RBG: Igniting a new generation of leaders

Every generation has a moment they'll remember in crystal clear detail. For boomers, it was the assassination of JFK. Most millennials can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing on 9/11. For Gen Z, especially young women, it could likely be the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

On Friday, September 18, 2020, we lost a true hero and role model for gender equality. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a pioneer, a champion for women's rights, and a giant on the bench. Praising her doesn't soften the loss. When the news first broke, there was a tidal wave of emotion.

"RBG has been such an inspiration in my life. For a long time, I thought about becoming a lawyer to follow in her footsteps. I prayed for her to stay alive and healthy for the DACA decision, knowing it could completely change the lives of so many. I'm overwhelmed by her death. The current administration could pick a new Supreme Court Justice, one that will not defend the rights of immigrants, women, BIPOC and LGBTQI+ individuals. I am scared for the future - but I hope it encourages people to vote this November.” - Dalila Valdez Renteria, formed IGNITE Fellow for Southern California

After the initial shock wore off, the tone shifted towards hopefulness and perseverance. And the sharing of stories and reflections on how Ginsburg impacted our lives:

"I was 17 when I met Ruth Bader Ginsburg on a visit to the Supreme Court with my school. When I asked her about her hopes for the future of equality, she told us a story about her eight-year-old granddaughter Clara, who wanted 'to be president of the United States of the World'. RBG said that this illustrated how far women had come since when she was eight, an aspiration like this would feel impossible. As a young Jewish woman interested in public service, there is no better role model than RBG. As she told us at the Supreme Court that day, her Jewish faith was an integral part of her identity. Passing on Rosh Hashanah, she is now a tzaddik, a person of great righteousness. May her memory be a revolution.” - Jazmin Kay, IGNITE Alumna, Woodstock, NY

Politics and policy aside, RBG touched all our lives:

"We may not have agreed when it came to policy, but she paved the way for me. She set the standard for me. She raised the expectations for me. Ruth was asked why she was occupying a seat at Harvard Law, which a man could have taken, so I wouldn't have to withstand such a ridiculous question. Ruth fought for my right to have a bank account, sign a mortgage, and get a job based solely on my qualifications. Ruth fought for my right to be a mother and live out my wildest dreams. Ruth fought for my equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society based on what I can do. Not on my gender." - Abigail Turner, Community Member, Georgia

Everyone I checked in with shared one sentiment: mourn today, get back to work tomorrow. RBG's life and legacy are a foundation for young women in politics for generations to come. 

"Ruth Bader Ginsburg is my biggest role model. Everything I strive to do in politics, I do with her guiding me. I have learned so much from her work, and I will continue to for years to come." - Katie Whitefield

"Her decisions have and will impact us for decades and generations to come. We must ensure that her legacy continues by fighting against injustice and affirming her belief that, "Women belong in all places where decisions are being made." - Jessie Jennett, IGNITE Fellow, Denver, CO

IGNITE is redoubling our efforts to train, mentor and support the next RBG, and the one after that, and the one after that. We know there are hundreds of thousands of girls and young women across America who want to fight for the things they care about, and who will do so in such a way that they inspire others to join that fight.

Thank you, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. You've earned your rest. And at IGNITE we're going to fight like hell to do right by you.