60 Minutes: Sonia From The Bronx & Do We Need Affirmative Action?

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60 Minutes: Justice Sotomayor

Scott Pelley seemed pretty pleased with himself for scoring an interview with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Hispanic member. The 58-year-old hails from the Bronx, and tells her story in a memoir, My Beloved World. Just call her Sonia from the Bronx.

60 Minutes: Sonia Sotomayor Stubborn

Sotomayor took Pelley to the public housing project where she grew up; now she is greeted by the residents as if she never left. She recalled standing up to bullies who would beat up her brother in their childhood years.

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The justice considers herself “obstinate” and “stubborn,” which has contributed to her success: “There is some personal need to persevere, to fight the fight. And if you just try, and be stubborn about trying, you can do what you set your mind to,” she said.

60 Minutes: Sonia Sotomayor Supreme Court

60 Minutes: Sonia From The Bronx & Do We Need Affirmative Action?

60 Minutes profiled Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, or as she prefers to be called, Sonia from the Bronx. How did she achieve such success in life? (K2 images / Shutterstock.com)

By the age of 10, she knew she wanted to be a judge. Her career took her to a federal court, later an Appeals Court, and finally the Supreme Court, which she called “terrifying” at first. She thought her nerves would show.

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Her votes often fall on the liberal side, and she is outspoken with questions about the cases presented before her and the other justices.

60 Minutes: Sonia Sotomayor Diabetes

When she was eight years old, Nancy Drew inspired Sotomayor to become a police officer; I think that’s a stage many of us go through with those types of books as fodder.

But Type 1 Diabetes changed the game for her during childhood. She soon learned she would not be able to pursue police work, but Perry Mason gave her the inspiration to pursue the law and approach the same calling from a different perspective.

60 Minutes: Sonia Sotomayor Yale Law

Sonia Sotomayor was spurred into action, because at the time she grew up, those with juvenile diabetes would often die in their 40s. She wanted to achieve as much as possible with the time she had.

“I studied very hard, I partied very hard. I love playing very hard,” she said. Her successes in and out of the classroom took her from a Princeton scholarship to Yale law and the New York prosecutor’s office.

60 Minutes: Sonia Sotomayor Optimism

Sotomayor’s experiences in the prosecutor’s office was hard on her, with a three-and-a-half pack daily smoking habit. That is where she learned that not everyone is a good person. She eventually left, to preserve her optimistic nature.

She said that there may be some people beyond redemption, but most people are very valuable, even if they do some horrible things.

60 Minutes: Sonia From The Bronx

Sonia Sotomayor left the DA’s office after four years, divorced her high school sweetheart, quit smoking and got a job in a corporate law firm. There, her male colleagues were sometimes taken aback by her tough demeanor.

Though she earned some unflattering nicknames, she prefers to think of herself as “Sonia from the Bronx,” because she thinks of her home as “a vibrant, loving, giving community.” She thinks the Bronx gave her and other immigrants the chance to pursue their dreams. She still holds the community dear.

60 Minutes: My Beloved World Review

Her memoir, My Beloved World, explores the beginnings of her life. She tries to return the favor by giving back to kids and sharing hope for the future.

Celina Sotomayor, her mother, was basically a single mother, because her father was an alcoholic. Sonia seemed to know that her father could not help himself, and he passed away when she was nine.

60 Minutes: Sonia Sotomayor Princeton

A motivated student, she was near the top of her high school class in 1972. She admitted that she benefited from affirmative action in getting into Princeton.

“You can’t be a minority in this society without having someone express disapproval about affirmative action,” she said of the criticisms, which started immediately before she was even out of the halls of her high school.

60 Minutes: Sonia Sotomayor Affirmative Action

Sotomayor has since addressed a similar question in a case before the court, in which a white student claimed she was not admitted to the University of Texas due to affirmative action.

The justice would not speak about past or current cases of the court, telling Pelley that she did not want to give people the impression of bias or having already made up her mind about any ruling.

60 Minutes: Do We Need Affirmative Action?

As for affirmative action in the modern day, Sotomayor said that it already works differently than it did when she benefited from it in the ‘70s. “Each school does it in a different way,” she said, deferring judgment on whether the practice is still relevant.

The justice still manages her diabetes as needed, and speaks Spanish in her chambers. As for her mother, Celina, who held the Bible during Sotomayor’s swearing in, she was reluctant to take credit for her her daughter’s successes.

60 Minutes: Sonia Sotomayor Swearing In

Now 40 years after graduating from high school, she swore in Vice President Joe Biden for a second term. And she still recalls the questions about her capability and qualifications that have dogged her along the way.

Pelley said that must be where her stubbornness from. “For me, at least it’s the stubbornness to say, ‘I’m going to do it, and I’m going to do it well.’”

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Comments

  1. mike sanders says

    Sotomayor admitted she got affirmative action, which means she took the spot of more qualified people. Her “wise Latina” remark was racist and s—–. Even worse, each and every vote Sotomayor ever casts will be related to her ideology. What a shame that, even at the Supreme Court, it is all about affirmative action (translation: reverse discrimination).

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