Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told a large crowd that had gathered to see her Thursday that the U.S. is not at its best right now because "we are not as mindful of what makes America great."
Ginsburg also said that "it makes a great difference” to have three women on the Supreme Court.
“We are one-third of the court. And we look like we are here to stay,” she said, noting that anyone who has observed her arguments knows that her colleagues Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan “are not shrinking violets.”
Ginsburg was expanding on comments she made about the state of the country to a packed and enthusiastic auditorium at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., alongside the co-authors of her book, "My Own Words" during a Newseum event, which was moderated by NPR's Nina Totenberg.
She went on to say that what makes America great is “the right to speak one’s mind” and the “idea of our nation being receptive to all people, welcoming all people."
Her comments come at a time when the Trump administration has sparked anger over its policies on refugees and immigration enforcement.
"Yes, we've had times in U.S. history like the time of the 'America First' movement, when anyone who wasn’t born and bred in the USA was considered an outcast. But for the most part those are our ideals - the treasured First Amendment and the notion that in our nation we are many and yet we are one,” Ginsburg said.
In his inaugural speech, Trump promised to put “America first,” noting that "every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families."
Ginsburg said that despite the current climate she remains optimistic about the future of what she said will be a welcoming America, noting that she benefited from being the child of immigrants.
She also said that she has no second thoughts on her decision not to retire during the Obama administration in order to ensure a liberal justice could be appointed.
“I will do this job as long as I can do it full steam. And when I can’t, that will be the time to step down,” she said.
In fact, she said the politicization of the Supreme Court nomination process in recent years is “not the way it should be,” pointing out that Justice Antonin Scalia had not had a single “no” vote and she only received three.
As for the new Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, Ginsburg didn’t have much to say.
"I know him I've worked with him. And I think he's very easy to get along with. He writes very well," she said to laughter from the crowd.
Ginsburg pointed out that she is almost 84 but said that she’s here to stay as well. She credited her personal trainer for her longevity, who keeps her fit with an exercise routine of planks and push-ups. She also marveled at her recently acquired nickname, “The Notorious R.B.G.”
“It is really beyond extraordinary that I’m 84 years old and everyone wants to take a picture with me,” she said of the nickname, which is a spoof on the stage name of the late rapper The Notorious B.I.G. “We have a lot in common, we were both born and bred in Brooklyn, N.Y.”