Speaking in the White House's East Room, Obama said he didn't "take this decision lightly" and that "of the many responsibilities granted to the president by our Constitution few are more serious or consequential."
The president said a "rigorous intellect" and a "recognition of the limits" of the law are two very important criteria for a Supreme Court nominee. But he added that those qualities are "insufficient" alone and that the ideal nominee also needs real world experience.
"It is experience that can give a person a common touch and a sense of compassion," he said. "[And it is] a necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need on the Supreme Court."
Obama said that Sotomayor is an "inspiring woman" and said that she has amassed more experience on the bench than any of the current Supreme Court justice had when they were nominated to the high court.
"Over a distinguished career that spans three decades," he said. "Judge Sotomayor has worked at almost every level of our judicial system."
Obama also said that Sotomayor, who was raised in a housing project in the Bronx, has come on an "extraordinary journey."
"She has never forgotten where she began, never lost touch with the community" in which she was raised, Obama said.
In brief remarks, Sotomayor said she is "deeply moved" by the "humbling honor." Sotomayor also touched upon her respect for the law.
"I chose to be a lawyer and ultimately a judge because I find endless challenges in the complexities of the law," she said. "I firmly believe in the rule of law as the foundation for all of our basic rights."
Sotomayor, like Obama, also stressed her focus on the implications of her rulings.
"I strive never to forget the real world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government," she said.