Stanford Rathbun Lecture 2017  – Ruth Bader Ginsburg
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Stanford Rathbun Lecture 2017 – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

October 15, 2019


[MUSIC] Stanford University.
>>Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome
Stanford University Provost, Persis Drell
>>[APPLAUSE]>>[APPLAUSE] Good evening, good evening. It is my very great
pleasure to welcome you to Memorial Church for this year’s Rathbun Lecture on
a Meaningful Life. Tonight, we are deeply honored To have as
our speaker, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
of the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.>>[APPLAUSE]>>This event, this event as you may
know has a rich history at Stanford.
>>It originated in a lecture that Henry Rathbun, a Stanford
law professor in the 1930’s through the 1950’s, decided
to give about the meaning of life, on the last day of his
business law class one spring. The lecture was such
a success, that it turned into an annual tradition at
Stanford for many years, until Professor Rathbun retired.
It was revived in 2008, supported by a generous gift
to the office of religious life by the foundation for
global community, which established the Henry
and Emilia Rathbun Fund For exploring what leads to
a meaningful life. Each year, a Rathbun visiting fellow is
selected to come to Stanford to deliver this lecture and to
spend time with our faculty, students, and staff.
In a busy world and in a time 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
Rathbun Visiting Fellow. Now, many of you know her
by another moniker as the notorious RBG.
>>[APPLAUSE]>>That name got it start several
years ago when a Tumblr blog put together
by an admiring law student
>>and it just took off from there. Today, Justice Ginsburg
finds herself not only a member of our
nation’s highest court, but a cultural phenomenon as well.
>>[LAUGH]>>Born in Brooklyn, Justice Ginsburg received
her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and
her law degree from Columbia Law School.
>>She was a professor of law at Rutgers university
from 1963 to 1972 and at Columbia law school
from 1972 to 1980. In 1971, she cofounded
the women’s rights project of the American Civil
Liberties Union. And she served as the ACLU’s general
council from 1973 to 1980. She was appointed to the United States court
of appeal, for the District of Columbia’s circuit in 1980.
President Clinton then nominated her as an associate
justice of the Supreme Court, and she took her seat
on the court in 1993. These biographical facts
come nowhere close to adequately describing the
person who is with us tonight. There really aren’t sufficient
words to describe the impact she has had on the law and
on the advancement of women’s rights in In America.
Trailblazing, pioneering, daring, they’re all true, but
they still don’t capture it. Justice Ginsberg went to
law school in an era, the 1950s, when very few
women did. She faced enormous challenges as a woman and as a
mother. In pursuing her career in that era. She then turned
her career to the cause of battling discrimination
on behalf of women and families everywhere.
At Columbia Law School, she became the school’s 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 protection as it relates to equality between
the sexes. Many in fact have called her the Thurgood
Marshall of women’s rights. She was the second woman
to join United States supreme court, serving at the time with
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who has also been a Rathbun
visiting fellow with us here at Stanford. Justice Ginsburg
will be in conversation tonight with Dean Jane Shaw,
Dean for Religious Life and Professor of Religious Studies
here at Stanford. Professor Shaw previously
taught history and theology at Oxford for 16 years and just
before coming to Stanford, she was the Dean of Grace
Cathedral in San Francisco. We look forward to insightful
and engaging conversation. And now, if you will,
please wel-, join me in welcoming
to Stanford, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
>>[APPLAUSE]>>[APPLAUSE]>>Thank you, thank you.>>[APPLAUSE]>>[APPLAUSE]>>[APPLAUSE] Please be seated.
>>[APPLAUSE]>>[APPLAUSE] Thank you, thank you very much. But
please be seated. [APPLAUSE] 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. It is a sign of huge progress
made to today’s youth Judgeship as an aspiration for
a girl is not at all outlandish.
Contrast the ancient days in 1956 when I entered
Law School. Women within less than 3% of the lawyers
in the United States And only one woman had ever served
on a federal appellate court. She was Florence Allen, appointed by Franklin Deleanor
Roosevelt to the U.S. court of appeals for
the sixth circuit in 1934. 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 US Supreme Court bench. Women hold more than 30% of
US law school deanship And serve as general counsel to
24% of Fortune 500 companies. In my long life,
I have seen great changes. How fortunate I was to be
alive and unaware when, for the first time in U.S. history, It became possible
to urge successfully before legislatures and courts. The equal citizenship stature
of men and women. Now there is a page out of place, so
bear with me a moment. It should be Not
too far from here. Well, if it’s skipped we’ll
go on to the next one. Where I speak about
teachers who influenced or encouraged me in my growing up
years. At Cornell University, European Literature
Professor Vladimir Nabokov, he changed the way I read and the way I write.
Words could paint pictures, I learned from him.
Choosing the right word in the right word order,
he illustrated, could make an enormous difference,
in conveying an image or an idea. From constitutional
law professor, Robert E Cushman, and
American ideals professor, Milton Konvitz, I learned of
our nations enduring values. And how our Congress
was strained for them, from them in the Red Scare
years of the 1950s. But also how lawyers could
remind lawmakers that our Constitution shields the right
to think, speak, and write. Without fear of reprisal
from government authorities. At Harvard Law School,
Professor Benjamin Kaplan was my first and favorite teacher.
He use the Socratic method in his Civil Procedure class,
always to stimulate, never to wound. Kaplan was the
model I tried to follow in my, my own law teaching years
from 1963 until 1980. At Columbia Law
School Professor of Constitutional Law and Federal
Courts, Caroline Gunther, who later served on the
Stanford Law faculty m-, for many years. He was determined
to place me in a federal court clerkship despite what
was then viewed as a grave impediment. On graduation I
was the mother of a four year old child. After heroic
efforts, Gunther succeeded in that mission. In later years,
litigating cases in or headed to the Supreme Court,
I turned to Gunther for aid in dealing with sticky legal
issues, both substantive and procedural. 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.
>>[LAUGH]>>It comes from my Serbian mother in law. Advice she
gave me on my wedding day. In every good marriage she
counselled, It helps sometimes to be a little deaf.
>>[LAUGH]>>I have followed that advice assiduously and not only at home through 56
years of a marital partnership nonpareil. I have employed it
as well in every workplace including The Supreme Court
of the United States. When a thoughtless or
unkind word is spoken, best tune out,
reacting in anger or annoyance, will not advance
one’s ability to persuade. Advice from my father-in-law
has also served me well. He gave it during my
gap years, 1954 to 1956 when my husband Marty was
fulfilling his obligation to the army as an artillery
officer at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. By the end of 1954
my pregnancy was confirmed. We looked forward to
becoming three in July 1955, but I worried about starting
law school the next year with an infant to care for.
Father’s advice, Ruth, if you don’t want to stop law
school You have a good reason to resist the undertaking. No
one will think the less of you if you make that choice. But
if you really want to study law, you will stop worrying
and you will find a way to manage child at school.
And so Marty and I did By engaging and nanny on school
days, from eight to four. Many times after, when the
road was rocky, I thought back to father’s wisdom,
spent no time fretting and found a way to do what I
thought was important to get done. Work life balance
was a term not yet coined in, in the years
my children were young. But it is aptly
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 attended classes and studied diligently until
four in the afternoon. The next hours were Jane’s
time. Spent at the park, playing silly games while
singing funny songs, reading pictures books and
A.A. Milne poems. Bathing and feeding her.
After Jane’s bedtime, I return to the law books with
renewed will. Each part of my life provided respect from the
other and gave me a sense of proportion that classmates
trained only on the law lacked I have had more than a little
bit of luck in life, but nothing equals in magnitude my
marriage to Martin D Ginsburg. I do not have words adequate
to describe my super-smart, exuberant, ever-loving Spouse. [SOUND] Early on in our
marriage it became clear to him that cooking was
not my strong suit. To the everlasting
appreciation of our food-loving children,
we became four in 1965 when son
James was born, Marty made the kitchen
his domain, and became chef supreme
in our home, on loan to friends
even at the court. Marty coached me through
the birth of our son, he was the first reader and critic
of articles, speeches, and briefs I drafted, and he was
at my side constantly, in and out of the hospital during two
long bouts with cancer. And I betray no secret in
reporting that without him, I would not have gained a seat
on the U.S. Supreme Court. Then associate white house
counsel Ron Klain said of my 1993 nomination, I would
say definitely for the record, though 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 included, included gaining
the unqualified support of my home state Senator,
Daniel Patrick Monaghan And enlisting the aid of many
members of the legal academy and a practicing bar familiar
with work I had done. I have several times said
that the office I hold now nearing 24 years is
the best and most consuming job a lawyer Anywhere
could have. The Court’s main job is to 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 dominantly when
other juris have divided over the meaning of a statute or
constitutional prescription, the questions we take
up are rarely easy. They seldom have indubitably
right answers, Yet by reasoning together
at our conferences and with more depth and precision
through circulation of, and responses to
draft opinions we ultimately agree far more
often than we divide sharply. Last term, 2015 to 2016 term,
for example, we were unanimous, at least
on the bottom-line judgment, in 25 of the 67 cases decided
after full briefing and argument. In contrast,
we divided five to three, or four to three,
Justice Scalia’s death reduced the number of justices to
eight. We divided sharply only eight times.
When a justice is of the firm viewed that the majority got
it wrong she is free to say so and dissent. I take advantage
of that prerogative. When I think it’s important,
as do my colleagues. Despite our strong disagreements
on cardinal issues, think, for example, of control of
political campaign spending, access to the ballot,
affirmative action, access to abortion.
Same sex marriage, we gen-, genuinely respect each other
and even enjoy each other’s company. Collegiality is key
to success of our mission, we cannot do the job
the Constitution assigns to us if we didn’t to use one of
Justice Scalia’s Favorite expressions, get over it.
>>[LAUGH]>>All of us revere the constitution and the
court. We aimed to ensure that when we leave the court,
the third branch of government will be in as good shape as
it was when we joined it. Earlier I spoke of great
changes I have seen in women’s occupations. Yet one must
acknowledge 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, trail the earnings of men with
comparitable education and experience. Our workplaces do
not adequately accommodate the demands of childbearing
and child rearing. And we have yet to devise
Effective ways to ward off sexual harassment at work,
and domestic violence in our homes. But I am
optimistic that the movement toward enlisting the talents
of all who compose, we the people will
continue As expressed by my brave 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 will fall. As society sees what women can do, as
women see what women can do, there will be more women
out there doing things and we’ll all be better off for
it. To that ex-, expectation I can
only say amen. [LAUGH] [APPLAUSE] [APPLAUSE]>>[INAUDIBLE]>>[APPLAUSE]>>So justice Ginsburg, it’s a huge pleasure and
honor to have you with us, thank you so much for accepting our invitation to be
the visiting Rathbun fellow. As you know, the Rathbun
program is designed to foster thinking about what it means
to lead a meaningful life. And you’ve said some things
about that already but could you encapsulate
what it means to lead a meaningful life for
you?>>To put it simply, it means doing something
outside yourself. I tell the law students,
I, I address now and then. If you’re going to
be a lawyer, and just practice your profession, well
you have a skill, so you’re very much like a plumber.
>>[LAUGH]>>But if you want to be a true
professional, you will do something outside 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 a meaningful life is. One lives not just for
oneself But for one’s community.
>>That’s, that’s wonderful thank you and
do you think that’s the same as a purposeful life?
>>Yes, I think the purpose
is what you aim, what you aim for.
>>How has family played a part in your own life? And
your own meaning in your life? It plays a very large part. It’s one of the things
drew Justice Scalia and me together because we both
care a lot about families. I saw a big change In life
in the United States between the birth of my daughter
in 1955 and my son in 1965. When my daughter
Jane started school I was one of a very few
working moms. Ten years later, there had been an enormous
change. It was not all unusual to have to run
a families by the middle 60s. And that made me realize that
it would be possible for the first time in history
to move the law. In the direction of what I call
equal citizenship stature for men and women.
>>So talk a little bit about that. Talk about your
own experience and how that led you to that work.
>>In>>The days when I went to law school my
entering class at Harvard was over five hundred students
and only nine were women. There was no
anti-discrimination law so employers were totally
upfront in saying We don’t want any
lady lawyers here or we once hired a woman and
she was dreadful. And how many men have you
hired that didn’t live up to your expectations for them?
>>[LAUGH]>>Anyway that’s>>That’s what, things, things we didn’t
complain about. So for example, Harvard law
school we had nine women, there were two teaching
buildings at that time. Only one of them had
a woman’s bathroom. So you can imagine if you were
in class is one thing, much worse you’re
taking your three or four hour exam
>>And had to make a mad dash
to the other building. But the thing of it was,
we never complained. That’s just the way things
were. But by the late 60s, the feminist 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 UN had declared
International Women’s Year. Things were changing all over.
And so it became 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 the home, and many of our laws were
designed to fit that model of the stay at home woman and
they were for day men. So that’s in
the decade of the 70s, almost all of the laws
of that kind were gone.>>Would you like to talk about one or two of the cases
that you think were most important in that. Well maybe
I can speak about two cases. And the first one was
the turning point case. If I go back, up until 1971, the Supreme Court never saw
a gender base classification, that it didn’t think Was okay.
So if we take the years of
the liberal Warren court, and there’s a case called
Hoyt against Florida, Gwendolyn Hoyt was what we
would today call an abused, battered woman. Her abusive and philandering
husband one day had humiliated her to the breaking point.
She spied her young son’s baseball bat in the corner
of the room lifted it up. And with all her might
hit him over the head. He fell on the stone floor.
End of their altercation, beginning of the murder
prosecution, well in those days in Hillsborough county,
they didn’t put women on juries. Gwendolyn Hoyt
thought was something wrong about that. Not that
a jury including women would have acquitted her but
she thought they might. Better understand her state of
mind, her rage at that moment. And maybe they would convict
her of the lesser crime of manslaughter instead of
murder. She was convicted of murder. And when the case
came to the Supreme Court challenging the absence of
women on the jury rolls The court’s attitude
was Gwendolyn Hoyt, women have the best of both
worlds. We don’t call them for jury duty, but if they come
into the clerk’s office and sign up, we’ll put them there.
Well how many women do you, men do you think would sign
up? If they had the choice. So the Supreme Court
didn’t get it, and the case before it,
Goesaert against Cleary, was a case of a woman
who owned a tavern and her daughter was
her bartender. The state of Michigan perhaps
with the encouragement of the bartender’s 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. 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.
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 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 wo, woman who made her living
by caring for elderly or infirmed people in her house.
She, 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.
And after that there were a succession 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.
She had a healthy pregnancy The doctor came out to tell
Stephen Wiesenfeld 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, til his 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, yet
unanimous judgment but the court divided three
ways on reason for the majority thought.
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. The man 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. So
what you think has to be done now still?
>>Well I, I describe the 70s, though in those years,
both legislatures and courts, rid the statued
books of almost all of the over
>>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. They work like magic.
>>[LAUGH]>>Almost overnight women [LAUGH] were making
their way into symphony. Symphony orchestras. Now, I wish we could duplicate the
drop curtain in every area but it, 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 interview,
interviewing the candidate for promotion. Women dropped
out disproportionately. They flunked the total
person test, why? Because the interviewer
was almost, always a white male, Was discomforted,
someone, someone unfamiliar, a member
of a minority race, a woman didn’t really feel at ease, by
confronting with someone who looked just like him. That
was felt in his comfort zone. How you get past that
kind of Unconscious bias. It remains even today. A difficulty.
>>So, let me change subjects. And because you just mentioned
symphonies, you love opera, famously love opera. I think
you’re very keen on the visual arts. I know you have
some favorite artists. You talked a bit earlier about
how, how in the book of was very influential on you, on
your reading and writing. So you can talk a bit about
the place of the arts and humanities in
a meaningful life. Why are they important to you?
>>They are ess-, essential. Yes, opera is my passion and
I, can I tell them about
an opera that was written by a law student? Yes.
A couple of years ago. It’s called Scalia Ginsburg.
>>[LAUGH]>>This is a very talented musician who had been
a music major at Harvard and had an MA from Yale and
then decided that in his field it would be helpful to know
a little bit about the law. So he enrolled in law school
and he’s taking constitutional law and reading these dual
opinions, Ginsburg Scalia, Ginsburg for the majority,
Scalia in dissent, Scalia in the majority,
Ginsburg in dissent, and he decides this could make
a very funny comic opera. [LAUGH]
>>So it opens with a rage aria. Very Handelian
rage aria Scalia sings. The justices are blind. How
can they possibly spout this? The Constitution says
absolutely nothing about this. And then I sing in return
that he is searching for bright line solutions to
problems that don’t have easy answers, but the great thing
about our constitution is that like our society,
it can evolve. The plot is roughly based
on the magic flute. Justice Scalia
>>[LAUGH] He is, he is>>locked in a dark room where he’s being punished for
excessive dissenting.>>[LAUGH]>>I enter through a glass ceiling to help him get out.
>>[LAUGH]>>[LAUGH] And, and the, the, the, the figure, that locks him
up is the commentatore, a little resemblance to Don
Giovanni’s commendatore, but anyway. Commentatore say, why would you want to help
him? He’s your enemy. I said, no. He’s my
>>Dear friend. And then we sing a duet that goes.
>>[LAUGH]>>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.
So [CROSSTALK] Sorry, carry on.
>>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
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. There
were never the crowds there, that, as there were at
the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
>>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.
>>Well I have to pick two, and and-
>>You don’t have to pick two, two is fine.
>>[LAUGH]>>So, those are recordings of Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro.
>>Mm-hm.>>And Don Giovanni.>>Great. Good choice.>>[LAUGH]>>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 collegial to each other. You shake hands in
the morning, you eat meals together. How do you think
we can expand that kind of collegiality to a broader
civil and public discourse?>>[LAUGH] [CROSSTALK] How can we disagree well?
>>When I was growing up, the first branch was very
different than it is today, and that persisted
>>I would think back to 1993, when the 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 to 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. I think today he wouldn’t touch
me with a ten foot pole.>>[LAUGH] That isn’t that>>We have, we have>>[LAUGH]>>We are still friends.
>>Yes.>>But if it came to a vote on me, I, 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 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 country and
not just the long party lines. Someday, they’ll 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] [APPLAUSE]
>>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? [LAUGH]
>>I’ll describe one meal that
was a great challenge, for Marty. This Scalias and my family celebrated
New Year’s Eve together. And usually, you know
he was a great hunter, he would kill Bambi.
And we would have venison. But this particular New Year’s
he killed a wild boar. [LAUGH] FInally a recipe that
would be palatable. [LAUGH] That was a real challenge for
Marty but it was->>But he did?>>He did, yeah.
>>Before we’re going to open up student questions
in a moment, but I, I want to point out the
fantastic tote bag you have. Okay. [LAUGH] Which says, “I dissent”
>>[LAUGH]>>Which is, and it’s got me on the other side.
>>[LAUGH] [APPLAUSE].>>This is, 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>>I personally love it that Justice Ginsburg is
carrying the tote bag.>>[LAUGH]>>So how is it to be, you know because of,
also because of the book, the Notorious RBG, you,
you are known to every generation including quite
small children and you are not just a public figure. You are
>>An amazing public figure to every generation. How is that? [LAUGH]
>>You know what was copied for the Notorious RBG. It’s the Notorious BIG.
>>Yes.>>Famous rapper>>Yes.>>And when I was told that this
was the tumbler that these two law students had created,
I said well, 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. [LAUGHTER] But it’s, it’s that starting that Tumblr
I think is a good example of how young people should react
to things they don’t like. So, 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. 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.
>>[LAUGH] So you are a role model for many
>>That’s an understatement. You are a role model for
many, 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 them now. [LAUGH]>>Growing up, there weren’t too many, because women
were hardly there, so I had one real and one fictitious.
>>Role model, the real one was Amelia Earhart.
>>Yes.>>The fictitious one was Nancy Drew.
>>[LAUGH] [APPLAUSE]>>But later in life, I had the good fortune
to meet the first woman ever to serve on a US
>>District Court. She was
Burnita Shelton Matthews. By the time I got to the D.C.
Circuit, she was in her 90s. And I
would lunch with her whenever I could to hear her stories.
She had been counsel to the National Woman’s Party
>>She was going to law school at night.
She participated in the, 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 barn. Well it happened that when
Chief Justice Taft decided the supreme court should not
be housed inside the capital as it was until 1935 but
she’s 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. And 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 DC, who testified That
not only was, that site the temporally
capital, when capital 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 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.
>>[LAUGH]>>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.
>>And mentors?
>>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. 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, 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 US court of
appeals for the ninth circuit. The second in history.
I’ve mentioned Florence Allen in 1934.
Though Shirley was the second. She was appointed by
President Johnson. And then President Carter.
Made her the first ever secretary of the Department
of Education. So she was, she started and she launched
that department and did an excellent job.
And it was more than rumoured that if Connor 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. And 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 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. And you’ve
been very good at saying, how important that is to
do that for other women throughout your career.
>>Yes.>>Yes. Yeah. Thank you for that.
>>[LAUGH]>>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 statement as well.
>>[LAUGH]>>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. And 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. So 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.
>>[LAUGH]>>She’s just not allowed to talk about it, okay?
>>[LAUGH]>>And nor can she make any comment on the current nominee
to the Supreme Court. So, if you can observe those rules
that will be great because then she wouldn’t have
to say no to you. Thank you. 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 [INAUDIBLE] I have many questions. If students don’t have any
questions, I can just keep going. [INAUDIBLE]
>>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
of women rights and That are around I guess?
>>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 land
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. 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 masters 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?>>That I was a judge.>>[LAUGH]>>[LAUGH]>>[APPLAUSE]>>Who worked>>As hard as she could. To the best of her ability, to do the job right. [applause]
[APPLAUSE]>>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?>>How did I balance>>Like your ability to be deaf to certain things.
>>I really do think she’s->>She’s asking, you you you you gave
the advice that I think your mother in law had
given you on your wedding night.
>>Yes, yes.>>Which is choose to be deaf sometimes.
>>Yes, yes.>>How do you balance that with when you need
to speak out? So how do you-
>>Being deaf is what other people say, not [LAUGH] not
to what I say, but if you->>[LAUGH]>>[LAUGH] And I had to say, the one thing you don’t do is,
is, is react in anger or annoyance. A sense of
humor helps enormously. So for example, I was
arguing a 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.>>[LAUGH]>>So what does one do? You don’t say you sexist pig.
>>[LAUGH]>>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.>>[LAUGH] [APPLAUSE]>>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.>>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. 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, 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.>>[LAUGH]>>She also had excellent rapport with, our,
>>our chief, in fact it was rumored, not only where they
built it, Stanford law school, at the same time, but
that he had once dated her. [LAUGH] And now my, 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 Sotomayer overlapped,
they were in competition for the justice who asked the most
questions at oral arguing. Justice Scalia generally edged
her out just by a bit, but, but nowadays she
wins hands down.>>[LAUGH]>>Hello, my name is Priya and I’m a freshmen.
>>I was wondering if, any of the ways in
which you approached adversity in your professional
career helped you, and, combatting any challenges you
face as a mother and in your courageous battle with cancer?
>>It’s never to have
a defeatous attitude. I told the story earlier this
afternoon about my model, when I had pancreatic cancer,
was the great Mezzo-soprano, Marilyn Horn. 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, I was going to beat this.
One of the things I did and after the colorectals
>>Cancer bout. I did a few, public, 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 that a killer of women
colorectal cancer can be. So and the 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. [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?
>>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 Institute that has done a great job
of integrating women. And Washington and Lee, its, its neighbor, neighbor school.>>Thank you.
>>Thank you.
>>Hi, I’m Molly and I’m a sophomore here and my question for you, is I find myself
in arguments a lot and I’m 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.>>[LAUGH]>>We are try-, 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 influence a colleague’s
thinking. Then we have our conference, which
doesn’t run on very long, where we each 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 six to three. The two had swelled to six.
So every time I’m in dissent, I’m hoping that they will be a
repeat. [LAUGH] it hasn’t yet happened but
>>[LAUGH]>>But hope springs eternal.>>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?>>If I were queen, there would be no
death penalty. But I take part, I don’t do
what Justice Marshall and Breyer did, said death
penalty under any and all circumstances is a
violation of the 8th amendment ban on cruel or
unusual punishment. Instead, I, 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. 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 Chinadoon.
I’m a junior from Nigeria and I’m studying chemical
engineering. And 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?
>>The Supreme Court, unlike the political
branches of government, is a totally reactive
institution, as a one fine court of
appeals judge said. The federal judges don’t
make the conflagrations, they do what they
can to put them out. So we never can, 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 we don’t yet
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
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? Do I think the presence of law
enforcement officers at protests.
If they’re well trained, if they know that people have the
right to speak their minds. They’re there to make sure
that there is no violence So I think properly trained
police are tremendously important.
I think in recent protest in Washington DC we saw that
working very well with police respectful. Of the people
who had come to protest.>>Hi, I’m Jonathon, I’m 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. The, we, we both thought it
was important not only to get to the right result, but
to write in such a way, that at least other judges and
lawyers, and hopefully, more than that.
It would, would understand, we sometimes, as 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
grammatical errors [LAUGHTER]. [LAUGH]
>>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? 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, I had envisioned that in the
days in this electronic age, when for example, you have
the entire law library at your fingertips, that it would be
much easier for employers to, to accommodate 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 was 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, if they 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
the masters of our own faith? Both.
>>[LAUGH]>>Is there like a percentage there or
is that a solid [CROSSTALK]?>>I worked hard to do the best I can, but
a little bit of luck, a little bit of divine
grace can certainly help. My name is and 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 increasing
automation, there’ll be less and less jobs and they suggest
the idea of universal basic income. As a justice, what do
you think of that idea? Thank you.
>>I think it is, 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. [LAUGH] 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 eat more kale in Washington?
>>Who, who? [LAUGH] Justice Kennedy
[LAUGH] [APPLAUSE] [APPLAUSE]
>>There are a three of us on
the current court who are well beyond what the french call
a certain age well being.>>[LAUGH]>>So it’s Justice Breyer, the youngest, and then the two
octogenarians, Justice Kennedy>>And me. [LAUGH] 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. [LAUGH] My name is Cole Goldman. I’m majoring in human biology.
I’m a sophomore. You’ve talked much today
about your friendship with Justice Scalia. Scalia.
>>Scalia.>>Do you have a favorite dispute with him that you
remember especially fondly? Do I have a favorite?
>>Dispute.>>His ascending in opinion, in, the Virginia Military
Institute case, is quite over, over the top.
>>[LAUGH]>>We were, exchanging drafts.>>I should tell, this is a good example of,
of our relationship. So I circulated the opinion
for the court, I’m 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, by dissent in the VMI case.
It’s not quite ready to 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.>>[LAUGH]>>But I appreciated the extra time I had. 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. 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.
>>We have time for one more question.
>>What an honor. Justice Ginsburg.
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?>>[APPLAUSE]>>Well, some things that I would like to change. One is
the electoral college but that was
>>[APPLAUSE]>>[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. 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 they 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. 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,
the notion I, I explain it in terms of the 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 wa, was adopted. So that the idea that We the
People is an embracive term that covers everyone who
dwells in this fair land. And that’s a, a major Major theme
of our constitution, today.
>>It’s also a very good note on which to end.
Thank you very much.>>[APPLAUSE]>>[APPLAUSE] So much! Thank you! Thank you!>>[APPLAUSE]. [APPLAUSE]>>For more, please visit
us at stanford.edu.

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