The Four Justices: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Interview – National Portrait Gallery

The Four Justices: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Interview – National Portrait Gallery

September 16, 2019 12 By Kody Olson


(Music)>>Justice Ginsburg: I did not dare eat anything because I was afraid I wouldn’t keep it down.”>>Narrator: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a pioneer
for women’s rights and won key cases arguing before the
Supreme Court in the nineteen seventies. The first time she stood before the
highest bench…>>Justice Ginsburg: Plus, I was very nervous, I had a first sentence written out, memorized. And then I looked up with the bench and thought here are the most important
judges in the country, maybe the world and they have to listen to me. I have a
captive audience. And suddenly, instead of getting nervous, I
had a sense of empowerment. I knew a lot
more about gender discrimination than the nine of them did.>>Narrator: Justice
Ginsburg was the second woman named to the supreme court bench and gives advice to her two current
female colleagues only on request.>>Justice Ginsburg: My model was Justice O’Connor. -What was her best advice to you? >>Justice Ginsburg: Well, the best advice she gave me was when I had colorectal cancer and Justice O’Connor had had breast
cancer, she was on the bench nine days after her surgery. So I didn’t match that but I didn’t miss any sittings. and I was here two weeks after my
surgery Her advice was as typical of Justice O’Connor: Now arrange your chemotherapy on Fridays so that by Monday you will be well enough to come to the court.>>Narrator: It is not the first
or last time in her life that Justice Ginsburg faced cancer. After colon cancer, she also battled
pancreatic cancer. Her own mother died of cancer before her
high school graduation and never dreamed her daughter could be a lawyer or some day a judge and justice.>>Justice Ginsburg: She said be independent and that was an important message. And her other message was be a lady, which
didn’t mean what one might think it does. It meant don’t waste time on emotions that don’t do you any good.>>Narrator: For two and a half years, Justice Ginsburg sat as the only woman on the Supreme
Court.>>Justice Ginsburg: After Sandra left, I felt very lonely and it was the wrong image for the
school children particularly to come in and see this bench with eight men and one very small woman. Now, I sit toward the center by virtue of seniority. Justice Kagan is at my left and Justice Sotomayor is at my right. We look like we’re all over the bench, we’re here to stay.>>Narrator: Justice Ginsburg continues to fight against gender discrimination, race discrimination and for gay rights — You recently became the first justice to
officiate a gay marriage – Why did you think it was important to
perform that ceremony?>>Justice Ginsburg: Society had grown up enough to recognize
that if two people love each other and they both are women or both are men why should the law put up a “no” sign?>>Narrator: The Justice says the country
turned the corner on race discrimination when it ruled to allow mixed-race
marriages in 1967.>>Justice Ginsburg: And I consider that Loving v. Virginia decision the end of apartheid in America.>>Narrator: As co-director of the women’s
rights project for the American Civil Liberties Union, she is credited with helping to turn the
tide for women’s equality.>>Narrator: We wanted to say that the law should not pigeon-hole people — that men
or women should be able to do whatever his/her talents made right for that person. I was fortunate to be in the right place
at the right time but the 70’s was a time of change.>>Narrator: Justice Ginsburg met her late husband a
five decades on a blind date. The mother of two, she shares a long
friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife that began when the two justices served together on
the DC Court of Appeals here they are on an elephant in India
after a Judicial Exchange>>Justice Ginsburg: He makes me laugh, many people don’t. We share a love of music, particularly opera, we care a lot about family.>>Narrator: And now the two justices have a comic opera named in their honor ‘Scalia/Ginsburg”. Ginsburg is the most
senior justice age-wise now on the court. – What are your thoughts about longevity on the court? you don’t want to retire too early.>>Justice Ginsburg: I will retire when I am no longer able to do the job full speed. At my age, one never knows when that will be, but it isn’t now.