An Incredible Journey (Res. Com. Pedro Pierluisi)

President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court is, understandably, a source of considerable pride for the 45 million Hispanics living in the United States. Hispanics in this country are not a monolithic group--they fall all along the spectrum in terms of political affiliation and background--but they appear to have united around this nomination to a remarkable degree. I think this is a testament to Judge Sotomayor’s professional excellence and inspiring life story. I think it also reflects an appreciation of the historic nature of the nomination, since Judge Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic to serve on the Court.

Judge Sotomayor will bring to the Court a wealth of experience as a judge, prosecutor, and attorney in private practice. For the past 16 years, she has served with distinction as a federal appellate judge on the Second Circuit and, before that, as a district court judge in the Southern District of New York. Judge Sotomayor’s varied legal background makes her exceptionally well-suited to decide the wide range of issues that come before the Court.



Judge Sotomayor’s nomination has generated particular excitement in Puerto Rico, where many of her relatives still reside.  Her parents were born on the Island. Although they moved to the Bronx before she was born, Judge Sotomayor evidently takes great pride in her Puerto Rican heritage. It is interesting--and, I think, significant--that Judge Sotomayor’s senior thesis at Princeton and her student note for the Yale Law Journal both tackled issues concerning Puerto Rico.

Above all, I believe that many people, Hispanic or not, take delight and find motivation in Judge Sotomayor’s personal journey.  Hers is a quintessentially American story, one that would be possible in few other countries. Armed with little more than the fierce love of her family, especially her mother, and a old set of encyclopedias, this determined little girl from a New York housing project has gone to Princeton, to Yale, to our country’s most hallowed legal institutions--and now, if confirmed by the Senate, to the highest court in the land. As I wrote in a letter to President Obama earlier this month, in which I expressed my hope that he would consider Judge Sotomayor for the Court, “her nomination would serve as an inspiration to all those who remain skeptical about whether hard work can overcome humble beginnings.”

During President Obama’s press conference announcing her nomination, Judge Sotomayor said something I found deeply moving. “Although I grew up in very modest and challenging circumstances, I consider my life to be immeasurably rich.” I think we, as a nation, will be immeasurably richer when Judge Sotomayor becomes Justice Sotomayor.