September 25, 2020

Farewell, RBG

Farewell, RBG

Thousands of people lined up at the U.S. Supreme Court Building this week to pay their respects to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away from complications of pancreatic cancer last week. Thousands more are undoubtedly lining up today at the U.S. Capitol, where she is lying in state.

RBG was an icon and inspiration to millions – and I am certainly one of her fans. It is hard to overstate the impact she had on the American people. She was a groundbreaker who became only the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, taking her seat on the bench in 1993, and she never slowed down. Prior to serving on the court, RBG argued before it six times, winning five of the six cases.

To say she was a trailblazer for women’s rights and gender equality is woefully inadequate. She made it her mission to pull other women – and men – along with her. She was a fierce advocate for equality from the bench, after being an equally fierce litigator.

It’s reported that RBG’s dying wish was that the President let the winner of the next election choose her successor. That’s clearly not going to happen. President Trump is already saying he will announce a woman to succeed her tomorrow, and Republicans are pushing to get a new justice confirmed by Election Day.

Still, I hope that as politics-as-usual heats up, people will remember one of RBG’s most important legacies as a leader: Knowing how to make her case while still respecting people with different opinions and knowing how to agree to disagree.

She was always willing to listen and take in information from all sides before she formed an opinion and acted. Few people had ideological views as diametrically opposed as RBG and Antonin Scalia, but they were close friends who socialized regularly in Washington, D.C., with their spouses.

And she never forgot to think about how people on the other side would feel, and knew how to bring people together. As one of her former clerks put it in the New York Times, “She was dedicated to making sure that even those on the losing side – especially those on the losing side – understood the reasoning behind the decision.”

Most of us aren’t operating on the same national stage as RBG did, but as leaders of middle-market companies, we do influence many people’s lives in our workplaces and our communities. With emotions flaring on all sides about just about everything, one of the most important things we can do right now is to help the people around us find common ground.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg understood this well, and that’s why we find so many people from both sides of the aisle paying tribute to her now. Her mission was always about doing what was best for the country – not just the people who agreed with her. Let us all take a lesson from this great American and historic role model. May she rest in peace.

As part of my effort to lead Marcum’s back-to-work at work initiative, I decided it was time for me to return to NYC this week. So on Wednesday, I drove the 100 miles or so from my house on Long Island, where Tracy and I have been staying with our children since we left NYC on May 7. I hadn’t been in Marcum’s NYC office since March 13, over six months ago. And it was good to be back.

We lived through the first 8 weeks or so of the pandemic lockdown from our NYC home, when NYC became a virtual ghost town overnight. No cars, no trucks, no buses, no trains, no stores, no offices, NOTHING. It was quite a transformation, literally overnight. But there was a considerable difference Wednesday, and I was glad to see it. Although it was not what it used to be, there were signs of life everywhere.

While I won’t pronounce NYC back, it’s definitely improving. Hopefully another wave of the virus doesn’t slow down the city’s much needed recovery.

Marcum’s focus on diversity and inclusion has continued to expand as a strategic priority for our firm. Yesterday we announced internally that we’ve adopted a more expansive name to encompass all of these efforts – Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – and named our first national DEI director to oversee the policies, programs and services that will come under that umbrella. Expect to see more announcements as I share progress about our efforts in the coming months.

Sunday night at sunset marks the arrival of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar. It ends on Monday evening. For those of you who observe, may you be inscribed in the book of life for another year and have an easy fast.

Stay safe, stay healthy and remember we are all in this together.