The Best Thing You Can Do With A Pedestal is to Take a Sledgehammer to it.

Rebecca Cokley
3 min readMar 7, 2023

My favorite, Justin Dart quote, was “ learn to love the humanity in people, even the ones you hate.” ( and that is such a story for another time.)

I remember when Justin passed away, and the stories started flooding in. It was like they were planning for canonization for sainthood. I had only met him a few times before he passed at events for an ADA celebration, and the National Youth Leadership Network, where he and Yoshiko came, and gave us each a five dollar bill as their “initial investment” in us (he loved Lincoln.) I remember how unreachable Justin and his feelings about love felt, Justin and his commitment to the work felt, Justin and what he achieved felt.

As a young person living in California and working retail, it made me feel that the bar was unattainable. It made me feel like there was no space for someone still struggling, still trying to figure it out. And it was Yoshiko Dart, Rep. Major Owens, John Kemp, John Lancaster, and others who over many years and several drinks, told me the most raucous, inappropriate, hysterically funny, very honest, and all too human anecdotes that made Justin much more corporeal, much more real, much more human.

Sacrifices are made, compromises are negotiated, people make mistakes, deadlines are missed. Movement priorities shifts, but the gameplay continues to advance, sometimes with you, and sometimes without you. Strategies are deliberated over urinals, statements drafted in the back of a conversion van. Not every fight is YOUR fight. And all of this is formative for you and your leadership, as well as the movement. And while fighting the FOMO is real, the work remains — there’s always something to do. As my brilliant husband reminds me “you will not wake up to see that the movement has passed you by that all the goals have been achieved.” And sometimes, the thing you need to do, is rest, breathe, grieve, eat lunch.

In every conversation I’ve had about Judy since she passed, I have tried to make her more real. Because I want young people, I want people who never knew her, I want people with long covid and post-partum, I want people all over the globe, kids with disabilities who believe their births are curse or a burden, to see that leadership does not demand perfection.

And to my friends, who when I am gone, you damn well know you better tell the good stories. Stories about fence hopping, dancing on bars, being sent memes of superheroes Twerking from members of Congress, how “ why do you wanna treat me so bad” is my favorite karaoke song, and how in my eternal Sagittariusness, I shoot first ask questions later. Or I will haunt you. All of you. All the time. And you will know it is me because I will leave Legos next to the foot of your bed.

There is a place and a role for all of us in the fight for human rights. Especially the sinners, we make it interesting.



Rebecca Cokley

Rebecca Cokley is a philantropic buffalo, 3 x Obama Appointee, writer, pundit, & activist who doesn’t believe anyone should wait over 30 yrs for civil rights.