Judge Sonia Sotomayor Presiding

The first of many benefits of staying in school is having the grades to qualify you for a full scholarship to the best universities in the land. A degree can open doors to career paths and social circles not otherwise possible. In all, the right frame of mind, sheer will and determination, can lead to the most coveted leadership roles in the country.

Sonia Sotomayor overcame typical hurdles during her youth. She was born on June 25, 1954 to parents of Puerto Rican descent. Their first home was a tenement building located in the South Bronx, after which they settled into a housing project in neighboring East Bronx. First, her father lacked an education and made a living by working for a tool company. His inability to speak English preceded problems with alcohol drinking. Juan Sotomayor died of heart complications at age 42. In his absence, the grandmother dutifully provided for the prime necessities of protection and purpose in a volatile and precarious household. At age 9, Sonia Sotomayor was diagnosed with a chronic health condition that was to follow her into adulthood, all indications being that it was kept remarkably under control, despite a long history of over-performing.

Though life started for Celina Sotomayor as an orphan, she received military training, later supporting her family as a nurse and may well have inspired her daughter’s career decision by buying her an Encyclopedia Britannica; even so, Celina Sotomayor was emotionally distant in mothering through most of her daughter’s maturing years. The lack of proper parental structure was most likely influential in forming an early inclination for inquisitive prose and courtroom procedure, as indicated by her interest in the Nancy Drew book collection and the Perry Mason television series. Sonia Sotomayor married Kevin Noonan after graduating from Princeton University, culminating a relationship that began in high school. The nuptial vows were exchanged in a ceremony at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

Sonia Sotomayor was by most accounts a diligent student, graduating valedictorian of her class at Cardinal Spellman High School in Bronx, New York. At Princeton University and Yale University, she spent additional time compensating for gaps in knowledge by augmenting her studies with the unwavering support of professors and preempting coursework during the summer recess. This is the type of reputation that propelled her through high school and into two scholarships, one at Princeton where she completed a history degree with distinction and another at Yale where she earned a law degree. When she was not belaboring the textbooks, perusing lecture notes or consulting the largess of her contemporary pundits, she advocated for the hiring of Hispanic professors and administrators in order to adequately address the changing tide of student demographics. The senior thesis she submitted was extensive but revealed an intellectually mature assessment of the political and economic development of Puerto Rico; a place she continues to revisit. Before launching into a career in public and private service, Sonia Sotomayor held teaching posts at New York University and Columbia University.

The burden carried by her father’s living ordeal and subsequent passing, marked the first obstacle facing her family as a child. During the late 1970s and through most of the 1980s, the crime rate in New York City buckled the judicial system in the region. Being a newly minted attorney, Sonia Sotomayor encountered the gamut of social evils; shoplifting, prostitution, illicit drugs, murder, counterfeiting, notwithstanding police brutality. This time she advocated not for the dearth of Hispanics in higher education, but rather, the violence perpetrated by Hispanics against Hispanics in the streets. Her reputation gained momentum once more as she proved her stature as a litigator with an uncanny ability to expound the complex legal ramifications of the case in a demeanor described as comprehensive and palpable.

Her unrelenting determination to uphold the ideals of her upbringing and her education, paved the way for a series of career directions that would illuminate her ascendancy to the Supreme Court. To start, a nomination to Federal District Judge in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, as recognized by President George H. W. Bush. Followed by, a nomination to Court of Appeals Judge in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, underscored by President Bill Clinton.

Sonia Sotomayor does not discount the drudgery that is the hallmark of a legal career, particularly one commandeered with such overbearing personal aspirations. Her drive has undoubtedly led to the nomination of U. S. Supreme Court Judge, an honor cast upon by President Barak Obama. This fortuitousness may have contributed to the divorce with husband Kevin Noonan, but as she adamantly points out, it was not the overriding factor. They did not raise any children together; consequently, Sonia Sotomayor shares her steadfast admiration for the New York Yankees with her nephew and godson. A book highlighting her life in the Bronx community, the starting point of her rise to prominence, made the New York Times Bestseller List. The Bronx housing complex, where her family resided decades ago, has been renamed in her honor. In yet another solemn gesture, a public high school in Los Angeles, California bears her name, standing as a beacon for generations to ponder.

The once unassuming individual who struggled to outperform in college, now counts honorary degrees from a bevy of universities — starting in 1999 through 2013 — Lehman College, Princeton University, Brooklyn Law School, Pace University School of Law, Hofstra University, Northeastern University School of Law, Howard University, St. Lawrence University, New York University, Yale University, and the University of Puerto Rico. Sonia Sotomayor complements her official itinerary with speaking events focusing on prevalent social issues as a departure, if slight, from the demands of promulgating justice. That agenda covers a modest range of concerns, most notably, ethnicity and gender.

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