Stanford Rathbun Lecture 2017 - Ruth Bader Ginsburg | Summary and Q&A

February 10, 2017
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Stanford Rathbun Lecture 2017 - Ruth Bader Ginsburg


Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, speaks about her life, career, and beliefs on a meaningful life during a lecture at Stanford University.

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Key Insights

  • 👮‍♀️ Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a pioneering figure in the field of law, particularly in her advocacy for women's rights.
  • 🧑‍🚒 Ginsburg's personal journey and career have been characterized by perseverance, determination, and a commitment to fighting injustice.
  • ☄️ The importance of collegiality and respectful dialogue cannot be overstated when it comes to resolving disputes and making impactful decisions.


[MUSIC] Stanford University.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Stanford University Provost, Persis Drell [APPLAUSE] >> [APPLAUSE] Good evening, good evening. It is my very great pleasure to welcome you to Memorial Church for this year's Rathbun Lecture on a Meaningful Life. Tonight, we are deeply honored To have as our speaker, Associate J... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How did Ruth Bader Ginsburg make a difference in the field of law?

Ginsburg co-founded the women's rights project of the ACLU and served as the ACLU's general counsel, playing a key role in establishing contemporary law on equal protection and gender equality in the US.

Q: What did Justice Ginsburg learn from her mentors?

Ginsburg learned about the enduring values of American democracy, the importance of language and communication, and the need for lawyers to remind lawmakers about the protections of the Constitution.

Q: How does Justice Ginsburg handle disagreements with her fellow Supreme Court justices?

Ginsburg emphasizes the importance of collegiality and respect among the justices, even when they strongly disagree on important issues. She believes that a sense of humor and a willingness to listen and understand different perspectives are crucial in maintaining a healthy and productive work environment.


This video features a lecture by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, as part of Stanford University's Rathbun Lecture on a Meaningful Life. Ginsburg discusses her life, career, and impact on women's rights in America. She emphasizes the importance of doing something outside of oneself to lead a meaningful life and highlights the progress made in women's occupations. She also mentions key court cases that advanced gender equality and talks about the need to address unconscious bias. The conversation is moderated by Dean Jane Shaw, and they touch on the role of arts and humanities, collegiality, and the importance of mentorship. Ginsburg concludes with her hopes for a more respectful and productive civil and public discourse.

Questions & Answers

Q: What does it mean to lead a meaningful life?

To lead a meaningful life means doing something outside of oneself, such as helping others and making a positive impact in the community.

Q: How has family played a part in Ruth Bader Ginsburg's life?

Family has played a significant role in Ginsburg's life, from the support of her husband during her career to the importance of raising her children. She acknowledges the challenges faced by working mothers in the past and the progress made since then.

Q: Why were court cases like Sally Reed's and Stephen Wiesenfeld's significant for gender equality?

These court cases challenged gender-based classifications and discrimination. Sally Reed's case highlighted the need for women's equal access to jury service, while Stephen Wiesenfeld's case exposed the gender-based limitations in social security benefits for parents. These cases marked a turning point in addressing gender inequalities.

Q: How can unconscious bias be addressed in society?

Ginsburg mentions instances such as symphony auditions where a drop curtain was used to remove unconscious bias. More broadly, she acknowledges that unconscious bias can still persist and suggests the need for continued efforts to overcome it.

Q: How can collegiality be expanded to broader civil and public discourse?

Ginsburg expresses a desire for a return to a more respectful and collaborative political atmosphere, where elected representatives work for the good of the country rather than strictly along party lines. She believes that the establishment of civil and public discourse requires a change in mindset and the willingness to put aside anger and listen to different points of view.

Q: Who were Ruth Bader Ginsburg's role models and mentors?

Ginsburg mentions Amelia Earhart and the fictional character Nancy Drew as childhood role models. She also discusses her admiration for Burnita Shelton Matthews, the second woman to serve on a US District Court, and Shirley Mount Hufstedler, the first US Secretary of Education, who served as a mentor and trailblazer in her career.

Q: What are the limitations on the topics Justice Ginsburg can talk about?

Justice Ginsburg cannot answer any questions about any issue pending before or likely to come before the court, including the legality of recent executive orders. These topics fall outside the scope of what she can discuss publicly due to her position as a Supreme Court Justice.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg's lecture highlights the importance of leading a meaningful life by doing something outside of oneself and making a positive impact. She emphasizes the progress made in women's occupations and the need to address unconscious bias to achieve gender equality. Ginsburg also emphasizes the importance of collegiality and respectful civil discourse. She acknowledges her role models and the significance of mentorship in her own life and encourages young people to find role models and be mentors themselves.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also known as the "Notorious RBG," is the Rathbun Visiting Fellow at Stanford University.

  • The Rathbun Lecture on a Meaningful Life is an annual tradition at Stanford, given in honor of law professor Henry Rathbun.

  • Ginsburg discusses her personal journey and the challenges she faced as a woman pursuing a career in law, as well as her impact on women's rights in America.

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