It was the part of the job interview where they ask fun questions. My interviewer, smiling through Zoom, asked “If you could bring one person to the UF to speak or perform, who would it be?”
I smiled back. It was a question I had heard many times before in interviews like this one, the answer I knew by heart. I responded without hesitation: “Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
The interview was on Friday. Little did I know that hours later, I would hear the earth-shattering news that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the firebrand who inspired both my ideology and work ethic, had died of pancreatic cancer at 87.
My first encounter with RBG was, oddly enough, during an SNL Weekend Update bit in 2015. By now, we have all seen Kate McKinnon's famous impression, and her numerous “Gins-burns.” At the time, I, like so many young Americans, was being awakened to the political process as a result of the 2016 election, which played out largely on the social media platforms we used constantly. The skit inspired me to google this woman, this Supreme Court justice whose name I had heard in passing before but never really thought about. Immediately, I was drawn in, and the rest, as they say, is history.
For a long time, I didn’t know what it was about Ginsburg that so inspired me. Her story, of a person who against all odds rose to one of the highest positions in the land, is one that should resonate with all of us. However, I now realize that I was drawn to something deeper: her passion, her drive and her never-ending fight for justice for all Americans. It is because of her that I took AP U.S. Government. It is because of her that I came to UF in search of a political science degree. It is because of her that I hope to attend law school one day.
Although I never got to meet Ginsburg, it feels as though she has shaped my life in ways that no other person or teacher ever has. She was a powerhouse: standing up to those who tried to discredit her, standing up for the rights of others and standing up not because it was popular (in fact, it often wasn’t), but simply because it was the right thing to do. Not only did her majority opinions reshape history, so did her dissents. We all, no matter our political affiliation, can learn something from her.
However, her legacy is now at stake. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, confirmed on Friday night within hours of her passing that the Senate would seek to confirm President Donald Trump’s replacement pick before the election. This policy is a reversal of the stance the GOP took in 2016, when Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia after his passing. Some, including Florida's very own Senator Rick Scott, have attempted to justify this move, but there is no justification. We know the truth: that the only rule of law they follow is the rule of power.
Justice Ginsburg’s memory deserves better than this. Mitch McConnell and the GOP are not only blatantly breaking the rules they set, they are also dishonoring her last wish: that a new Justice not be named "until a new president is installed." We must fight against this. In her name, we must call, we must email, we must protest and above all, we must vote.
We, the young people both at UF and at the universities throughout this country, can make a difference in this election. If the trends continue from the 2018 midterm elections, then young people have enormous power in deciding how 2020 plays out. We must turn out, and turn out in huge numbers. As Ginsburg once told us, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” The first step on this road to change is to engage in the political process, and to elect those who truly represent our interests.
Thank you, Justice Ginsburg, for changing my life, and for changing the lives of so many over the decades. Just as you once listed Dorothy Kenyon and Pauli Murray as co-authors in your brief for the landmark case Reed v. Reed, we will list you as a co-author on all future battles for equal justice. You never stopped fighting for us. Now, it’s time for us to fight for you.
Jordan Dickens is a UF political science freshman.