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.”