United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor shared her inspiring life's story that climaxed with her appointment to the highest court in the land in a special two-hour question-and-answer conversation with students held at the St. Croix Educational Complex High School on Wednesday, February 8.
The Supreme Court Justice, who made history as the first Latina justice appointed to the Supreme Court by former President Barack Obama in 2009, visited the school by invitation of the District Court of the Virgin Islands as part of the territory's 100 Year Centennial Commemoration in March. Students from several St. Croix public, private and parochial schools convened at the Complex auditorium to hear from and ask questions of Justice Sotomayor. During her presentation, the Justice's warm and congenial personality took center stage as she walked the room shaking students' hands while answering questions about her early life, career, social issues and current events.
Justice Sotomayor was born and raised in New York City's South Bronx neighborhood to Puerto Rican parents. She told students that although she grew up poor and was not exposed to many opportunities based on her zip code, she was determined to work hard and become successful. And that she did. At the age of nine, she had already set her sights on becoming a lawyer, a profession that she describes as being passionate about.
"I worked hard," she said of her success, adding, "I took my education seriously."
Justice Sotomayor, who is nearing her eighth year on the Supreme Court, went on to say that her decision to become a lawyer stemmed from her genuine desire to help people. "What good lawyers do is help people in their relationships, whether it is personal, business or otherwise," she said.
In her response to a student's question about her reason for penning her bestselling memoir, 'My Beloved World', Justice Sotomayor said she wrote the book because it served as a reminder of where she came from. "No one is a natural born writer," she said, "you have to work hard at it." This was especially true for her because the first language she learned at home was Spanish and the transition to speaking and writing in English required a great deal of focus and commitment.
Justice Sotomayor's message of perseverance captivated both students and dignitaries in attendance, including Governor Kenneth E. Mapp, Education Commissioner Sharon Ann McCollum, Ph.D., the Honorable Judge Curtis Gomez and District Court Chief Judge Wilma A. Lewis. "The key to success in life is to get up and try, try, try again," she told students near the end of her talk.
When asked how she copes with the demands of her job, Justice Sotomayor's easy sense of humor shone through. "I do the best I can...I play poker and I love food," she said to laughter and applause.
The event was a joint effort between the St. Croix Educational Complex High School and Central High School. Governor Mapp and Commissioner McCollum expressed their gratitude for Justice Sotomayor's visit and presented her with a plaque commemorating the occassion.