The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia has awarded its annual Liberty Medal to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Normally given during a lavish ceremony on the lawn of Independence Mall, this year the award was delivered online as a 48-minute film, featuring a lineup of celebrities from TV, film, and opera lauding Ginsburg for her long career advancing gender and racial justice.
They included Gloria Steinem, comedian Kate McKinnon who portrays Ginsburg on Saturday Night Live, and Jennifer Lopez with her fiance Alex Rodriguez, who once met Ginsburg and asked for advice for how to heal a divided country.
“You know, how could we help? What should we do?” said Lopez. “Her response was to keep doing what you’re doing. Inspiring people and living by example.”
The ceremony was given over in large part to opera singers, doing what they do. Denyce Graves, Renee Fleming, Lawrence Brownlee and Soloman Howard sent in videos of themselves explaining the impact Ginsburg has had on them, and singing opera selections to honor her. Ginsburg is an avowed fan of opera.
“In the world of opera, a diva is a woman of outstanding talent, who breathes life into a centuries-old work, and whose voice soars above the rest, strong and clear,” said Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center and the host of the tribute film. “Someone like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
Graves called her a hero. “For women’s rights, for men’s rights, from the very beginning, you have been out there on the battlefield and on the frontline fighting for us.”
Ginsburg’s life and work was summarized in the tribute, from being the first woman to join the Harvard Law Review, to winning Supreme Court cases five of the six times she appeared, to her mutually supportive marriage to Martin Ginsburg. Her life is also the subject of a touring museum exhibition, Notorious RBG, recently shown in Philadelphia at the National Museum of American Jewish History.
Ginsburg, herself, only appeared in archival footage during the online tribute. She did not give a speech. She did, however, send a written letter, saying it is a “huge honor” to accept the award. “It was my great good fortune to have the opportunity to participate in the long effort to place equal citizenship stature for women on the basic human rights agenda,” she wrote.
She added her thanks to those who contributed to the pre-taped event: “bravissimos.”
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