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Jon K. Rust

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.

Opinion

A celebration of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Associated Press

The past week much of the country has paid tribute to the liberal icon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died after a valiant battle with Cancer at age 87, having served 27 years as a justice on the United States Supreme Court. She was a remarkable woman, who changed the nation in profound ways, most significantly, in opening opportunities for women that had otherwise been closed.

One does not have to like everything about RBG -- though many people do -- to recognize she was a brilliant lawyer and an inspiring woman. Throughout her life, because of her competence and determination, she regularly broke barriers that had been erected against her and other women. She graduated top of her law school class, having served on the Law Review at both Harvard -- where she was one of nine females in a 500-person class and the first to serve on the Review -- and Columbia, the latter where she had transferred to be near her husband, who had taken a job in New York City. She navigated law schools while nursing her husband through cancer and raising their first child.

Because she was a woman, her brilliant academic career was not enough to open a door to a top law firm upon graduation. Instead, she was offered positions as a legal secretary. So she accepted a job in academia, first at Rutgers University Law school, then at Columbia, where she became the first female professor to gain tenure. History reveals that at Rutgers she hid her second pregnancy beneath baggy clothes because of gender discrimination.

Today, many people -- men and women -- take for granted the rights and freedoms that exist. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is someone who fought throughout her life for many of them, especially but not limited to women. Among them: the right for married women to have a credit card in her own name (instead of her husband's) or for a single woman to get credit at all; for women to serve on juries; or to have equal family housing in the military. The list goes on. As director of the Women's Rights Project at the ACLU, she was credited with participating in two-thirds of the gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court between 1969 and 1980, when she was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, according to the ACLU.

Named to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, she became the leader of its liberal wing while developing a deep friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia, its most brilliant conservative jurist. A slight woman, she maintained a rigorous workout regime, and did not miss a day of oral arguments, "not even when she was undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer, after surgery for colon cancer, or the day after her husband passed away in 2010," wrote the Supreme Court history site, Oyez.

Not everyone may agree with all her positions -- she was often a lightning rod, including on issues of reproductive health -- but hers was a spirit to admire. Instead of torching buildings -- when she fought adversity -- she torched her opponents in legal briefs. And she was not afraid to stand up for her institution, last year defending it against charges of partisanship, and praising the two most recent justices appointed to the court, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, for their decency and high intelligence.

On Friday, she was the first woman -- and the first Jewish American -- to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol. It was another first for a person who "pathmarked" many.

I have four daughters who are smart and interesting and independent. The opportunities before them in their lives are much wider, thanks to RBG. That legacy, for all women, built on determination and brilliance, courage, preparation, argument and respect, is something to be celebrated.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian.

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