Office of the President

September 11, 2018

A dose of inspiration from Justice Sotomayor

Ana Mari Cauce

This weekend, I had the tremendous honor of interviewing Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was invited here by the University Book Store and the UW School of Law to talk about her newest book, Turning Pages. It’s a picture book for young children that describes the most significant events of her life through the lens of her love for books, reading and language. “The key to my success,” she told us, “was reading and learning…. People need help, and for me, that help was books,” a message that resonated deeply with the many parents and children in the audience.

AMC and SotomayorIt was inspiring to speak with the Justice – something I’ve had the pleasure of doing once before, when she visited the University a few years ago to discuss her autobiography, My Beloved World. At Sunday’s event, I was reminded once again how utterly approachable she is as a person. In fact, she couldn’t be confined to the stage in Kane Hall! After addressing a few questions, she stepped into the crowd, trailed by her secret service protection, and continued answering questions submitted by the audience as she cheerfully posed for pictures with dozens of excited children and young people.

Justice Sotomayor spoke movingly and candidly about the struggles she has encountered and her deep faith that everyone has within them the power to overcome obstacles and to make the world a better place – an idea that is central to our mission on behalf of those we serve here at the UW. She talked about her dual identities as a Latina and an American and her profound conviction that both identities – like the multiple identities we all have – are complementary, not conflicting.sotomayor at kane

She explained her philosophy of law in a way that the children could understand, but also spoke to the adults. Laws, she said, are a system of rules that govern our relationships with each other as people in ways that minimize harm. And she reminded us that when laws stop being helpful, it’s up to us as the citizens of a democracy to change them.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share the stage with Justice Sotomayor, but even more grateful to witness her extraordinary effect on our vibrant, curious, engaged community. Thank you to everyone who came out for the event, to the organizers and to Justice Sotomayor, who inspires us through her life and work.