On Monday, May 15, fifth-grade students from Manhattan Country School, Central Park East II and Children’s Workshop School presented the 2017 MLK Living the Dream Book Award to the author and illustrator of I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, in a ceremony at Manhattan Country School. The Living the Dream Book Award culminates a yearlong private/public school partnership, initiated by MCS in 1990. The award is presented to a children’s picture book that embodies the values of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This year’s winning book, written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley, is based on the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In the 1940s, Ruth grew up a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn alongside many other immigrant cultures. Her life was different in one crucial way. Ruth’s mother believed that girls should have the same opportunities that boys had at that time. Through several family trips, Ruth got to see how others lived and thrived, but she was also witness to racial and religious biases as well. This had a powerful impact on Ruth’s belief system as she went on to pursue and earn a law degree, which was a rare thing for women at the time. She then made it her mission to fight for the rights of women and people of color. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the U.S. Supreme Court. She continues to fight for the rights of many people from varied backgrounds and provides inspiration for young girls, as well as so many others.
During the award ceremony, Levy and Baddeley talked about their creative process and answered students’ questions. Levy, in her remarks, quoted King: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Ginsburg used these words from King in her dissent from the 2013 Supreme Court opinion that gutted an important part of the Voting Rights Act, adding, “…if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.” There are no better words to describe the yearlong commitment of work by the young students involved in the MLK Living the Dream Book Award.