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If you like Ruth Bader Ginsburg's story, you might also like:
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Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
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Ruth Bader Ginsburg Interview

Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

August 17, 2010
Washington, D.C.

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  Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ginsburg, may we ask what you are most proud of having accomplished so far in your career?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I was fortunate to be born at the right time and to be in the right place when the Women's Movement came alive. So many things were wrong with the way life was ordered in the '70s. In many states, women didn't serve on juries, to take just one example, and there were so many jobs that were off limits to women. People began to realize there was something wrong about that and women should be free to aspire and achieve just as men are. So I had legal education and I could use that education to help move this movement for change, for allowing women to realize their full potential, help move that along. So it was that ten years of my life that I devoted to litigating cases about -- I don't say women's rights -- I say the constitutional principle of the equal citizenship stature of men and women. I was tremendously fortunate to be able to participate in that movement for change.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

Could you tell us about your reaction when President Carter first nominated you to the U.S. Court of Appeals? That was a big step in your career.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Yes.

President Carter determined that he was going to change the face of the U.S. judiciary. When he became president, there was only one woman on a Federal Court of Appeals in the entire country. Shirley Hufstedler is her name. Carter chose her to be the first ever Secretary of Education, and then there were none. Carter had only one term, but by the end of his term, he had appointed 40 women to the Federal Judiciary, 11 to Courts of Appeals, and no president ever went back to the bad old days. He set the tone, and when Reagan became president, he was determined to go down in history as the president who appointed the first woman to the Court. He did a nationwide search and came up with a brilliant choice, Sandra Day O'Connor. So I never thought about being a judge. People often ask me, "Well, did you always want to be a judge?" My answer is it just wasn't in the realm of the possible until Jimmy Carter became president and was determined to draw on the talent of all of the people, not just some of them.

After serving on the Court of Appeals, what was it like to receive the call from President Clinton when he nominated you to the Supreme Court?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I was elated. I was on cloud nine. The President called me rather late in the evening -- it was close to midnight, as I recall -- and after, I was just overwhelmed with joy. He said, "And tomorrow morning, we will have a little ceremony in the Rose Garden and we would like you to make some remarks." So that meant I had to get down from the clouds, sit at my writing table, and come up with remarks to deliver the next morning.

That didn't give you much time.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Interview Photo
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: But it was very good. It worked out very well, because the White House handlers had no time to edit it or suggest changes and then I gave it just as I wrote it.

How did it change your life to become a Justice of the Supreme Court? Your husband had already moved with you to Washington for your previous position, hadn't he?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Yes. He had left the law practice in 1979 to be a full-time faculty member at Columbia Law School. My husband was an excellent teacher, as my daughter is. So when I got this good job in D.C., Marty transferred from Columbia to Georgetown University Law Center. He started teaching at Georgetown in 1980, and he continued on that faculty for the rest of his life.

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