Health and Wellness

How Ruth Bader Ginsburg stays optimistic and 'hopeful' about the future

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks onstage at the Fourth Annual Berggruen Prize Gala.
Eugene Gologursky

Research has shown that people who have an optimistic outlook on life tend to live longer. A recent study found that positive people have a 50% to 70% better chance at making it to 85.

So perhaps it's no surprise that that 86-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg considers herself an optimist.

"One of the things that makes me an optimist are the young people," Ginsburg said in a conversation at the New York Public Library Monday, according to Vanity Fair, where she was awarded the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture.

"The young people that I see are fired up, and they want our country to be what it should be," Ginsburg said. She said climate change activist Greta Thunberg and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai are two young leaders who exemplify this trait.

Ginsburg has witnessed a lot of change over the course of her lifetime, and in her 26 years serving on the U.S. Supreme Court. "The progress I've seen in my long life makes me hopeful that we will continue in that direction," Ginsburg told the Stanford Daily in Feb. 2017.

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Ginsburg's mother worked in a garment factory, and her dad was a merchant. Ginsburg graduated first in her class from Cornell University in 1954, and then attended Harvard Law, where she was one of nine women in a class of 500. (She then transferred to Columbia Law, where she graduated first in her class in 1959.) In 1993, she was appointed to the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton.

"Though we haven't reached nirvana, we have come a long way from the days when women couldn't do things just because they were female," Ginsburg said in a speech at the University Of Chicago in September.

The gender equality champion said that being a mother and a lawyer in the '70s during the second wave of feminism was a "a tremendous stroke of fortune for me," Ginsburg told the Stanford Daily in Feb. 2017.

Ginsburg shared her advice for young people who are eager to make a difference, but don't know how.

"Whatever paid work you pursue, do something outside of yourself that you really care about, that you are passionate about," she told the Stanford Daily. "Whether it's the environment [or] discrimination. Do something that will make life a little better for people less fortunate than you."

This is also what Ginsburg tells young lawyers, specifically: "Look, all you do is get a good job. You're like a plumber: You get a skill and then you practice that skill. But you'll never be a professional unless you use your talent to help repair tears in the community in which you live."

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