I first heard about Sonia Sotomayor in the 5th or 6th grade. When she became Supreme Court Justice of the United States, I felt so inspired. The third woman. The first Hispanic. Woman. Hispanic. Like me. That could be me. She is like me. My mother spoke of her in awe and told me I would be like her when I grew up. Un orgullo Hispano.
Though no longer an aspiration I hold, when I was in the 4th grade I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. For a while, I decided I was going to be an immigration lawyer. I would go once a year with my mom to her immigration lawyer’s office in San Francisco. I told myself I would make my parents citizens one day and would then do the same for other people like them. As I grew up, I learned that there were other kinds of lawyers and so many different areas to study and practice within law. I wanted to make a difference in the justice system because I felt deeply affected by it. If you were to ask me at a young age and if you were to ask me today who my role models are, you can bet that Sonia Sotomayor is on that list.
When I heard that she was releasing an autobiography, titled “My Beloved World,” I awaited it anxiously. Extremely lucky circumstance 1: I won a Kindle Fire in a raffle at the library after reading many books that summer, before my 9th grade, after entering a summary of each book I read. As a result, extremely lucky circumstance 2: My mom, who usually doesn’t buy me brand new books because she knows they are expensive, was more than happy to buy me “My Beloved World” and have it be the first book on my Kindle because she knew how much I admired her.
I had just started the book. A few days later, I walk into my World History class. My history teacher, Brian Belding, was reading the book. I hadn’t really talked to him before, but I had the habit of coming into class early. I was so excited to share that I was reading the book as well. He told me that he was trying to finish it quickly because the following Monday, he and some of his government students were going to see her speak about her book. I was so shocked that she was even in the area. When he told me the event was sold out, I was devastated. My IDOL was going to be speaking 10 minutes from me and I wasn’t aware?!
I went home and told my mom that she was in town. She told me to look up the event and see how much the tickets were. I did not believe that the event was sold out. I looked up the event on the home computer, my mom watching from behind me. The event was in fact sold out and the tickets were not expensive to begin with. It pained me to know that I could have seen her. I started crying and my mom held me in her arms. Hugging me, she told me, “One day you will get to see her in person. Don’t worry.”
A few days later, on the Sunday evening before the event, I received a frantic email from Brian. The most extreme and luckiest circumstance of them all: A student was no longer attending, and Brian knew that Sonia was my hero, so he offered me the extra ticket before asking the rest of the juniors in his government class. I responded as quickly as I could, and bursting in tears, I ran to my mom and told her. She started crying as well and reminded me of how blessed I was.
I could think of nothing else the next day. When my classmates saw how dressed up I was and I told them that I was going to hear Sonia Sotomayor speak, they responded with, “How cool!”, “No way, have fun!”, “You really deserve it.”, and “Lucky!” Finally, the school day ends. As a freshman, I am intimidated by the juniors who are coming along. I feel that I don’t deserve to be going even though I am very excited to see her speak.
When we arrive, we receive free copies of her book. I grasp my copy tightly while we wait in line. Suddenly, a staff member lets us know that because we are students, we not only get to go in early, but we are going to meet Sonia Sotomayor.
My heart rate went 0 to 100 real quick. I felt so nervous. What was I going to say? What was I going to do? Would she even notice me in the group of seven older, much wiser girls? How do you tell your biggest role model why she means so much to you?!
When I see her, I have to take a deep breath to process the fact that Sonia freakin' Sotomayor is in front of me. She greets us warmly. I am put on the spot when she remarks that she has been told that there was a freshman in the group. I raise my hand and she says something I don’t even remember. I was so nervous that I dropped my eos lip balm, and she picks it up and hands it to me.
She starts to sign books and I make sure that I am last in line because I needed time to think carefully about what I was going to say. My head was spinning and no longer forming coherent thoughts because I knew the moment I had to speak to her I was going to blank. Brian gets his book signed and whispers, “Don’t forget to tell her you want to be a lawyer!” Ok, good. He’s right. Somewhere to start.
Finally, it is my turn to get my book signed. I hand it over to her and I start blabbering. I said something like “I just want you to know that you are my biggest role model when I grow up I want to be a lawyer to I’m sorry I’m really nervous…”
She holds her finger up to silence me.
Oh no. Sonia Sotomayor does not want to talk to me.
“Come take my seat in the Court” she says.
I’m stuck. I look back at Brian because at this point I have no idea what is going on and I need to make sure this is not happening in my head. He nods and I look back at Justice Sotomayor.
“What?” is all I can say.
“Come take my seat in the Court” she repeats. “One day, you will be in the position that I am in, and when that day comes, you call me over and I personally will appoint you to be Justice.”
I completely lose it and start crying. I am so mad at myself for crying in front of all these people, especially her. She stands up and gives me a hug. The room is silent. The room is silent.
The other girls are very happy for me and they give me hugs and talk to me as we make our way to our seats. When we are settled, I open my book. I had almost forgotten she had signed it. It reads:
Nohely, come take my seat in the court.