Sonia Sotomayor: The Exception

A memoir does just that: it is a first-hand account of your history, told through the filter of memory. We all know how memory works–events, people, relationships are edited by the person telling the story. The forthcoming book by Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor will likely be no different, if the recents high profile interviews are any indication.

My Beloved World is about her early years in the Bronx–the place where Sotomayor was born and raised. She is not the first person to make it out of one of New York City’s most famous boroughs and make it BIG. 80s crooner Billy Joel, salsero Willie Colón, fashion icon Ralph Lauren, and Goldman Sach‘s chief Lloyd Blankfein (make that a Wall Street Notorious B.I.G) are a few who did just that.

Sonia_ Sotomayor-TheWiseLatinaClub

Official Portrait of Justice Sonia Sotomayor Courtesy: U.S. Supreme Court

But here is what’s different: the Justice is the only Latino, not just someone from the Bronx, to sit on the nation’s highest court. Yes, the Supreme Court is one of the most select clubs, with few from any group being tapped to shape the nation’s laws over the course of lifetime appointments. She deserves it: a review of her extraordinary background reveals nothing but a long list of “firsts,” “one of the few,” or “the only”–for example: Princeton, Yale Law, New York City’s District Attorney’s office, or federal appellate judge.

May chests puff out in pride. May misty eyes be dabbed because in Sotomayor’s story we hear the echoes of every “you took someone else’s place,” every door slammed shut on our faces, or every “how do your parents feel about you applying to college? Don’t your people’s girls just start having babies after high school?”

Someone like Sonia Sotomayor is an exception, and not just because so few-people-period become Supreme Court Justices. Let’s compare to say Indian-Americans, Jewish-Americans, or Asian-Americans who are doing better in educational attainment and career advancement than Hispanics.

With our population exploding, we can be the rule.

The reasons are plentiful to not achieve a collective or personal goal: in Sotomayor’s case: an alcoholic father who died when she was a child, poverty, and diabetes. For students who lack the overachieving gene but are full of potential, how many chances are never given? For recent graduates whose Daddy didn’t get them a coveted internship, how many judgements are made because expectations are set low? For viewers watching Sunday public affairs shows, how many are blinded by the absence of diversity on round table discussions–even when speaking this past weekend about the “white maleness” in Obama’s top administration!

Then think back to what the Justice said in her 60 Minutes interview:

“I have a streak of stubbornness in me that is what I think has accounted for some of my success in life. There is some personal need to persevere, to fight the fight. And if you just try and be stubborn about trying, you can do what you set your mind to.”

The time is now, not to wait for “them” to give us a break. Be self-reliant and strong.

“Fight the fight” which requires you to leave mañana tendencies in the past and get off the couch of complaints.

Stay stubborn. Your success–and those of so many others–is around the corner.

Click below to watch the January 15th, 2013 60 Minutes interview of Justice Sotomayor.

What is your favorite quote or nugget of wisdom from the Justice?
 

Comments

    • says

      That’s what resonated with me, too, Dora. Just keep trying, even if you’ve been and will get knocked down. That message to keep going, to have a fighting spirit, transcends background, gender, you name it. ¡Arriba!

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