Today’s post was written by Lisa Rimmert. Lisa founded the snarky blog Weird! Why Aren’t You Vegan? and raises money for Vegan Outreach, a non-profit that spreads compassion toward animals by inspiring and helping people to eat vegetarian and vegan. She and her husband live in Denver with a dog and a cat: the only two animals they’re ever tempted to eat. Just kidding. Friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @lisarimm.
I have a confession…
I don’t know much about the judicial system.
I memorized enough facts to earn a C in my 2005 undergraduate media law class, but honestly most of my knowledge has come from watching The West Wing. One of my favorite episodes, titled “The Supremes,” focuses on the nomination of Evelyn Baker Lang, the show’s first female Chief Justice (played by Glenn Close), and I know more about this fictional character than I did about real-life Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. That is, until I had the privilege of seeing her talk in Denver last week (thanks to Allison!).
The event with Justice Sotomayor was held at Metropolitan State University (MSU), which I now know is home to one of the most diverse student bodies not just in Colorado but also in the country. At MSU, 37.1 percent of students are non-white, and 31.6 percent are first-generation college students. It served as a fitting location for students and community members to gather for a visit by the first Latina Justice.
In a largely informal Q&A session, Sotomayor spoke about finding success despite hardships. Her determination and intelligence were obvious, but she surprised me by also being so down-to-earth. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the country, so it’s easy to forget that its members are as human as you and me. Sotomayor reminded us about that by answering questions candidly, infusing her talk with humor, and spending most of her time walking among the audience to take questions and to pose for photos with those asking them.
Less surprising but equally thrilling was Sotomayor’s activism. She may not call it that, and in fact perhaps activism by judges may be frowned upon in a lot of circles, but it’s one of my favorite things about her. Sotomayor mentioned that she gives presentations to students as much as she can, both inside and outside of Washington, DC. She talked about bringing her family with her in each step of her work and life, including inviting them to White House parties. She talked about being involved with an after-school mentoring program, and to the delight of my fundraiser heart, she also mentioned contributing monetarily to causes she feels are important. Sotomayor spoke of these activities proudly, and I’m sure hearing about them will inspire young people to stand up for what they feel is right too.Find out what @lisarimm thought about Justice Sotomayor's conversation with students in #Denver… Click To Tweet
I learned a lot about Sotomayor based on her answers to audience members’ questions. When students sought her advice for achieving their career goals, Sotomayor stressed the importance of doing what you’re passionate about, working hard, and asking for help. She encouraged students to follow their dreams, and she recommended they don’t leave college without learning how to write well. A woman after my own heart. After spending an evening listening to and learning from Sotomayor, I think I might have a new favorite Supreme Court Justice. But don’t worry, I’ll always love Evelyn Baker Lang as well.