Hello Educators. As I finally settled down on the couch for a mind break on Friday, after an incredibly long week, my phone chimed. It was a text from my sister forwarding breaking news that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed. You know that sense when you physically feel your heart drop? That sinking feeling that yet another complicated ball has been set in motion during the historic year that 2020 has become? A few hours later, another news alert that the process to fill her seat would begin asap. So many different emotions at that point as I was reminded of the depth of our country’s polarization and how dysfunctional we have become. And even for those in mourning, the need to do so with expediency as agendas began to unfold faster than flowers can be purchased or words of inspiration can be penned.
I decided to watch the RBG documentary again this weekend and was again struck by her courage and perseverance but also her thoroughness in all that she did. As she defended cases before the Supreme Court and later sat for her confirmation hearings in a system where men were the designers and occupiers of space, I could only imagine how much weight she felt behind every move she made knowing what hung in the balance. She is human after all and paving a path that had no guideposts could not have been easy. I couldn’t help but wonder what kept her going. What allowed her to push into places that she knew she would not be accepted, where she would have to continue to prove that she was well worth the seat at the table that she had? How did she continue to shatter glass ceilings for herself and for the many others waiting for her to clear the path? I think the answer lies in her commitment to the legacy she desired to leave behind. When asked what she wanted to be known for, she stated…
"Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has."
Whatever ability she has. I believe she has done just that. RBG had 87 years to use the ability she was given in a way that could better the world that she was born into and in her passing we are reminded of the depth of her sacrifice, her commitment to equality, and her never ending pursuit of mending where possible and reconstructing when necessary, the fibers of a shredded society. Her journey has ended with much more to be done and we who are left are reminded of the opportunity we have to push into our own courage and demand what must be but is not currently. The year of 2020 continues to be a year of reckoning. One that forces us all to decide where we stand on a number of issues and how far we are willing to go to see change happen. It is the most challenging year I have lived through but it is also the one with the most opportunity.
“We live in an age in which the fundamental principles to which we subscribe - liberty, equality and justice for all - are encountering extraordinary challenges, ... But it is also an age in which we can join hands with others who hold to those principles and face similar challenges.” - RBG
In our virtual classrooms and schools…in our district offices…in our non-profit organizations and business offices…we all have daily decisions that we are making that can create a snowball and then an avalanche of change for ourselves and the young people we serve. We can choose to follow the internal prompting we get to say something, do something, do better, even when it might cost us something in the short term, or we can stay silent and disengage. These minor choices can mend the dissonance within and build the courage required to actualize change in our world. I don’t know that I’ve always been the most courageous but I’ve always been able to clearly see and experience where our society has dehumanized groups of people, some to which I belong. It is evident that as bright lights such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg go out, we are called to put on our own armors of courage, tenacity, and vision. We are the leaders we have been waiting for. This…is our time. Our very existence makes it so.
So, as we honor a leader, let’s remember the words of another that seems so fitting…
“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” – the late Congressman John Lewis
In Solidarity and Love,