But underneath this cleaned up image of inspiration is her oft-ignored legacy that is defined by violence against Indigenous people. Ginsburg is another cog in the capitalist system of the United States that was built on genocide and enslavement, and an enemy of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island.
Next year, the Master of Public Administration program at Cornell will be turning 75 years old, thus making it one of the oldest MPA programs in the Ivy League. First housed in the SC Johnson College of Business and, since 1985, in the Cornell Institute of Public Affairs, 2021 will represent a rebirth of sorts as the MPA becomes the anchor of the newly formed Cornell School of Public Policy. With eight concentrations ranging from International Development to Environmental Policy, the MPA at Cornell is arguably one of its most versatile degrees, allowing its alumni to scale the ladders of organizations across the areas of law, business and nonprofit management. President Martha E. Pollack, the second woman to have led Cornell in its 155 year history, pointed out in an address earlier this year that the School of Public Policy would “enhance Cornell’s reputation as a leader in public policy and train our students with broad policy perspectives that will serve them in the public and private sectors.” In theory, President Pollack is right. The top five schools of public policy all seek to train students on a broad set of policy competencies.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54 has been one of the most inspirational people in my life. I unfortunately never had the opportunity to meet her. But when she passed away just a few days ago, I mourned her death. Experiencing her death and the impact that it has had on so many people has forced me to consider and reconsider our definitions of mourning and grief. I should clarify that I am a big “fan” of Justice Ginsburg.
It seems like this increasingly apocalyptic year won’t be giving us any breaks anytime soon. The pandemic continues on, as the United States breaches 6 million cases and a semi-recovered Europe braces for another wave, perhaps worse than its first. The inevitable march of climate change is manifesting on the West Coast, bloody skies borrowed from the Old Testament. The ongoing protests motivated by the extrajudicial murders by the police across every state serve as an ever-present reminder of the systemic racism in this country and the futility of fighting it within courts. And now the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54 is another harbinger, with the inevitability of a third Trump appointee, one conservatives are gleeful to announce will be young, with so many years left to do more damage to the tatters of our civil rights.
On the night of Sept. 18 the world lost a shining light and a bulwark of our democracy with the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54. A beloved wife, mother, grandmother, a champion of women’s rights and human rights, Justice Ginsburg carried the burdens of the world on her shoulders. At just 5’ 1” tall, oftentimes soft-spoken but always fearless, she towered over us all and will be remembered as one of the greatest women who have ever lived. I have never cried this hard over someone I never knew.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg ‘54 loved Cornell. She spent much of her life near the Hill in Washington, but she never forgot our Hill in Ithaca. She often fondly recalled her undergrad years and she remained an active alumna, frequently giving her time to the University. And the Cornell community loves Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As one of our most notable alums, her name is commonly invoked as a point of pride.