In Conversation With U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

In Conversation With U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

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“This text is being provided in
a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime
Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate
communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim
record of the proceedings. ” SPEAKER: I hope we’re
fashionably late this afternoon. The Justice is getting micced up
right now. Good afternoon distinguished guests and
colleagues. Thank you for joining the law Library of
Congress and the United States Supreme Court today for the 2019
Supreme Court Fellows Program annual lecture. My name is Jane
Sanchez and I have the honor of serving as the 25th law Librarian of Congress. [applause] The Law Library serves as the nation’s custodian of nearly 3
million items from all countries and legal systems of the world. Our foreign law specialists are
a diverse group of foreign-trained attorneys and specialists with a
diverse group of librarians as well. We do information and analysis
of 270 countries around the world. Our skilled Law Library staff,
both American-trained and Law
Librarians also provide research assistance and reference on U.S.
, federal, and state legal issues.
While our collection and expertise reach across all points of the
globe, for today’s event… we partnered with our next door neighbor, who happens to be the
highest court in the country. While I don’t want to overstate
our love and admiration for our
colleagues across street, it is probably not mere coincidence
that we hold today’s event on Valentine’s Day. [laughter]
Just saying. This afternoon, we’re pleased to
be able to collaborate with the Supreme Court as they celebrate their
46th year of the fellows program. It is well-known that our
featured speaker today has an affinity for baseball. If any of you have time to stay
after the event, I encourage you to head up to the specked floor of this
building to see our baseball Americana exhibition. It features items from the
library’s collections and as well as from the national
baseball Hall of Fame. And MLB. Please note that today’s program
is being live streamed on the
Library of Congress YouTube channel, so all sounds, images and remarks will be
captured on video. Please take a moment to silence your cell phones and refrain from
taking photos during the event. At this time, I’d like to invite
Jeffrey P. Minear, Executive Director of
the Supreme Court Fellows Program and counselor to the
Chief Justice of the United States. Thank you. [applause] SPEAKER: Thank you, Jane, for
your warm introduction and thanks to you and the Law Library of Congress for
your fellowship in sponsoring this afternoon’s event. It’s
wonderful to have such a great turnout for a very special
gathering of the friends and alumni of the program. Let me say just a word about the
program in my capacity as its Executive Director. Each year,
the Supreme Court fellows commission made up of federal
judges and other legal leaders appointed by
the Chief Justice selects four talented professionals to spend
a year within the federal judiciary, participating in
court administration, while engaging in research and other enrichment
activities. Today’s event is a public
component of two days of activities in which we celebrate
our current Supreme Court fellows and bring together 46
years of fellows program alumni. Over the course of today and
tomorrow, we will also select next year’s fellows from the
superb finalists who are with us this afternoon.
I understand we have many law students with us in the audience
today, as well as law clerks from several courts in the
federal and state systems. If you care about the judiciary and
are interested in how our federal courts work, I hope you will take the
time to learn about the fellowship opportunity we offer
and consider applying in a future year. I invite you to visit our
website at fellows.supremecourt. gov. Applications for the 2021 class
will be due in November. First, we have a great feature
this afternoon. We’ll be joined by the 111th
justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, the honorable
Sonia Sotomayor. Who has served on the Supreme Court since 2009. Six years ago, Justice Sotomayor
published her best-selling autobiography My Beloved World.
Last year she released two more volumes. The Beloved World of Sonia
Sotomayor, Middle School Readers and Turn
Pages for elementary school readers. These books have been
inspiring people of all ages. We have two wonderful
moderators for today’s conversation. Chief judge
Robert A. Katzmann from the United States
Court of Appeals. He’s also the chairman of the
Supreme Court Fellows Commission. Professor Eloise Pasachoff is a
distinguished scholar at Georgetown University Law
Center. She’s an academic from the
Fellows Program. She served two two highly
regarded chairs that may sound familiar. Justice Sotomayor and Judge
Katzmann. Please give them a warm welcome. [applause] [cheering and applause] SPEAKER: This room is so
beautiful. It’s just a beautiful room. SPEAKER: I have the privilege
of asking the first question… [laughter]
SPEAKER: Justice Sotomayor, a few years ago… you wrote the
best-selling, my beloved world. Which is widely acclaimed,
available in paperback, required reading
in school districts across the country. In the past year, you
published two more books, this time for younger readers. One called Turning Pages and the other called The Beloved
World of Sonia Sotomayor. You managed to do this while having
a busy important day job. What motivated you to write
these books? SPEAKER: I should tell the story
of My Beloved World. The publication department
called me up one day and said, we really should do this event. I said, Michelle, it’s hard for
me to break away and do that event, I just can’t say yes. I stopped her and said, I have a
distracting little job. [laughter]
SPEAKER: She actually quoted those words and put them up on
her desk. Writing these books isn’t a
distraction for me, writing these particular books was an
important mission for me. The middle school book, The
Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor, was a
product of my cousin, Miriam, who is a
bilingual education middle school teacher
in Stamford, Connecticut. She’s been using my adult book for
lesson plans for her students for a number of years. She kept insisting she needed a
middle grade book. Because the parents book, now that I have
two kids books… now I call My Beloved World the
parent book. [laughter]
My parent book had too many sophisticated concepts. She
wanted a middle school book that dealt more with the stories that
children could more-easily understand. They talked about a younger
reader book. I realized that would be a book that was equally
as important. For those who are adults, I
ended up loving the young reader book, Turning Pages. The illustrations and I didn’t
do them. Lula dela Cray [phonetic] did
and they are beautiful. I had no idea how hard illustrators
worked until I worked with one. She did incredibly, extensive
research on every single theme. She was on the internet
constantly to make sure that every single detail was
accurate. She went through — I have a
suitcase of old photographs, lots of people have gone through that suitcase,
including me… she not-only went through it,
but devoured it and found things I didn’t know. So… one scene in turning pages, she
gave me a picture with me and these flowered pants and I wrote
back “I would never wear flowered pants.” [laughter] And she sent me back a picture
of a kid wearing flowered pants. And I said “I stand corrected. ” But it was that — she’s just
done an extraordinary job. But… it was from the hope that my
story will serve as an inspiration for kids who
came from my kind of background. To know that what I have
achieved is possible for them too. And… that’s the purpose
of my books. To tell those kids who come from
circumstances similar to my own that all dreams are really
possible. And… having a living example, I
think, is terribly important to people who
live in situations in which their life
can often appear impossible or so
desperate that no good can come from it. And so… that’s the purpose of all three
of my books. I hope to give hope.
SPEAKER: So… there’s another way in which you’ve been
touching children’s lives recently, that’s through your
work with civics education. SPEAKER: Ah.
SPEAKER: So… you’ve been active in this
program called ICIVICS [phonetic] founded by
Sandra Day O’Connor. Could you talk to us about why that’s an
important mission? What’s necessary about it — what are
you doing with it? SPEAKER: I’ll tell you how I
started getting involved with ICIVICS. There was an event honoring
O’Connor and Mont speakers was the head
of ICIVIS and she described the purpose of ICIVICS and the games. I wondered if the games could
teach bilingual students. 10% of the United States, could
this be used to teach those civics. She said to me “I love the
games, but they’re too sophisticated for my
students.” For students just beginning to master the English
language — they’re not accessible yet.
My next question was, do you think the games could be tweaked
two make them accessible? She said “let me think about it. ” She said, I’m putting you in
touch with Louise, the one in charge of
ICIVICS and let’s talk about your idea. An Advisory Committee was put
together of educators across the country. The games are being
translated into Spanish, but the exercise taught us that there were things in the English
versions that were hindering slow-learners.
So… one of the things we found out
or realized is… that some slow learners, whether they’re Spanish-speaking or any
other language-speaking or just slow
readers have a problem with literal words. Throw the book at someone. They
don’t understand the secondary meaning of something like that. So… now we created a
glossary, not just for the Spanish speakers, but for the English speakers who have
trouble with literalism and believe it or not, there’s quite
a sizeable population of readers with that difficulty. So… now, there’s an English
glossary and Spanish glossary. So… two of the games have been
translated, they’re now working on more of
the games. But… it was my small contribution to
being as a result of calling about
this issue… to join the board after Justice
O’Connor was stepping away from public life. They wanted a part of the
Supreme Court to always be represented
in ICIVICS because she was its founder and originator. It is surprising how many
people, who are well-educated don’t get 100% on the games.
The kids love them. It teaches them about civics, but… you’re
more fundamental part of your question was why. We can’t preserve our democracy
unless our citizens are informed about
it. Ben Franklin was asked as he was
leaving the constitutional convention, what do we have
doctor? A monarchy or a republic? His response was “a republic, if
you keep it.” We can’t keep it if we’re being educated about our Civic Life
and our civic responsibilities. We have rights, because they
come with obligations and they obligate us to preserve our
democracy. And to make sure it remain
vibrant. My charge, personally, morally as a justice, is to ensure that I
don’t just write about the constitution,
but that I teach about it and try to enview everyone with a
passion and love as deep as the one I feel. We’re working as a community to
empower and ensure that every member is
striving as hard as we are individually to be active in it. I’m doing everything I can to
further it even more than she already did. SPEAKER: I can’t wait to have
you back at your old courthouse —
in the Marshall Courthouse, we launched a circuit-wide project, Justice
for All courts in the community. It’s the nation’s first
coordinated civic education program, involving every court
in our circuit. We have this wonderful learning
center where children can come in and
meet with the judges. We have teachers institutes where teachers come in and meet with
judges and scholars about social studies. We have curriculum exchanges
with the boards of education on how to
teach. We go out to the communities
every day… Law Week, Constitution Week and
we’ve got a wonderful poster about
you, so you definitely have to come back. We’re working on an exhibit and
her time. Sonia Sotomayor was born in
1954. You’ll be able to check what she was doing in 1970. [laughter] SPEAKER: It’s a way of
bringing our young people closer to the communities and the
courts. So… we can’t wait to have you
back with us… SPEAKER: Make sure you visit
500 Pearl Street. The learning center, I served before it was
opened. Pieces of it before it was open. SPEAKER: It said 40 Foley.
SPEAKER: Oh… sorry. SPEAKER: One of the things
that’s quite moving as an example —
SPEAKER: They’re right next door to each other. >>SPEAKER: For a young
person, how extraordinary is it to bring to life one of the
great icons. You were a judge before
President Obama nominated you to the Supreme Court. . Then as a
countertops judge in New York. What are some of the differences
between your day-to-day work on those courts and your current
day-to-day work on the Supreme Court? I won’t ask you which job you
like better… [laughter]
SPEAKER: But I’ll answer that. I’ll include an answer to
that. [laughter]
SPEAKER: I’ve often described the difference between the three courts as follows. District court life is like
controlled chaos. There’s a fast-move ing pace
every single moment of every single day. There are countless
different motions running and… jumping through your door. There are hearings and trials
and procedures of all kinds occurring in the courtroom. What you can expect is that one
day will never look like the preceding day and no two days
are ever identical. The amount of information you absorb as a judge is an, in one given day,
is so large that at the end of my first year as a district court judge, I
told a friend that I finally understood why the brain is a
muscle. All the knowledge I was stuffing
into it, it’s a good thing it was a muscle and could stretch. It is not only varied in the
matters the district court judge is
handling, and the issues that you’re dealing with, but it’s
also varied in your human interactions with people. You’re dealing with lawyers and
not just in cursory ways, the conference room where a motion
might be, but in the hearing, they’ll appear before you for a number of hours, if not days,
and certainly for days, if not weeks or months in an extended
trial. You get to know, not just those
lawyers and their personalities, but their styles and what’s
important to them as litigators, as they get to know what’s
important to me, as a judge. It’s very personal enterprise
and… you’re hearing witnesses, you’re hearing from parties, you’re
dealing with jurors and their own pica
dillos and their own reactions. One of the most-fun things to do
was to present a litigator before her case or a jury and
watch how the jury was reacting. I’d often take notes and at the
end of the trial, go back to the litigants and say “when you did
this, the jurors didn’t like it. ” And I’ll tell you why I think
why or they really enjoyed that part of your presentation.
Maybe you should think of including more of that in what
you’re doing. What you’re focused in on as a
trial judge, a district court judge is the parties before you. And you’re trying to resolve
their dispute. You’re trying to understand why
this case is important to them, what about the issues is
motivating this dispute and… you’re also trying to figure out
what’s important to them in terms of settling the case if
you can. That’s part of your charge to try to avoid the
litigation, if you can. You’ll have to understand the why of
doing that. Finding justice for those two
parties, when ours a Court of Appeals and Appellate Court,
it’s a different kind of justice. You’re trying and
dealing within the parameters set by the Supreme Court and the precedence it’s created and
the precedence of your own circuit and looking for
uniformity in that part of your world in the circuit. You’re trying to find justice
under the law, as it exists at that moment
in that place, your circuit. So… it’s justice for the law in that
place. When you’re on the Supreme
Court, and their life is more
contemplative, you are dealing with lots of cases, certainly not as many as on the
district court. Only about, I think, it’s ten,
the maximum, 15% of all district court cases ever end up on
appeal, generally. And so… you’re dealing with a
volume that is, by definition, much smaller than on the
district court. Most of the cases, not all… they all have one or more twist
in them, but… they’re more clearly controlled by precedent
than not. You do get, maybe… in that 10%, 10% of the cases
that might ultimately be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
So… it’s a smaller fraction of your
overall work. And… I don’t want to say the circuit
court can become more routinized, but it does have a
pace where there are things that are much more controlled,
clearly by prior law, prior precedence and so… what you’re trying to do is to
ensure that you get to your work in an efficient way, so… the parties are not kept waiting
forever. The same task the district court
is trying to do, but you’re trying
to be clear for those parties within your jurisdiction.
Supreme Court, well… we take now, on average, 60 to
70 cases a term. It’s been closer to 60, Mark,
the last couple years, okay? The last couple terms. There’s
less volume, but… every case, the Supreme Court takes is a
Supreme Court case. And what that means is… that it’s an unsettled area of
law. It’s an area in which reasonable
jurors across the country have disagreed. Because… we rarely have ever taken a case
unless there’s a split among the courts below. There are 13
circuit courts across the country and those courts don’t
all agree on issues of law. And it is those cases that the
Supreme Court exists to correct. Those cases in which those
reasonable judges of both genders are agreeing or
disagreeing. They’re harder cases. We tend
to have much more reading than even the courts below. The number of Amica briefs can
number into the multiples of 10. And… the briefing may be the same
size on the Court of Appeals, but… the research, in terms of not
just what the case readings, themselves,
but even for me, reading articles and journals about areas of law in those
areas that I know less about, or am less comfortable with, is
much more extensive on the Supreme Court than it was on the
lower courts. But… what are we doing justice for? We’re doing justice for the law
as it should be. Because… we’re not just
looking at the case before us. There are some who would argue
that’s what the Supreme Court should be doing. But… every
time we announce a principle of law, we are, or of
interpretation of law, we are deciding not just that case…
but the cases that come after it. So… it’s not uncommon in the
Supreme Court for a Supreme Court Justice to
ask a litigant if we follow your
rules, isn’t the natural outcome this other extreme? So… I’ll give you an
example that occurred on the Court of Appeals, but it happens
regularly on the circuit court. I had a case involving the first amendment, where a judge had , issues a gag order, stopk the
press from reporting on information
that had been disclosed in court. And the appeal came to us, by
the litigant, by the newspaper, who claimed that was an
abridgement of the first amendment. Because… anything said publically in
court… was subject to public
dissemination. One of the questions that I
asked was… what happens in the following
scenario? There is a bomber on trial, a
terrorist, and he takes the stand. And in the middle of his
testimony, he says… these infadels have to be
destroyed. Another bomb will go off in five
minutes. This is prove that God is not
here to save you. The prosecutor jumps up and
says, your Honor, please bar the press from leaving the room and disseminating this
story. We need to call the FBI to get
them there in time to save people and try to find that
bomb. What does the judge do? The lawyer says he denies the
request that came out in open court. I looked at him and I
say… and you’re unwilling to save all of those people when
those five minutes could be saved?
And his response was… judge… I didn’t tell you that in the
order of his courtroom he couldn’t lock
the door for five minutes. Not a perfect answer, but an
answer. That’s what we do with all of our cases. We take the
principles that we announce and try to figure out where they
will lead us. Where they’re going to lead the
society and the lower courts. And if it’s a place that doesn’t
seem to fit within the constitutional theory, as we
understand it, then we have to look at the premise and figure
out if we need to change an outcome.
And so… for us, it is justice for the
law as it should be. And those are, very much, the stark
differences between the three courts. An answer to your unspoken
question… [laughter]
SPEAKER: I didn’t ask who your favorite colleague was. [laughter]
SPEAKER: That, I won’t answer. I have announced that if I ever,
if, underscore that word, undertake senior status… that I would go back to being a
district court judge. It’s a lot of fun. [laughter]
SPEAKER: I’m going to follow-up on the fun part in that last
sentence and ask… what do you do for fun with a
busy, important day job. How do you relax and unwind
after all this? SPEAKER: First of all… I love exercise — I do do some
exercise, when I’m not injured. Some injuries are
self-reflected. Falling isn’t a smart thing to
do — I love exercise. I do like reading fiction as
opposed to serious books when I can.
That seems to be getting relegated to my summers than to
the term year. I’ve been doing my book tour and got to read a
lot of children’s books lately. And… that’s been a lot of fun.
And… I also like playing poker.
[laughter] SPEAKER: And I play poker with
people I really like. SPEAKER: Before we open it up
for Q&A from the audience, do you have in mind a next book?
SPEAKER: It’s coming out in September. It’s a second children’s book. When the publisher was very
interest did in doing the story of my
life, Turning Pages is that, for young
readers, but… I conditioned it on doing the children’s book
that I wanted to do forever. And it’s a book about children
who face life challenges. And it was born from an incident
that occurred to me, that happened to
me, not occurred — happened to me when I was younger. I was in a restaurant and I, at
a time when I was hiding my diabetes
from the world and went into a bathroom
and was taking my shot. Someone happened to walk in while hi was
doing it. I sort of finished what I was
doing the left the room. As I was leaving the restaurant and walking by the table of the
woman who had come in, she was leaning
over into her companion as I walked by and
said “she’s a drug addict” in a stage whisper and I was
outraged. I walk back to her and said “I’m
a diabetic and that shot I took is my insulin and what I use to stay
alive, you should not be judgmental and
judging people. If you don’t know something, ask, don’t
assume” and I walked away. And as I’ve been living my life
and I have many, many friends with
children with chronic conditions, and
some with conditions, obviously… they can’t help, like Tourette’s
Syndrome. In the store, recently, someone looked at my
friend and said… can’t you control your child? Because her child had twisted in
an unusual way and banged into her
by mistake and my friend was just so hurt for her daughter. And that incident… and mine, made me realize that I
wanted to write a children’s book about
kids, and there are so many of us,
with conditions that challenge their life and I wanted to explain that the
richness of those conditions, richness in the sense of the positive things that they
bring to our life as a community.
And so… my next book is Just Ask. Hence where the title
came from, right? Be different, be brave, be you. That’s the title of the book.
It describes children with all kinds of conditions. Diabetes,
obviously. I start out with me. But… children in wheelchairs,
children who are blind, children who are
deaf, children with Tourette’s Syndrome, children who have
attention deficit, children with Down Syndrome, children of all kinds with life challenges
and I describe the frustrations of
those challenges, the difficulties, but also, the
things that they help us with. How they make us stronger and
more-important contributing members to our community. It’s set in a garden and I show
how every garden has different things in it, just like the
world does. And we’re a richer garden and a
richer world, because of children who are different. And
so… that’s my book. It comes out in September.
SPEAKER: We can’t wait for that book to come out. SPEAKER: I told the doctor he
has to put it in his office. SPEAKER: We’ll now have Q&A
from the audience. SPEAKER: All right… I’m coming
down to say hello to everybody. Are you going to be brave enough
to get up and tell me who asked the question?
SPEAKER: Yes… as Jeff Minear, our leader,
pointed out, this is it a gathering of the Supreme Court
Fellows Commission. We’re going to hear questions
from Supreme Court fellows, alumni. The first question is from Sara
Wilson. SPEAKER: Sara, where are you?
She knows me very well. She probably knows me better than I
know myself. It’s great to see you — she was
an instrumental part of my being on the Supreme Court because she
was the person who led me through my district
court nomination. So… I’m internally grateful to her.
[applause] SPEAKER: Thank you for those
wonderful remarks. What advice would you give a new judge,
either a new trial judge or a new intermediate appellate
judge, given that you have served on all levels of the
federal judiciary? SPEAKER: Ah… that’s a — I’m going to walk up
— I need somebody to guide me. You come down —
SPEAKER: I don’t need that — SPEAKER: Thank you, sir.
SPEAKER: Um… it’s advice that you’re
obviously going to find difficult to understand. To be a judge, you have to be
decisive. You have to come to a conclusion. Both because you can’t angst
forever about one case. Otherwise… everybody who
appears before you will suffer. That kind of delay will cause justice, justice delays, justice
denied [indiscernible], is very
important to understand and respect. On the other hand…
you have to be willing to admit when you make mistakes. And many of us forget that when
you become a judge. There’s a temptation to say
“well, that’s the way I ruled, I had to be right.” Or I can’t
look indecisive to others, so… I can’t change my mind. I think
that’s an error. I think that you have to use
judgment. You have to work efficiently at
thinking about all the possibilities and coming to a
decision. But… every once in awhile, you should
pause and rethink something, to ensure you got it right. One of the justices I
most-admired, John Paul Stevens, one of the
speeches, last speeches that I heard him give, just after he left the bench was
at Fordham Law School in which he described the three areas of
law where his views had changed over time. Where he had become educated by
learning that he had been wrong. And… I hope that I can follow his
example. I have, in small ways, and so…
especially in trials, not all the time, because you can’t do
it all the time, but… occasionally, I’d be in the
middle of a trial and someone would raise an objection, I’d
say denied and I go home that night or go back to my
office and say to my law clerks “I’m
uncomfortable with that decision, please help me find
some research on it” and I read it and go back the next morning and say
“I made a mistake, let’s start again,
start over.” There’ve been moments on the Court of Appeals where I wrote an opinion
and after writing it, said “I’m wrong” and wrote a second
opinion and went the other way. I’ve sent both to the panel.
And I said… I wrote myself out of this. [laughter]
SPEAKER: In one case, the panel went with me. In another case, they went the
other way. And… ultimately, I was proven
right, but that’s beside the point. [laughter]
SPEAKER: But… if I give any advice to a new
judge… is… keep an open mind. I think that ability to say “I
can make mistakes” let’s you listen
in a way that opens you up to accepting that you’re a human
being and that your initial thoughts on something don’t have
to be your final thoughts. And so… for me, that’s, that
has been an important lesson. SPEAKER: Our second question
comes from Derrick Webb. A 2014/15 Supreme Court Fellow.
SPEAKER: Hello, how are you? SPEAKER: Good to see you.
I’ve heard recently that you’ve been working with your neighbor on
the bench, Justice Gorsuch on civic education programming.
SPEAKER: We have, we’ve had so much fun. But… I can’t talk him into coming off
the stage. SPEAKER: All right…
SPEAKER: I keep telling him over time he’ll get used to it.
SPEAKER: You might prevail on that. The question I had — why
did the two of you decide to get into this program on civic education, in a moment
when citizens and lawyers are having difficult times talking
with each other across political differences and legal
differences, what connection do you see between your program
work on civic education and the other virtue of sort of,
civility? SPEAKER: I think that the
Supreme Court is a prime example for the
nation. Of how you can agree, disagree
agreeably. And… that’s a hard thing to do. To listen to people who are
fundamentally different than you are. And… to really go head-to-head with
them on an issue and… if you’ve seen some of our
writing, you know that in writing, we go
head-to-head. We’re not always so civil in writing… we’re
trying to fix that up… but we’re not always as civil as
I’d like… including me. That’s always because you’re
passionate. It’s very hard to disagree with somebody and… they write something that you
think is terribly wrong and you not want to take them and shake
them and say… why can’t you see this? What’s wrong with
you? [laughter]
SPEAKER: That’s the gut instinct. The hard part is to
fight that gut and say… okay… you disagree with me, I will try
to understand why. I will explain in my opinion why you’re
wrong. And… if you still don’t agree… I’m going to
leave it to history to figure it out. But… I don’t have to
dislike you because of it. I think that we forget that
people who differ from us, even though what
we sometimes think are fundamental issues, and… you know, I had a friend who
once said to me… “my son can’t marry a republican”
[laughter] SPEAKER: And I looked at her and
said… you can’t really mean that. That’s ridiculous. And
she said “no, no, there’s a fundamental difference in values
between the two parties. ” And I said “there’s no
fundamental difference in values between people. ” We all have some basic values
that cut across cultures, gender, parties, religions,
everything. We are all committed to family. We all believe in the importance
of family and being supportive, in loving those people who are a
part of us. We all believe in friendship.
And being supportive in those friendships. We all believe in our country,
we all want us to succeed. Those are the fundamental values
that we have to look to. Now… the expressions of it, we can
fight about, we can talk about, but you have to look at the good in people.
You cannot look at what you’re painting as bad, as defining
them as human beings. And so… if you start from there, it
becomes easier to disagree agreeably.
And… Justice Gorsuch and I have found
ways to do that. We have disagreed, all right, on a lot
of things… but we agreed on a couple things and one of the
things we’re most committed to is civic education, both of
us and it didn’t matter to me that he
wasn’t say, voting with me more often. Hopefully over time I’ll
convince him. [laughter] But in the interim, it’s fun to
work with him. It is fun… I mean, people are reporting that
we’re constantly laughing on the bench together. We can poke fun at each other
and it is poking fun. It’s not criticism, it’s not
anger. It’s just enjoyment. Of each other as people. He’s a
lovely person. And… to the extent that both of us
fundamentally love this country and love children as much, we’re
doing something that we both think is important. I hope most
of the world would figure out how to find that common ground. And work in that common ground
more often. But… we tend to be going to the
uncommon, rather than the common ground.
SPEAKER: We have time for one last question. SPEAKER: We
have time for one last question. Debra? 2015/16 Supreme Court Fellow. SPEAKER: Hello, Debra. I didn’t pick these guys, okay?
[laughter] SPEAKER: But I happen to know
and like them all. SPEAKER: You spoke earlier about
what you hope children will take from the books that you’ve been
writing over the past few years. I’m wondering what you’ve
learned about yourself through the process of writing these
books? SPEAKER: I’ve learned so much.
But… about myself… well… I’ve learned a lot about — you
know, if you — I went to an event in
Chicago and there was a reporter who
came up to me at the event and said… “how many years of psychotherapy
have you been in?” [laughter]
SPEAKER: And I looked at her and said “what are you talking about?”
She said “nobody could write this kind of book without having
gone through therapy.” And my answer was “this book has been
my therapy.” You know… the reason I wrote the book was
my first year on the Supreme Court,
it was such a shocking, jarring experience. I went from a modest stage in
New York… it wasn’t so modest a job, but
it was abruptly a job from the Circuit
Court of Appeals and was on a limited
stage there. To a world stage. I was catapulted and yanked out
of a semi private life into this
world stage. And… everything was happening so
fast. The hearings were
[indiscernible], all of a sudden, I’m at the Supreme
Court, nominated at the end of May, I’m
at the Supreme Court in the beginning of April. (? ) The first case on my desk is
Citizens United, all right in one of the biggest cases,
probably one of the most-important cases in modern
times. And… I’m being fitted by presidents,
vice presidents, senators, representatives, people from
around the globe, famous people, not so famous people… but… you know, I had dinner with
Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony. [laughter]
SPEAKER: How are you? And… I became afraid… you know… I
gotta get around. I became afraid… yes… that in this process… I would
lose me. You’ve heard the old adage
“absolute power corrupts, absolutely” and I realized that
being in this kind of position can both isolate you
and… absorb you. So… you became self absorbed. And… I needed a way to avoid that.
So… what did I do? I absorbed myself in myself, by
taking that first summer and escaping
from being a justice. To looking at my life and trying
to figure out and remember how I got where I got. And… that’s what My Beloved World is,
is that personal journey for me. Of remembering the people, the
life situations, and the circumstances that created who I
am. And… it’s that, that I want to keep a
part of me. How much I valued and value, all of those people who have made
little pieces of me is so deeply ingrained in
my psyche and so important to me. And I wanted to make them real
for other people… but I also wanted you to find,
within yourselves that which created you. And to learn how to appreciate
it even with all its warts. I never thought, and it’s hard
to explain, there are incidents in my book that I describe, that
I never thought that I could forgive others for. And I think I speak with pride
when I say, the book helped me find
those moments of forgiveness. And so… that was
surprising. Because we all hold hurts and
moments of anger that are so deep within
us that we never think we can let them go. And… writing the book has helped me
do that. So… yes… that’s what it’s
taught me. Which is… there is nothing we can’t figure
out. Especially if we figure out what we’ve learned from it.
And so… it’s been a joy for me to write
these books. Just Ask book will be slightly
different venue for me, but even there — I’m sharing and letting go of
some of the anger that I had about being
different. Because… I think every child who is different in
some way… or perceives themselves to be,
holds some hurts and anger about it. And so… I’ve learned for myself, how to
let some of that go and I hope it will help them do the same. [applause] SPEAKER: Thank you. So much. SPEAKER: Justice Sotomayor, on
behalf of Eloise Pasachoff, we know that you’ll
always be brave, be bold, and be you.
SPEAKER: Thank you. [applause] ET]. “This text is being provided in
a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime
Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate
communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim
record of the proceedings. ”

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