The Honorable Sonia Sotomayor on Law and Hope

“You have to have some idealism to go into lawyering. You have to want to help people,” said Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the crowd gathered in the Student Union Ballroom. During the October 20 event, Sotomayor discussed how her memoir, “My Beloved World,” has given her a platform to talk about her passion—the law—and to share the stories of her life in order to help others, particularly young people. View the video.

In conversation with UC Berkeley Professor of Law Melissa Murray, who teaches constitutional law and clerked for Sotomayor on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, Sotomayor candidly recounted stories of adversity that spurred her on instead of knocking her down. She also admitted that there are “a lot of emotions that come along with being a Supreme Court justice,” and that she often has to pinch herself to make sure it’s all real.

While she now walks the corridors of the White House (and occasionally spends time at the homes of celebrities like Jennifer Lopez), she said that staying connected to her family and bringing them along with her on her professional journey keeps her grounded. Everyone needs help sometimes, Sotomayor explained.

Throughout the event, Sotomayor spoke directly to the students seated in the first several rows in front of her. When asked about balancing family needs with pursuing an education, she explained to one student, who she welcomed on stage to take a photo with her, that getting an education is the best way to support your family in the long term, no matter the immediate needs. Most of you are here [at San Jose State], despite the economy, because you have hope, she said.

“There isn’t a student in this room who should ever give up, “ said Sotomayor. “You got into college. You’re here! If you can defy all odds to get in, you’ve got what it takes to make it.”

11 thoughts on “The Honorable Sonia Sotomayor on Law and Hope

  1. This was such an inspiring event. Kudos to Maria Alaniz, the Campus Reading Program Committee, and the rest of the organizers for providing such an educational and memorable day for the SJSU community.

  2. I live in San Jose, CA, capital of Silicon Valley. It would be wonderful if Hon. Sonia Sotomayor would come and talk to high school and college students. We would be honored to have a Latina Supreme Court Justice as a speaker. Latinos/as make up a huge number of our population. We live in a valley that is rich in technology and we need to have Latino students be a part of this important work that is known throughout the world. (Apple, Google, Oracle, EBay, Cisco, and thousands of others)

  3. I feel great pride in knowing that stand-out organizations like the Campus Reading Program, Cesar E. Chavez Community Action Center, Dept. of Mexican American Studies, Dept. of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Studies, and Educational Opportunity Program are finding ways to bring hope and inspiration to the SJSU Community. This inspiring event speaks to the power of working together across silos. That these five organizations were able to work together to make this event happen and get one of the most iconic figures in the country’s justice system in just incredible—that these groups got the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor, whose personal encounters with adversity resonates so strongly with the SJSU community, to speak to us is sheer brilliant.

    Thank you, Campus Reading Progran, CCCAC, Dept. of Mexican American Studies, et al, for all you do to create excellence at San Jose State.

  4. Will the footage from the event be posted with a publicly accessible link, for those of us who, do to work, were unable to watch the full conversation?

  5. In my life, I’ve seen my share of most impressive scholars, politicos, artists, rock stars, movie stars, theatre people.
    But I have never heard anybody that came even close to being as down to earth and totally real as Justice Sandra Sotomayor came across here on campus Monday afternoon. Her optimism and hope for the future of this society were refreshingly genuine and without a trace of cynicism.
    Kudos to all who brought this most remarkable human being to our campus.
    It’s because of people like her that the beat goes on…

  6. Never give up – just like Churchill told the West Point Academy graduation class. The problem in law is that it is usually adversary and only one side may win and it is even more important for justices as well as attorneys to try and make the “losing” party understand that all-in-all even they are served by an impartial “just” decision.

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