As I entered the intimidatingly large auditorium at Notre Dame, I felt a little out of place. Along with about fifteen of my fellow high-schoolers, I sat down among professionals and college students that eagerly gripped pens and notepads while waiting for Justice Sonia Sotomayor to enter the illuminated stage. I had never heard a Supreme Court Justice speak before, but I imagined an austere woman in black robes giving matter-of-fact answers to questions based on right and wrong. When Justice Sotomayor came into view, I was surprised by her casual clothes and warm smile.
A journalist sat beside her and addressed Justice Sotomayor's childhood. As a child of a single parent, I related to Sotomayor's story as she touched on the difficulties she faced growing up. She explained that her father died when she was very young, and that her mother worked incessantly to provide for her. Justice Sotomayor continued to speak about her life, describing difficult times of being told she was unfit for being a judge, because she was not smart enough. She also went into depth about the racism and sexism she faced on her professional journey, and how she kept it from discouraging her. Justice Sotomayor surprised me when she took time to specifically address the young people in the audience to overcome their specific hardships through hard work and perseverance.
Justice Sotomayor also helped me to better understand the court system. She went into depth on the teamwork of her fellow justices in making decisions, and the struggle that personal opinions bring to the decision making process of a trial. The justice was not afraid to share her personal failures and struggles (including having a tendency to be too vocal in the courtroom), which showed her humble character. I am so grateful to have been able to hear such an inspiring and trailblazing woman speak.