‘To meet her was to be inspired’: Locals remember Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg visited Hawaii multiple times throughout her career and even spoke at the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law.

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Those who knew her say that the impact of her accomplishments could be felt thousands of miles away from Washington D.C. down to the Hawaiian Islands.

“[I’m] just devastated, just devastated. I think [everyone’s] hearts are broken. I think I’m not the only one,” said William S. Richardson School of Law associate dean Ronette Kawakami.

Kawakami worked with Ginsburg during her last visit to Hawaii back in 2017. She had helped to set up Ginsburg’s schedule for the few days she was on Oahu.

She was the creator of a Hawaiian lace judicial collar, which was gifted to Ginsburg on behalf of the University of Hawaii. She had sewn 49 rare, pink kahelelani Niihau shells.

“It’s my favorite gift [that I have given],” said Kawakami. “I think the importance of it is that it has a Hawaii connection, and that’s something that she has as one of the personal possessions.”

Ginsburg was no stranger to the islands. She made two other visits to the University of Hawaii back in 1998 and again in 2004.

Former William S. Richardson School of Law Dean Avi Soifer said whenever she was in Hawaii, Ginsburg was full of energy.

“Well, she loved Hawaii. I mean the fact that she was a very shy person as many people say, but she kind of blossomed when she was here,” said Soifer.

Soifer said that Ginsburg always opted to go horseback riding on Oahu and loved going to the opera.

She even taught his law class. Soifer said when Ginsburg spoke, everyone listened.

When Ginsburg spoke at the University of Hawaii back in 2017, she offered students some advice.

“Affiliate with like-minded people,” Ginsburg said. “There’s not much you can do as a loner, but if you join forces with others who are passionate about what you care about [then you can make things happen].”

Soifer said she inspired many people to consider the importance of law and upholding it.

“Some [students] have talked about being inspired to come to the law school because of being inspired,” said Soifer. “But I think to meet her was to be inspired and to listen to her, and to see how this small woman could put it together so eloquently, so simply, she was courageous.”

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