Dignity (n): formal reserve or seriousness of manner, appearance or language; the quality or state of being worthy, honored or esteemed, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Growing up, I recall learning about leadership in school. A few qualities that these leaders all shared were compassion, decency and dignity. One of the most dignified leaders I ever learned about was the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
I first heard her name in high school when, like many others, I took courses in United States history and government. We talked about Justice Ginsburg in detail, since she did significant work advocating for women on issues such as abortion and gender discrimination. I loved learning about her efforts and pursuits; it was even more incredible to see her speak to the Meredith community about a year ago. She was a catalyst for change, and it was an honor to see how her legacy changed the rights that women now have in America. Her leadership empowered me as a woman, reminding me that I am capable of anything that I put my mind to. When I heard that her final wish was for her seat to remain vacant until the 2020 presidential election passes, I felt that her request should be honored. I figured that it would be recognized without a hitch, as I saw no reason why it shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, this was far from the truth.
The morning after I heard the news that President Trump was planning to name a nomination, I began researching. I looked at articles from various news outlets, trying to understand the reasoning behind his decision. Instead of finding answers for this logic, all I found was disrespect and hidden political motives. What was even more shocking was my discovery of a quote from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2016 when the late Justice Scalia’s seat was in the process of being filled. He said, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president." As both a moderate and a person who promotes harmony, I strive to see both sides of every situation. However, I only found one side, and I immediately asked myself, “Where is the dignity?”
This past week, with this question still simmering in my mind, I watched the first presidential debate — looking for dignity. I looked for the other side of the argument and anything that resembled sensibility from President Trump, and I found none. Instead, I watched him demolish Vice President Joe Biden, heartlessly attacking his character and family. I witnessed President Trump constantly interrupt the moderator, not even allowing him to finish his sentences; it truly felt like I was back in preschool. I heard him endorse the continuation of white supremacy in America, which was the part of the debate where I had to walk away from the television. Dignity, decency and compassion were three qualities of leaders I learned about in school — but they are three components that have been absent from President Trump’s administration and character. It is time for this tide to turn.
Growing up, I felt that I identified as moderate in terms of the political spectrum. Although I have not previously had a strong political affiliation, these last four years under Trump’s presidency have caused me to feel differently. I am heartbroken for immigrants across this country whose rights are being taken away. I feel angry that too many people have died from this pandemic due to a lack of leadership. I am stressed about how the current administration’s decisions will affect our country in the long term future. I feel that it is past time for a new president to be elected.
Regardless of your political views and opinions on Justice Ginsburg, her extensive efforts to improve the rights of women in this country cannot go unnoticed. The Trump administration and current American leadership need a strong dose of respect and dignity on many levels, and this begins with honoring Justice Ginsburg’s final wish. For now, the American people can honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life by voting.
By Hannah Porter, Staff Writer