SANTA FE – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, while reading a picture book to a group of small children here Tuesday, asked them to identify some local icons.
When a little boy named edibles in the book as a carrots, Ginsburg gently corrected. “They could be carrots,” she said. “But they are chile peppers. And they’re very hot.”
She never did say the name of a certain critter she pointed to in Santa Fe artist Joel Nakamura’s colorful and somewhat surreal “Go West.”
“He looks to me like a bunny rabbit, except I never saw a bunny rabbit with horns,” said Ginsburg, as adults in the room whispered “jackalope.”
The 83-year-old justice, an opera buff who has become a regular visitor during the Santa Fe Opera’s summer season, read for children and parents participating in the United Way of Santa Fe County’s early childhood education and care programs, at the old Agua Fria Elementary building.
Her appearance promoted United Way’s focus on having parents read to their children to advance early literacy.
Ginsburg’s “very favorite” part of the book describes big clouds and a bigger sky. “Every time I leave Santa Fe to go east, I miss my big sky,” she ad-libbed
And after she’d stopped describing cowboys with barking coyotes coming out of their hats and cowgirls with rocket boots, she took questions from parents.
The first: “How can we raise feminist sons?”
“Oh, I should have brought my son here,” Ginsburg replied to laughter.
She never described exactly how to raise a feminist son, but did say there are “so many men I’ve met in my long life” who have worked hard and had little to do with raising their children, then regretted it.
She said her son and her son-in-law are both great parents. “Each one is sharing in the joys and demands of raising children,” Ginsburg added.
She said her mother read to her and then when the future member of the Supreme Court was a little older, “She would take me once a week to the library and she would leave me in the children’s section while she went off to get her hair done.”
A favorite book?
Ginsburg couldn’t come up just one, but said she loved the Nancy Drew mysteries. In all the other books, girls were good and well-behaved, she said, but “Nancy Drew was real doer.”
On the values she hoped she passed on to her kids, the justice said, “One thing is that it takes hard work to make dreams come true, and if you’re willing to put in the hard work, you can achieve and aspire.”
She said that when her granddaughter, now in her last year of law school, was eight years old, a director making a film about Ginsburg asked the little girl what she wanted to be. The girl said, “I would like to be president of the United States of the world.”
“It’s amazing that an 8-year-old girl would have that as an aspiration,” Ginsburg added. “It’s wonderful to grow up in an age where there are no more closed doors.”
The event closed with 10-year-old Serina Martinez, a three-year veteran of Santa Fe’s Spanish Market, presenting Ginsburg with a small weaving she had created.
The justice thanked her and told Serina, “I hope you go on making such beautiful things.”
Ginsburg will make another appearance Friday, when she delivers the keynote address at the New Mexico Bar Association’s annual meeting at the Buffalo Thunder resort in Pojoaque.