Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke to a sold-out audience on Friday night at the National Constitution Center about her journey to the Supreme Court.
Sotomayor spoke to more than 800 people in conjunction with the release of her new book, My Beloved World.
In 2009, Sotomayor became the first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court.
In My Beloved World, Sotomayor talks about her life from a Bronx housing project to becoming a federal judge.
Sotomayor writes in her memoir about growing up with an alcoholic father (who died when she was nine), and a devoted but overburdened mother, and her passionately spirited paternal grandmother. She was also diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and had to give herself insulin shots starting at the age of seven.
Sotomayor grew up in a section of the Bronx known as Fort Apache, and one of the reasons she wrote the book was to show readers that real people lived in her 10-block neighborhood, despite some stereotypes.
“I wanted people to come away realizing that despite all the bad in the area, please don’t forget the people,” she said.
Her grandmother remains an inspiration to her to this day.
“Everyone needs someone who not only loves them, but protects them,” she said.
Sotomayor became determined to become a lawyer (inspired by the TV show Perry Mason), becoming the valedictorian of her high school class and earning highest honors at Princeton, Yale Law School, the New York County District Attorney’s office, private practice, and appointment to the federal district court before the age of 40.
She also told the audience and especially parents not to underestimate the investment in a college education.
“Education opens the doors to opportunity,” she said.
Toward the end of the program, as the justice responded to audience questions, 11-year-old Maddie was called up to the stage to share a special moment with Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Maddie asked the justice how she felt about being a part of history as the first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the nation’s highest court.
She also said doing public service in the district attorney’s office was a turning point in her professional life.
“The Constitution truly inspires me. I’m passionate about it,” she said, adding that active citizenship should be a part of everyone’s life.
“Being a justice is an extraordinary job,” noting that she hoped some of her dissenting opinions would become laws in the future.
In May 2009, President Obama nominated her as an associate justice of the Supreme Court; she assumed her current role on August 8, 2009.
The program was co-presented with the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and is a part of the Center’s Women’s History Month and 10th Anniversary celebrations.
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