Roosevelt University presents THE AMERICAN DREAM RECONSIDERED: JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG — full steam ahead

Roosevelt University presents THE AMERICAN DREAM RECONSIDERED: RUTH BADER GINSBURG
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fielded questions from Judge Ann Claire Williams during Roosevelt University's "American Dream Reconsidered" conference at the Auditorium Theatre on September 11. Photo by Doug McGoldrick

A long line snaked around the outside of Chicago's Auditorium Theatre on Monday, September 11. As they waited, people clutched tickets and exchanged stories on how they got them. Craigslist, StubHub, a friend who came down with the flu. With the Auditorium’s website selling out almost as soon as they went on sale, these were the hottest tickets in town. And the lucky few -- 3,901 to be exact -- could not wait to get through security and claim their seats.  

Placido Domingo?  Adele? Hamilton?

No. The crowd was there for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Celebration at the Auditorium Theatre

Headlining Roosevelt University’s “American Dream Reconsidered” conference, Justice Ginsburg (aka “Notorious RBG”) is nothing short of a rock star these days. The 84-year-old Justice – the second female appointee in Supreme Court history – commands judicial respect but also widespread popularity.

Inside the historic Sullivan-Adler building, the mood was nothing less than celebratory. The attendees seemed to skew female and young. But women beyond college years and men of all ages were also well represented. When Evanston resident Gena Johnson took out her hand-crotched RBG doll, those around her insisted on using it for photo opps. 

Judge Williams asks and Justice Ginsburg answers

Nearly 30 minutes after the 7:00 pm start time, Judge Ann Claire Williams -- the first African-American appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit -- escorted the slight, cancer-surviving Supreme Court Justice to her seat onstage. Immediately, a standing ovation followed.

Judge Williams’ first questions, aided by an overhead screen with photos and punctuated by cheers, were not probing. They tracked the Justice’s childhood in Brooklyn, her mother’s early death and her college courtship with Martin Ginsburg – the one male student at Cornell who was as attracted to her intellect as her personality.

Eventually, the crowd settled into serious listening and Judge Williams’ questions -- some contributed by Roosevelt University students -- dug deeper. A woman, a Jew and a mother, Justice Ginsburg recounted how that profile made it tough to find a job after graduating first in her Columbia Law School class.

Scalia and Ginsburg both earned Senate approval

From a concerned citizen’s point of view, Justice Ginsburg’s discussion of the Supreme Court’s recent politicization was extremely valuable. 

Roosevelt University presents THE AMERICAN DREAM RECONSIDERED: RUTH BADER GINSBURG
Gena Johnson of Purple Couch Crafts models her handmade "Ruth Bader Ginsburg" doll at the Auditorium Theatre. Photo by Susan Lieberman
Roosevelt University presents THE AMERICAN DREAM RECONSIDERED: RUTH BADER GINSBURG
Justice Ginsburg and Judge Williams share a laugh onstage at the Auditorium Theatre. Photo by Doug McGoldrick

When her dear friend, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, was nominated by President Reagan in 1986, the Senate approved him by a unanimous vote. When Ginsburg was nominated in 1993 by President Clinton, the Senate approved her by a nearly unanimous vote. Such unified support for a Republican president’s conservative nominee and a Democratic president’s liberal nominee is unthinkable in today’s Senate. Ginsburg lamented the current divide and expressed hope for a better future.

What about her future? Will Notorious RBG retire anytime soon? “There is work to be done,” replied the octogenarian who swears by her rigorous exercise regime. “I will remain as long as I can do it full steam.”

For more information on Roosevelt University’s American Dream conference, go to www.americandreamconference.com

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