Happy Feminist Friday! Today I’m going to share 8 empowering quotes from Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir My Beloved World. Barack Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in May 2009, making her the first Hispanic and Latina Justice. Born in the Bronx, New York City, Sotomayor was raised by Puerto Rican-born parents and suffered from a diabetes diagnosis as well as the death of her father at a young age. She attended Princeton University (BA) and Yale University (JD) and has since practiced law as a prosecuting attorney, ruled as a judge in several courts, and even taught at a few universities. I’m still trying to figure out how someone can be so darn impressive.
Anyways, on top of being hugely successful in her professional life, Sotomayor is also an inspiring writer. So many parts of My Beloved World stood out to me as empowering, and I’d like to share eight of these quotes today:
“. . . But experience has taught me that you cannot value dreams according to the odds of their coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire. That will, wherever it finally leads, does at least move you forward. And after a time you may recognize that the proper measure of success is not how much you’ve closed the distance to some far-off goal but the quality of what you’ve done today.”
This quote resonated with me because of a personal experience I had when I was in high school. Even back then I knew that I eventually wanted to go to law school and someday be an attorney. One day while working at the public library in my town when I was a senior an older man checking out a book asked me what I wanted to do when I grow up. I told him I wanted to be an attorney and he said, “You know you have to be smart to do that, right?” I wish I could have spit Sonia’s encouraging words back at him (and the fact that I’m now attending law school…).
Such a succinct, poignant explanation of the source of so many of our issues in today’s society. A little empathy goes a long way.
“The persistence or failure of human relationships cannot be predicted by any set of objective or universal criteria. We are all limited, highly imperfect beings, worthy in some dimensions, deficient in others, and if we would understand how any of our connections survive, we would do well to look first to what is good in each of us.”
Now, if this isn’t some good wisdom to absorb after going through a breakup, then I don’t know what is! I definitely needed to hear these words this summer.
“It would take me most of my life to feel remotely put together, and it’s still an effort.”
It’s always comforting to know that even people who seem like they have every aspect of their lives sorted feel uncertain at times.
“The truth is that since childhood I had cultivated an existential independence. It came from perceiving the adults around me as unreliable, and without it I felt I wouldn’t have survived. I cared deeply for everyone in my family, but in the end I depended on myself.”
Sotomayor talks a lot about her experiences with diabetes and not trusting adults as a kid. As someone who has a life-threatening food allergy, I’ve also learned to trust myself more than those around me when it comes to situations where food is involved. I really love how Sotomayor talks about this kind of independence as something intertwined with love for others, not separate from family and friends.
“With every friend I’ve known, in every situation I’ve encountered, I have found something to learn.”
Sotomayor’s passion for learning from every single experience is so inspiring. Definitely something that is important to remember when times are tough.
“When a young person, even a gifted one, grows up without proximate living examples of what she may aspire to become—whether lawyer, scientist, artist, or leader in any realm—her goal remains abstract. Such models as appear in books or on the news, however inspiring or revered, are ultimately too remote to be real, let alone influential. But a role model in the flesh provides more than an inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt, saying, “Yes, someone like me can do this.”
YES. I love how Sotomayor emphasizes the importance and necessity of role models in children’s lives, especially young girls. It can be really daunting to think about all the male-dominated spaces out there in the professional world, even as a twenty-two-year-old woman like myself. Where will I fit in? How will I fit in? Will I fit in? Being surrounded by role models at an early age can help answer some of these questions, or at least show that it is possible to find answers to these questions even if you are a woman.
“I will be judged as a human being by what readers find here. There are hazards to openness, but they seem minor compared with the possibility that some readers may find comfort, perhaps even inspiration, from a close examination of how an ordinary person, with strengths and weaknesses like anyone else, has managed an extraordinary journey.”
I. LOVE. THIS. It’s amazing and brave and so empowering that Sonia Sotomayor is willing to risk being scrutinized in order to possibly help other people who may read her words. We need more voices like hers!
If it isn’t already apparent, I cannot recommend My Beloved World enough!! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Feminist Friday discussion! As always, you can check out my other Feminist Fridays posts here. I’d love to hear of any topics you would like me to discuss in future posts!
Who is your feminist icon? What do you think of these quotes? Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments section below!