Justice Sotomayor comes to campus, encourages community bonds
Published: Monday, September 23, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 23, 2013 22:09
“I hate podiums,” said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as she descended the steps of the stage at the Bob Carpenter Sports Building.
Sotomayor signaled to her security team lining the edges of the seating on the floor.
“These very stern looking people—they’re my police protection,” Sotomayor said, as she looked at her security.
This was only one more way in which this year’s First Year Experience speaker let freshmen get closer to her.
The first way was by letting them into her own thoughts and feelings through her book “My Beloved World,” the required common reader for incoming freshmen.
As a Puerto Rican woman from New York City, Sotomayor said she had to persevere through economic, health and social hardships, such as her diagnosis of Type I Diabetes in childhood. She then went on to graduate from Princeton University and Yale University’s school of law.
Though she is proud of becoming a Supreme Court justice, she said that is not all she has done with her life.
“I wasn’t a justice first, and I hope I won’t be a justice last—that I’ll be Sonia first and Sonia last,” she said.
Sotomayor said she wrote “My Beloved World” “to give something really big and heavy to my friends, and, whenever I get too full of myself, they would hit me over the head with it.”
Sotomayor then began to advise students, as she patted some on the back and shook some of their hands, that instead of being concerned with their own egos, they should be more concerned with answering the question of how to improve the world.
“Don’t worry about the social and economic importance of what you do,” she said. “Do whatever satisfies you.”
Whatever this may be, Sotomayor advised, students should be pursuing knowledge and continue learning throughout their lives to become more engaging people.
“What will make you a meaningful person in life is that you become an interesting person,” she said.
Sotomayor also stressed the importance of friends and family in her life.
Sociology professor Maggie Andersen, who introduced Sotomayor and coordinated her visit to the university, commented on the emphasis of community that Sotomayor incorporates into her book.
“No matter how smart and determined you are, you do not go it alone,” Andewrsen said.
Sotomayor applied this theory specifically to college students, tying it into the process of writing papers and working on projects. She said sharing her book with others during the editing stage was useful for getting getting the support of her family members and delving deeper into her family history.
Once Sotomayor climbed back onto the stage, students presented questions freshmen in FYE classes had constructed for the justice. Sotomayor asked those students to come down from the seats and take pictures with her once she finished her talk.
One question asked her how she dealt with stresses in college, to which she replied, “not well.”
She advised students to exercise, eat well and spend important time with friends.
“I sound like my mother,” she said, after giving this advice.
Sotomayor was also asked how her personal experiences may reflect how she interprets the law. She said, unfortunately, she has to separate her personal feelings from the law in many cases. She cannot answer the question of “who has been hurt the most,” but rather answer the “legal question.”
The lesson she was trying to teach students was not one of law but one of how to approach situations across all fields, she said.
“Try to take some of that anxiety of being in college—tone it down a little bit,” Sotomayor said.