Standing room only as Pomona College hosts Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor brought her wealth of knowledge to a packed Bridges Auditorium crowd Thursday evening.

The event was framed first as a conversation between Ms. Sotomayor and Pomona College politics professor Amanda Hollis-Brusky, then as a Q&A with students from the Colleges.

Ms. Hollis-Brusky asked Ms. Sotomayor, who is the first Latina appointed to the nation’s highest court, about her 2013 book and what it takes to craft the perfect memoir.

“I asked [my publisher], what made a great memoir? And my editor said, ‘Authenticity. Be genuine in your book. Speak from the heart,” Ms. Sotomayor said. “I try to learn from other peoples’ advice. And I started to think about what could my book add to the body of knowledge about me. And I realized that what would be valuable to some people, might be the lessons I’ve learned living.”

Ms. Sotomayor spoke with Ms. Hollis-Brusky on the stage for a half-hour before stepping down to move around the audience while answering questions from students. The first question, from student Jonathan Contreras, dealt with how Ms. Sotomayor keeps her Latina identity in mainstream society.

“If you want people to listen, you have to be better than they are,” Ms. Sotomayor said. “But it doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself in that. Hold on to who you are. It’s not a question to learning how to improve yourself in a different area or with a different skill, it’s holding on to the values that your culture has taught you.”

Student Jessica Phan then asked about the most difficult decision Ms. Sotomayor made outside of the courtroom. Ms. Sotomayor talked about how her busy schedule kept her from taking care of her ailing mother.

Other questions from students ranged from how her Catholic faith drives her in her life, how social media affects young people today and her time on “cafeteria duty,” a light-hearted job for a rookie Supreme Court justice.

Ms. Sotomayor was warm in her responses, posing for pictures with every student who asked her a question. The Bridges Auditorium was packed with 2400 students, faculty and members of the public, all there to hear her speak.

When asked how she passes on her knowledge to the next generation, Ms. Sotomayor said, “I believe in giving back and paying it forward. We have an obligation for those of us who have come from the backgrounds we have, who are given a privilege that most of our community members don’t have.”

“One thing you can’t do is forget where you came from,” she added.

Matthew Bramlett


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