By Guadalupe Triana /// Arts Editor
When a law student asked how she managed to stay true to ‘Sonia’ over the years, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor told a crowd of careful listeners, “I have figured out how to stay happy in my world by understanding the power of love.” Sotomayor, clad in a charcoal-colored coat and dark pants, was responding to a question that may seem clichéd, but still managed to truly reflect a genuine character with an honest sentiment.
Sotomayor, well-known for being the first Hispanic and only the third woman appointed to the Supreme Court, delighted the LC community with a series of answers that explored the justice’s personal life and views on what it’s like having one of the most prestigious jobs in the world. The audience, made up of wide-eyed undergraduate and law students, faculty and noteworthy politicians from around Oregon, gathered to listen to Sotomayor share wisdom on life and the Supreme Court. Sotomayor’s approachable demeanor, along with her meaningful and carefully phrased responses, made the one-hour event a reminder of just how delightful, inspiring and plain likable supreme court justices can be.
The event on Wed. March 12 in the Pamplin Gymnasium ran just about an hour long and featured two of Sotomayor’s personal friends, Dean of the LC Law School, Robert Klonoff and White & Case Law Firm Partner, Rudolph F. Aragon, as moderators.
The “conversation” began with Sotomayor, Klonoff and Aragon all joking and reminiscing on their law school days at Yale. Before kicking off into a series of Q&A style interview, Sotomayor implored the college audience to become ‘interesting’ citizens with worldly knowledge.
“I thought it was really nice, but I thought the talk was more geared towards a softer side,” student Rostam Assadi (’15) said. “She didn’t really touch any of the hard topics. I would be unhappy if the school spent a lot of money, but that didn’t seem to be the case.”
Sotomayor’s memoir and New York Times Bestseller, “My Beloved World,” was sold at the event. Many of the audience members held the book as she spoke.
“One thing that I really liked about her and her reasons for writing her memoir is she really wants people to know who she is–who the real Sonia [is],” Evelyn Guerrero (’16) said. “It definitely showed today.”
During the Q&A, the audience asked a very relaxed Sotomayor questions ranging from her experience and opinion about diversity in the Supreme Court, to her experience as a well-known public figure.
“I have figured out how to stay happy in my world by understanding the power of love.”
“I really appreciated her perspective on diversity and that she’s not just focused on diversity as far as ethnicity, but diversity as far as background,” said student Daniela Lopez (‘16). “I think as students, here and in larger communities, people restrict diversity, which is a very contradictory phrase, to race. I appreciate her as a judge and [the way] she views diversity is so perfect for this position.”
In addition to life as a public figure, Sotomayor told the intricate story of when President Obama nominated her to the Supreme Court and her experience from living a normal, everyday life, to a life as a public figure known around the world.
“The public creates expectations that are divorced from the reality,” said Sotomayor. “Some people were demonizing me. I wanted them to see that I was just like them.”
After walking to each individual section in the gym to pose with people, Sotomayor finished her talk and left students like Guerrero with an everlasting impression.
“I really liked how she was very open,” said Guerrero. “She was willing to talk to everyone on stage, she wasn’t afraid to get close to people and that’s how you know the type of person she is.”
As Sotomayor casually walked across the gym, she jokingly laughed and apologized for taking too long to get to questions, which she attributed to her injury. In the remainder of the presentation, she promised she would return to Portland–but next time without a limp.
“I did not injure my leg in Oregon,” Sotomayor said. “I did it in Washington.”