Chief Justice John Roberts delivered a moving tribute to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during a memorial service Wednesday at the Supreme Court, calling her life “one of the many versions of the American Dream.”
Roberts, who served alongside Ginsburg for nearly 15 years, lauded her as a “brave” and “compassionate” colleague as he addressed the late justice’s family, friends and colleagues before her casket.
“Justice Ginsburg’s life was one of the many versions of the American dream,” Roberts said. “Her father was an immigrant from Odessa. Her mother was born four months after her family arrived from Poland. Her mother later worked as a bookkeeper in Brooklyn.”
“Ruth used to ask, ‘What is the difference between a bookkeeper in Brooklyn and a Supreme Court justice?’ Her answer: ‘One generation,’” he added.
Over 100 of Ginsburg’s former law clerks lined up outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning to greet her casket. Thousands of people are expected to pay their respects to the trailblazing feminist litigator as her body lies in repose for two days.
Ginsburg died Friday at the age of 87 from complications of cancer.
Her “voice in court and in our conference room was soft,” Roberts said during his remarks Wednesday. “But when she spoke, people listened. Among the words that best describe Ruth: tough, brave, a fighter, a winner. But also thoughtful, careful, compassionate, honest.”
Ginsburg, a pioneering advocate for women’s rights, became the second woman and first Jewish woman to serve on the Supreme Court when was sworn in on Aug. 10, 1993. During her time on the bench, Ginsburg wrote 483 majority, concurring and dissenting opinions, Roberts said Wednesday.
Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, whose husband served as one of Ginsburg’s law clerks, called Ginsburg a “true American hero” during her remarks at the memorial Wednesday.
“To be born into a world that does not see you,” Holtzblatt said, “that does not believe in your potential, that does not give you a path for opportunity, or a clear path for education, and despite this, to be able to see beyond the world you are in, to imagine that something can be different ― that is the job of a prophet.”
“And it is the rare prophet who not only imagines a new world but also makes that new world a reality in her lifetime,” she continued. “This was the brilliance and vision of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
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