March 30, 2015
Leaders like Sonia Sotomayor, to us, only seem like leaders. It is difficult for us to think of them as anything but leaders. But, if we took the time to understand and read their long and, sometimes, adversity-packed stories, we might learn not only about them as leaders, but about what message they are trying to communicate to us. If we read the story of Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, we might learn that she desperately believes that everyone should be able to follow their dreams, even against all odds.
Sonia Sotomayor was born a Catholic in The Bronx, New York City to Puerto-Rican parents. Her brother, Juan Sotomayor (called “Junior” since their father had the same name), was born three years later. Sonia was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was seven years old. Her father, Juan Sotomayor, from the age of thirteen, battled alcoholism, which was the eventual cause of his death when Sonia was nine. Sonia’s mother, Celina Báez, remained distant from her children until Sonia finally confronted her. Because her parents did not offer her the support and protection she needed, Sonia came to find the most comfort with her grandmother, “abuelita”. In the first few chapters of her memoir, My Beloved World, Ms. Sotomayor recounts memories with Abuelita, seemingly unimportant details, but ones that made all the difference in the life of a young girl growing up in the South Bronx.
Eventually, Ms. Sotomayor went on to graduate from Princeton University summa cum laude. Even at Princeton, Ms. Sotomayor faced adversity. There were few women studying at Princeton at the time and even fewer Latinos. In addition, after being much less prepared than many of her classmates, Ms. Sotomayor spent hours in the library, attempting to make up for her lack of knowledge due to cultural background. After Princeton, she attended Yale Law School on full scholarship. Not one of the star students, Ms. Sotomayor had to work very hard to keep up. However, Law School was only the first step. She then entered into a work force which is, to the say the least, unpredictable.
“I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with,” says Ms. Sotomayor. The best part about Ms. Sotomayor’s book isn’t about all of the achievements she earned, whether in forensics club in high school or as a star student at Princeton. It’s the sections of the book in which Ms. Sotomayor tells short stories about herself which all reveal the same thing: her determination and constant desire for justice. She believed that “a surplus of effort can overcome a deficit of confidence.” Ms. Sotomayor’s persisted in overcoming hardship, coldness, prejudice, and disappointment. She refused to take failure as an outcome.
“People who live in difficult circumstances need to know that happy endings are possible,” Ms. Sotomayor says. As a judge, Ms. Sotomayor has done all in her power to stay true to the morals she preaches in her memoir. Growing up as a small girl in the Bronx and becoming a Supreme Court Justice made her the leader she is today, one who is not fearless but it willing to fight with fear, instead of against it.
When I first opened this book, I expected it to be a long list of all the achievements Ms. Sotomayor had earned, her most recent one being elected for the Supreme Court. I could not have been more wrong. Her heartwarming and truly moving book makes me feel as if almost anyone has a chance and I hope it will make others feel that way too. In addition, it taught me that when I see a political leader in the news for the hundredth time, I shouldn’t just decide to like or dislike him or her based on the party he or she is associated. He or she might have a story, one that could teach the readers a lesson.