Speaking at Stanford University last night, Justice Ginsburg discussed what makes a meaningful life, her desire to change the Electoral College, and the importance of kale. There's been, you see, some worry that Justice Ginsburg, 83 years old, might not stay on the bench through a full Trump administration, thereby allowing one of her less-favorite political leaders to pick her replacement. There's even been talk that she should eat more kale, apparently for greater health and longevity.
Asked last night who she thought should eat more kale, the justice didn't skip a beat. "Justice Kennedy," she responded.
A Meaningful Life and the Electoral College
Justice Ginsburg's comments were part of the Rathbun Lecture on a Meaningful Life, held yesterday evening at Stanford Memorial Church. During her lecture, the justice read from her new collection of writing and speeches, "My Own Words."
Then she took questions. As could be expected, those questions quickly turned to political matters. Ginsburg, after all, is one of the Court's leading liberals and sparred briefly with the president during the election campaign, saying that she couldn't imagine the country under Trump.
One student, for example, asked what Justice Ginsburg would change about society. "There are some things I would like to change," Justice Ginsburg said. "One is the Electoral College." But, she acknowledged, amending the Constitution is "powerfully hard" to do.
Justice Ginsburg Works Out
Next came the question about kale. "A lot of people have been expressing encouragement that you eat more kale -- so to speak -- so that you can continue doing the public service work that you are doing for as long as possible," a student said. It was an apparent reference to the justice's age and health, an issue that's been worrying some liberals. A recent Washington Post article has a representative sample of those concerns:
"Can she eat more kale?" asks Kim Landsbergen, a forest ecologist in Ohio. "Eat more kale, that's all I can say. We love you. Eat more kale."
But the Stanford student wasn't concerned with Ginsburg's diet. "I was wondering," he asked, "who do you want to eat more kale in Washington?"
Kennedy, the justice answered, before continuing. "There are three of us on the current court who are well beyond what the French would call 'a certain age,' so it's Justice Breyer and the two octogenarians, Justice Kennedy and me."
Justice Breyer is 78, Justice Kennedy is 80. A loss of any of the three justices could drastically change the balance of power on the Court.
There have been hints that the current administration is trying to
encourage Justice Kennedy to retire, as well. The New York Times
yesterday reported that Trump's team is "already looking down the road, weighing the choices should Justice Anthony M. Kennedy decide to step down." The focus is currently on two judges, Judge Raymond Kethledge of the Sixth Circuit and Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the D.C. Circuit. Both are, like current Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, former clerks for Justice Kennedy.
"A very important part of my life is my personal trainer who has been with me since 1999 and now also trains Justice Kagan and most recently Justice Breyer," Ginsburg continued. (Side note: we'd pay big money to see Justices Ginsburg, Kagan, and Breyer take a Zumba class together.)
Perhaps they should bring Kennedy as well.
How to Have a Meaningful Life
Of course, it wasn't all electoral politics and exercise tips at the lecture. Justice Ginsburg also shared her view on what makes life meaningful. "I tell the law students I address now and then," she said, "if you're going to be a lawyer and justice practice your profession, well, you have a skill, so you're very much like a plumber."
"If you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself," the justice continued. "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."
You can watch the full event below.
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- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Most Important Opinions (FindLaw's U.S. Supreme Court Blog)
- What's Behind the Ginsburg-Trump Feud? (FindLaw's U.S. Supreme Court Blog)
- To Succeed at Life, Ignore the Haters, Justice Ginsburg Says (FindLaw's U.S. Supreme Court Blog)