Shortly after 8 p.m. on Friday, I saw the first post regarding the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Then my Facebook exploded with sad posts and glowing tributes that continued well into Sunday.
The response to her death was seen everywhere. Hundreds of people spontaneously gathered outside the Supreme Court late Friday night, singing and laying flowers in an impromptu memorial to the icon.
French President Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to call the Brooklyn-born Ginsburg a “truly exceptional woman, who fought for justice, gender equality and the respect for fundamental rights. Her outstanding legacy shall be our inspiration for a long time to come.”
In so many ways she paved the way for generations of women. She will be missed, and her work needs to continue.
Late last year, former Representative Julie Stokes invited about 100 women from all around Louisiana to join her in Baton Rouge to talk about starting a new statewide policy organization designed specifically for the women of Louisiana.
“It can still be tough in some workplaces for women to get the same pay and the same opportunities as men,” says Stokes. “I was praying for at least 25 women to join me that day, but we had right over 80 women there, ready to start down the road of forming a new policy organization.”
Stokes’ next step was to found Ellevate Louisiana, a nonprofit policy organization established to empower women leaders by connecting and educating them on the challenges impacting our state.
Ellevate Louisiana currently has about 60 members. These women are located in all regions of the state, are from all parts of the political spectrum, and represent many different professions, but all have the same dream of improving life in Louisiana.
Stokes states that the nonpartisan aspect of this organization has been working well. She has seen women from all political backgrounds come together to have honest, real discussions on the issues facing our state and how they can work together to build a brighter future for Louisiana.
“It is my favorite thing about this group,” she says. “The diversity is so great, yet there is always some way that we can find common ground, because we explore problems in a practical, objective way instead of having a polarizing political debate. We must sometimes let go of our own opinions long enough to explore the world from someone else’s point of view. Sometimes doing so will reinforce our opinions, but other times we might realize that we are missing something that makes a big difference.”
Their educational programs so far have included:
Ellevate’s Engage Videocast / Podcast, which engages the entire community in conversations with the policy makers across our state. It gives members, and anyone that wants to watch, an introduction to the leaders of our state, their goals and what they need to achieve maximum impact.
Ellevate has planned six policy symposiums which started in August and run through January. All are designed to give members a chance to interact directly with policymakers.
On Friday, Sept. 25, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., Ellevate will wrap up its four-part videocast series on the state of education in Louisiana. The guests will include State Superintendent Cade Brumley, Patty Glaser, Superintendent Lamar Goree, Geoffrey Nagel, Superintendent Ritchie Strong and Libbie Sonnier.
“The only way that I see for us to make the kind of substantial improvements that we need as a state is to embrace practical ideas that can really move the needle as opposed to solutions that are based in rhetoric and often not even practical,” says Stokes.
Stokes has a deep respect for the resilience of our state.
“Despite being constantly challenged with natural and man-made disasters, we have always been able to band together as a community and overcome adversity when it counts,” she says.
She added that this diverse group of women are also continuing to fight for women’s rights.
“I think we have come very far with this as a society, but there is still room for improvement,” she says. “Women are resilient, strong and deserve a seat at every table.”
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