Bader Ginsburg had plenty of fears. Fears of losing important and precedent-setting cases. Fears about the impact of her tremendous workload on her family. Fears of finally succumbing to cancer. Fears about the future of our country. But she never let her fears stand in her way.
Yes, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was extraordinary. She was one of a kind. But we can each channel aspects of her in our own way. We can keep her alive through our actions, through our willingness to embrace fear and to stand up for what’s right. We can teach our children about her and other heroes, like John Lewis, who spent their lives working to move America closer to its promise. We can each step up in advance of this coming election and in the face of discrimination, racism, and hate.
In a year filled with loss and pain, this one really stings. I say, let’s all don our best RBG wigs and robes, take some time to let the impact of her life and death settle in, then fight like hell!