Ruth Bader Ginsburg made three notable visits to Stanford over the years, culminating with a talk that looked beyond the courts and politics.
A native daughter of Brooklyn. A scholar of Cornell and Harvard, professor at Rutgers and Columbia. An iconic figure of Washington.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and legacy werewidely based around the East Coast and its institutions.
However, she did make some notable appearances here on the Peninsula over the years, namely at Stanford University. In fact, her biographical info often omits that she briefly studied at Stanford from 1977–78, as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (where she lived on the Center’s idyllic retreat-like campus up in the hills to the west of the Stanford golf course).
Later, while a Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg made two formal visits to campus. First, in 2013, when Stanford Law School welcomed her for Constitution Day, during which she spoke at Dinkelspiel Auditorium about her career trajectory as well as many recent high profile Supreme Court rulings.
She returned again in 2017 (less than a month after Trump’s inauguration) as the visiting fellow for the Office for Religious Life’s annual Rathbun Lecture, which features prominent figures speaking on the theme of living a meaningful life (previous fellows have included the Dalai Lama, Sandra Day O’Conner and Oprah Winfrey). Ginsburg spent two days on campus, speaking with small groups of students and then delivering her Rathbun remarks before a packed-to-the-rafters audience at Stanford’s Memorial Church.
“If you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself,” she told the capacity crowd. “Something to repair tears in your community. Something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. That’s what I think a meaningful life is — living not for oneself, but for one’s community.”
Watch the full event—including her discussion with then Dean for Religious Life Reverend Jane Shaw and an audience Q&A—in the video below.
Read thoughts from the faculty of Stanford Law School on the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
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