A thousand lives, ten thousand, more: a child of poverty, growing up in the projects, racial minority, dad didn’t speak English, raised by mom alone after her father’s death when she was very young. Her mother worked six days a week to send her to Catholic school, to be sure that books and food were available, to inspire her to achieve. The indelible, incredible, unassailable inspiration of the mother. The desire to make all of that hard work and sacrifice mean something. She went to college, a triumph over family history, over those who told her that she should settle for less, that she would never become much of anything. Women across the generations had heard this discouraging mantra; for this woman from the projects in the Bronx, it was a clarion call, a taunt demanding rebuttal.
Here’s where the story begins to diverge from most: she didn’t just go to college, she went to Princeton. Princeton! In 1976, Princeton, only recently coed, was not the most hospitable of places for women, and surely it must have seemed strange for this daughter of Puerto Rico by way of the Bronx. She called it “alien” and intimidating.
She was not so intimidated that she couldn’t do well. Indeed, she graduated summa cum laude, a stunning achievement. Off to Yale Law School, became editor of the law review, then work with the New York D.A., then named to the federal bench — a seat on the United States District Court! — by none other than the first President George Bush. Soon, elevation to the United States Court of Appeals, one step below the Supremes.
Enough achievement for most, a true story of the American Dream realized.
But, wait, there’s more….
Today, President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court of the United States. If confirmed, she will be the first Hispanic justice, and only the third woman ever to serve on that august bench.
In the days to come, we’ll learn so much more about Judge Sotomayor, and her judicial record will be scrutinized in microscopic detail, her personal habits, tax records, public utterings, private life all put out onto the public square like fodder for hungry chickens to peck around. The blogs are already on overdrive, battle lines are draw on left and right, and Rush Limbaugh has already weighed in with some ridiculous comment.
Before it gets too ugly, before this insane political climate chews up yet another person courageous enough to stand for consideration for public office, take a minute to think about her story.
Sonia Sotomayor. A recognizable story for so many. An extraordinary, ordinary life.