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How to Change the World: Powerful Lessons From Ruth Bader Ginsburg

You have the power to change the world. If we’ve learned anything from Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG), whose loss has left an empty space in our hearts, is that one person can have an immense impact on people, systems and or life in general. Her achievements speak for themselves!

Let’s look at some of her most powerful quotes and achievements and get inspired by this incredible woman.

On making a change:

Have you heard the phrase that absolute power rules absolutely? RBG seemed to take this as a challenge. She found a way to take back some of that power from authority and give it back to the people. She proved that anyone can make a change, even when it seems impossible.

“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

“If you’re going to change things, you have to be with the people who hold the levers.”

On not letting things get to you:

I think we’ve all been here before: you run into obstacles and suddenly it feels impossible to meet your goals. Maybe you have even given up in your past because of barriers. RBG would remind us that barriers don’t have to stop us from achieving success.

“So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.”

“It helps sometimes to be a little deaf (in marriage and in) every workplace, including the good job I have now.”

“When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out.”

“Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”

On living a good life:

RBG didn’t just rule in the courtroom. We have much to learn from her rules on living our best lives, without worrying about what others think.

“My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.”

“I’m a very strong believer in listening and learning from others.”

“Even if you meet Prince Charming, be able to fend for yourself.”

“If you want to be a true professional, do something outside yourself.”

“Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true.”

“Anger, resentment, envy, and self-pity are wasteful reactions. They greatly drain one’s time. They sap energy better devoted to productive endeavors.”

“I think unconscious bias is one of the hardest things to get at.”

“If you want to influence people, you want them to accept your suggestions, you don’t say, ‘You don’t know how to use the English language,’ or ‘How could you make that argument?’ It will be welcomed much more if you have a gentle touch than if you are aggressive.”

“You can disagree without being disagreeable.”

“Rabbi Alfred Bettleheim once said: “Prejudice saves us a painful trouble, the trouble of thinking.”

“I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.” 

On how women’s rights must change:

RBG worked tirelessly to equalize treatment among genders. Because of RBG, no matter what your gender is, you can receive social security child support benefits, attend jury duty, get paid equal to your peers with the same job, execute estates, apply and be admitted to colleges, and receive tax deductions. Women owe much of their freedoms and liberties to RBG.

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”

“I don’t say women’s rights—I say the constitutional principle of the equal citizenship stature of men and women.”

“Reliance on overbroad generalizations … estimates about the way most men or most women are, will not suffice to deny opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description,”

“When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough (women on the Supreme Court)?’ and my answer is: ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

“We are at last beginning to relegate to the history books the idea of the token woman.”

On abortion rights:

Whether or not you agree with abortion, the fact that you have a right to choose what’s best for your body is partially because of RBG’s efforts. We have RBG to thank for the dignity of choice.

“This is something central to a woman’s life, to her dignity. It’s a decision that she must make for herself. And when government controls that decision for her, she’s being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.” 

“A gender line…helps to keep women not on a pedestal, but in a cage.”

“All I can say is I am sensitive to discrimination on any basis because I have experienced that upset.”

“I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

“Feminism… I think the simplest explanation, and one that captures the idea, is a song that Marlo Thomas sang, ‘Free to be You and Me.’”

On smashing ceilings and doing what she wanted in a man’s world:

Somehow, when RBG looked at her society, instead of seeing reasons she couldn’t follow her dreams, she saw opportunities. If we all could look at life with such optimism, motivation, and flexibility, we could create a truly civilized society.

-Was the second ever woman appointed to the Supreme Court and went on to serve for 27 years

-Was the first female tenured professor at Columbia Law School

-Founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

-Taught at Rutgers Law School while being forced to hide a pregnancy

-Taught herself Swedish to work with Anders Bruzelius to co-author a book on the Swedish Code of Judicial Procedure

-Caused the Supreme Court, for the first time ever, to rule against a law because it discriminated based on gender

-Cofounded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, which was the first law journal in the U.S. devoted to gender equality issues

-Wrote the first textbook on sex discrimination laws

What are your favorite quotations by RBG? How does she inspire you? Leave a comment below or reach out to me on social media as Coding Blonde!

Looking for more inspiring women? Check out my latest women in tech weekly post!


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