Otterbein Sophomore Payton Kaufman Interviews Notorious RBG’s Daughter

Posted Sep 27, 2021

By Payton Kaufman’24

Editor’s Note: PR major and Otterbein soccer player Payton Kaufman often declares her devotion to all things Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Here is Kaufman’s account of her July Zoom interview of Columbia Law Professor Jane Ginsburg, RBG’s daughter, who was in France at the time.

I thought my communication professor and adviser, Dan Steinberg, was joking when he told me I would be interviewing Columbia law professor Jane Ginsburg, RBG’s daughter, in a few days. Steinberg jokes a lot, and I was still suspicious when he sent me screenshots of his correspondence with Professor Ginsburg. I thought he may have gone through great lengths to photoshop a fake email conversation with the daughter of my idol. He wasn’t joking. The interview opportunity was real.

Jane Ginsburg
Jane C. Ginsburg

My love for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg began about five years ago. When I was in ninth grade my dad showed me a post about the “Notorious RBG.” I knew little about Supreme Court justices at the time, never mind, this particular iconic female Justice.

I was curious what captivated and drew so many young people to an 80-year-old justice. Over the course of the coming years, I read countless books and watched many movies about Justice Ginsburg.

In that time, I learned of her courageous, unapologetic and strong nature. Everything I learned about her made me admire her that much more.

As one can imagine I was very nervous going into our interview. Not only was she the daughter of my hero, she was also an extremely successful lawyer, herself. I knew she’d be extremely intelligent just like her mother, but I did not anticipate the physical resemblance between the pair.

She did not hesitate to correct me, nor did she waste time responding in never-ending sentences. The responses to my questions were brief yet invaluable. After our 30-minute interview, I was able to understand RBG (and her family) better than any book or movie could ever do justice, so to speak.

I felt honored and special to be included in some of the family fun and stories during the interview.

“It was almost a joke in the family that mother was going to be on the Supreme Court one day,” Professor Ginsburg said. “In my high school yearbook each student was classified by their ambition. My ambition was to see my mother appointed to the Supreme Court.”

Professor Ginsburg also gave me insight on what she thought RBG would have believed in today’s current attacks on voting rights.

“She would probably be as distressed about the current voting rights restrictions, if not more so, than she expressed in her dissent in the Shelby County case,” Professor Ginsburg said.

The fame the late Justice Ginsburg received was uncommon for a Supreme Court Justice, let alone a person of her age. I wondered if Professor Ginsburg had any insight from where her mom’s iconic fame evolved.

“It was unexpected, for both of us (to have so many people idolizing Justice Ginsberg), and I am still not entirely sure what accounts for it sociologically, why a woman in her 80s became such an icon,” Professor Ginsburg said.

In typical law professor fashion, Professor Ginsburg then flipped the script and asked me a question before we left our meeting. She asked me what accounted for her mother’s extraordinary popularity among my generation.

I replied that I believe her popularity came from the recognition, by myself and many other young people, of a figure who unwaveringly acted and spoke based on what she believed was right, for all of society, and for the entirety of her life.

How many people get to interview someone so close to their idol? Not many. It can happen at Otterbein. And it did.