Last Updated on June 27, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 334
Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, presents her path to that position in her memoir, My Beloved World. While it is clear on every page that she is an exceptional person, she takes the position that what she achieved is within the reach of every child. She is straightforward about the challenges she faced in coming from an underprivileged childhood in New York’s gritty South Bronx neighborhood. By not sidestepping the effects of that adversity, she encourages others to work hard, even through life's difficulties:
There are uses to adversity, and they don’t reveal themselves until tested. Whether it’s serious illness, financial hardship, or the simple constraint of parents who speak limited English, difficulty can tap unsuspected strengths.
Referring to serious illness, Sotomayor knows what she is talking about, having been diagnosed with type-1 diabetes at age seven. Her family was distraught, and she struggled to understand what her diagnosis meant for her future. She soon realized that she couldn't rely on her parents too much if she wanted to manage her disease effectively. The strong sense of independence and personal responsibility that Sotomayor developed in response to this realization would stay with her for life.
. . . the disease also inspired in me a kind of precocious self-reliance that is not uncommon in children who feel the adults around them to be unreliable.
In addition to her personal struggles, Sotomayor speaks of her philosophy in practicing the law and building bridges by engaging in “a respectful dialogue with one’s opponent.” This philosophy served her, not only in her professional life, but in her personal relationships as well.
I felt myself more a mediator than a crusader. My strengths were reasoning, crafting compromises, finding the good and the good faith on both sides of an argument, and using that to build a bridge. Always, my first question was, what’s the goal? And then, who must be persuaded if it is to be accomplished?
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