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tv   Justice Sonia Sotomayor Participates in Discussion with Students  CSPAN  April 29, 2022 12:13pm-1:12pm EDT

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now to a conversation with supreme court justice sonia sotomayor. at washington university in st. louis. she talks about her relationships with the other justices, and partisanship. >>
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[applause] >> well thank you very much. thank you very much for being here is in the something. >> it is amazing. all of you should know, that he had prepared about 16 questions. and they were also good. i didn't even know what to tell you you should ask. >> that's good. >> so i will be as surprised as all of you are but what questions he picks. okay? >> before we jump in i want to welcome everyone. this is such an extraordinary event for university. at a complicated time in our universities history. in our nation's history. and on behalf of all the students and the faculty and staff, we are so pleased that you are with us today. i also want to thank all of the
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people who made this possible. your office, all of our security folks and our events team. everybody student affairs. this is an extraordinary team effort and i'm proud of the way in which our teams have pulled together to make this possible. and of course i want to thank you. >> i deserve the least thanks. they have done two and a half of the most complicated multi event functions that i've seen put together. you have a fabulous team. >> we have a wonderful team here. >> and a generous and gracious guest. so when we jump right in? >> so when writing about your achievements. and you're trajectory, seems that over and over again chance encounters with the right people are met with deep self awareness to launch you into
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the next step. can you share how you came about positioning such a deep self awareness? and is this something you think people can self cultivate? >> yes. [laughs] >> in answer to the last part of your question. i do think it's something that people can cultivate [laughs] and i think it starts with self on a steak you know, most of us are defensive about our weaknesses because they hurt. no one likes admitting that they feel they can't do something or can't do something well. it's very hard to come to terms with that. internally, and so, one of the things that i have cultivated in my life is licking my wounds
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when things don't go right, because you have to cry a little bit over it. and it's all right to have a little bit of self pity when it happens because it is sowed. but i try very hard after it to try to sit down and analyze the situation without looking at the part that others play, because it's all too easy to ascribe fall to others. and it's much harder to look at yourself and say, what part did i play in this? what am i missing in who and what i do that i need to improve? so, that leads me to what you described as chance encounters. i describe as those moments where i meet someone who i see
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acting and doing things that i ha admire but i'm not sure that i can do and so i'm always looking for mentors and for role models to give me guidance about how to improve myself. and so in each situation, those people enter my life, and i immediately am able to recognize their strengths and understand that i can learn from them. and i think that that's the think that people learn how to do, which is to understand what they need to learn. and then to look for the situations and the people who can help them do that. obviously, my answer is underscoring how important i
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think it is to seek out mentorship. but i also think it's critically important for every person to be able to say the words, i don't know. i often used the example that i was always one of those students in class that if a teacher was talking to fast or was explaining something in a way i didn't understand, i was the first one to raise my hand and say, please slow down. i'm not sure what you are saying. back up. and everybody in the classroom which shake their head, yes. but that is what often happens in rooms. people are talking and others are listening but not willing to admit that they don't know. and that's a skill, thankfully, that i learned, which is a mantra to be open about what
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day to. >> that's terrific advice. so let me ask you a question about your family. you've written your story is filled with lessons learned from your family, particular lee your mother, celina your maternal abuelita mercedes both of whom were born in poverty, who [inaudible] now live within four point we don't just once. understand they were two very different women. can you share a bit about each of them and the most valuable lesson you learned from each of them? >> oh, there's so many! during my nomination process everybody was focused on my mother. she was there and next to me. and after a taping at the white house for a video that they were going to put on the internet, my mother and i were walking out, and she said, sonia, why is nobody talking about mercedes?
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mercedes was my, my grandmother. and i said mommy, because she's not here. but i promise you that they will learn about here. that's one of the reasons i wrote my book, my beloved [inaudible] . you learn both about my grandmother and my mother in that book. so my grandmother, even though i am physically the complete opposite of my grandmother, she was a very slight woman, very long faced i -- have a round face -- she and i differed in our looks completely. but my mother has always said that i am more my grandmother's daughter is on her own real daughter and in the sense of my grandmother was a poet, she loved reciting poetry, and at family partners parties while the stale had them, but which
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was before my father died, every saturday night, my father and my grandmother at the end of the evening would do a poetry slam. one would get up and start restarting supporters, the other would get up and counter it with something else, and they go back and forth. and i remember as a child hiding under the table, listening to it, not fully understanding the metaphors or what was being said, but appreciating at the beauty of it, the richness of it. my social nature is my grandmother. my grandmother loved parties. [laughter] and she was the center of every party because she organized them, she had people up to dads, she had them reciting poetry, she had them playing instruments. she loved to cook. all of the things that my
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grandmother loved, i love. i was her favorite grandchild, [laughter] my cousins -- and i'm very close to one of them, my cousin miriam, whom i adore -- says that everybody knew it and nobody was really jealous. because i was so much like her that they understood the connection. but my grandmother really talked me about family. and not immediate family, because what my mother taught me about grandmother -- grandmother -- taught me about, was your largest extending to extended family that it was a circle of friends that you surrounded yourself with, that gave meaning to your life. and so, our parties were not just relatives, it was people that they had known from puerto rico, it was the in laws of people that were married into
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the family, it was strangers that my grandmother had picked up and just invited to join us. and that sense of family, of community, started with my grandmother. my mother picked that up. some of you may not know that i lost my mother in june, in july, actually, july 25th. it was a hard year last year, losing her. from anyone who's read my memoir, you'll know how close i was to her. this was a horrific loss for me. and during her memorial service, minor spoke about everything my mother was, all of my friends afterwards came up to me and said, your just restarting the best things you hear. and i was so complemented by that. my mother had a spirit like no other i've ever known. first of all, she believed that
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education was the key to opportunity. that anything you wanted to be, you could be, so long as you educated yourself. she went to college when she was in her late 40s or early 50s. imagine me and my brother sitting at our kitchen table with our mother at the other part of the table, studying. and my brother and i would quit and my mother would stay in the room, still studying. with that kind of example, we couldn't slack off in school. and we didn't. but more important to my mother, was her commitment to people. and mom was the local community nurse. every stranger in the neighborhood that had a medical problem, they would come running at our door.
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i can't tell you the number of times i would open the door and say, hello, and somebody would introduce themselves as coming from a different floor in the building or across in another building, and explaining that a friend of a friend had told them about my mother and they were having a medical issue, and i would say, that's okay, and i go get my mother, okay? i often tell the story of being nominated for the court of appeals, and having the senate vote, and trying to reach my mother to watch television. and this is before we had [inaudible] , cell phones, okay? so i'm calling my mother from the office, literally the entire day. late afternoon, i finally get, or i tell her what happened, and i say, where have you've been? and her answer was, well, you know this neighbor, i had to take her to the doctor today. that was a common explanation by my mother. it's never for money. it was out of a sense of civic
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participation. and that she passed on to be. i truly am engaged with and devoted to inspiring all of you in this audience to understand how important your obligation is to pursue participate in bettering the world. it should be -- [applause] -- your number one goal in whatever you do -- whatever passion you fight for work. now, it doesn't have to be being a lawyer. doesn't have to be service as a doctor. service is anything. you create service by how you turn your life into making the world a place that others can feel included and helped.
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and it doesn't matter what job you do, every single occupation can do good. it's the way you do it, the love that you have for it, the ways you look for ensuring that whether you're an accountant, a bus driver, or chancellor of a university, or a supreme court justice, anything you do, you have a duty to go out there and try to better the world. i belong to the icivics dot organization started my colleague, sandra day o'connor, and icivics dot org teaches middle school children about civics through video points. icivics it's known and it's now doing lesson plans for highschoolers and college students. it's also involved in a national program going on across the country to
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reintroduce civic education across each of the states, and missouri should be one of those that undertakes that effort and i'm challenging some of you in this audience to think about how to get your state to make civic education apart of its curriculum. because it's so critical to the survival of our republican form of government, it's so critical to the health of every community. but having said that and going back to my mom, she taught me that. and finally, like my grandmother, my mother taught me to look at the good people. you know, my mother had friends that never stopped talking. [laughter] and i, after they would leave, i look at my mother and make ice at her and say, how can you stand it?
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is like, nonstop, mommy! [laughter] and she would turn to, and she would say, i, sonia, you'll see, i know. but, you know there's such a counterattack person. you know the good she does for x y and z. she really, you know, she's lonely, and so she needs to talk. i can listen. any fault you that you found in another person, my mother would always talk about it of virtue. she were refused to define people by their faults. she refused to define them by their political view, by something they did that she didn't like, by self [inaudible] . i knew my mother loved me, no matter what. even when i wasn't patient with her. that's a great security blanket. to have not only as a child but
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as a friend of my mother's. and i'm not as virtuous as she is. i don't forgive quite as easily as she did, but i try. and so, those are the qualities that my grandmother and my mother passed on to. me and i think that they define who i am. i hope, as a. person ask -- wonderful legacy. before i invite our students to come. >> well you know it's time now to go and walk around. >> you're going to walk. and i will ask you a question about politics will you walk. >> can i stop, and the guys up here, and the guys with stuff around their waist and things, they are here to protect you from me. [laughs] [applause].
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>> i do thinks they don't like, including walking in the audience. i thank you for wearing masks, it gives me the opportunity to walk among you safely. so thank you for doing that. but also they get nervous if you get up unexpectedly. if i call you up, they know it and your calm. but please don't get up without me lifting you up. please don't make them nervous. >> okay. >> all right go ahead. >> so our students have entered adulthood at the time of extreme political polarization. your formative years took place during the american civil rights and during the vietnam war. as someone with an early and profound sense of justice, how did you engage with these issues as a young woman. and you have words of wisdom for our young people on how to navigate the polarized discourse that is inescapable today in their lives?
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>> tsai. it is not easy. i've lived in a polarized world in washington. you see it on tv, among politicians and it is never ending now. and there's a lot of screaming between people and among people. and sometimes it's very hard to get past that. it sort of gets into your head doesn't it? some of the people i'm hugging i know. okay? >> hi. >> i have to law clerks our who are from st. louis, and they are sitting right here. and their parents are here. so i'm giving them hugs. how is that? but my answer harks back to the lesson that i just described. that my mother taught me. and that is i try for example,
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with my colleagues, with who at whom i have very divergent views but many. probably the majority right now. [laughs] [applause] i tried very very hard to see the good in them. because i know there is good in every one of them. just a suitor once said to me, when he realized that all of his colleagues, particularly the ones he disagreed with, were people who believed as passionately as he did, in the constitution and our system of government and the laws of our country. that it became easier for him to not get so angry with them. to let it go. and i realized, that that is
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what my mother taught me. which is, you're going to defer interviews with people. and some of the views are going to feel offensive to you. i mean the sensitive issues around racism, they can be very very hard, especially if you feel someone is attacking your integrity as a person. or your worth as a person. it isn't so easy. when i was being nominated, people said that i wasn't smart enough to be on the supreme court. that hurt me. it cut me to the quick. and i realized, coming from princeton with the honors i received their. going to yale, doing fairly well. [laughs] being a district court judge, and a circuit court judge, it's
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like i felt like what is enough and one is enough. so really the reality is, for some people you are a minority. particularly one from new york. and they believe that affirmative action opened the door for you. they forget that you don't judge a person by who opens the door. you judge them by what they did when they went through the door. all right? [applause]. >> that does get forgotten in the conversation. and they're hurt. but you can't write people off because of what they don't know. you have to be part of what educates them. you have to be part of what talks with them and brings out from them the best in
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themselves. in order for them to listen to your side of what you are trying to say. and that for me, that's the best answer i can give you chancellor, of how you live in this polarized world. stop screaming. listen. tried to put yourself in the shoes of the other person. try to figure out what it is that they are feeling and the y of it. people when they feel threatened tend to lash back, and that sense of being threatened can stop them sometimes from being nice. so you have to work into getting them to be a better part of themselves. i don't know if we will always work our, you know it doesn't work always to change my colleagues minds, but we are civil to one another. and there have been moments,
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small victories when some things have been one. and i think long term it makes a difference in living our institutions survive and i hope in the end our survive our societies survive if we could start remembering the good in each other. >> thank you. [applause]. >> so your honor, our students, if we gave them the possibility would be asking you questions for probably the next 48 hours. >> -- all right all right to go ahead >> all right go ahead. >> but i am going to we're not gonna do for 48 hours but i will ask questions to add some questions. and first is kimberly cespedes torres from the class of 2022. >> kimberly where are you? >> i will be back up okay. i will come up and i'll be back
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and take pictures and with all of you. but i am listening. >> buenas tardes, justice sotomayor, how have you found your latina upbringing and life experience, impact your decision making as a supreme court justice? >> i'm asked that all the time. and i tried to tell people, how do you disaggregate from anything, a piece of who you are? if you look at me and say, sonia is a latina, i am insulted it's only a latina. because i'm hoping that i'm more than just one little piece of who i am. i am the sum total of a lifetime of varied experiences. and all of those experiences have worked together to make me the person i am. to make me the human being i
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am. to make me the justice i am. none of you could ever sit back and say, say one thing defines me. it's a very limiting principle to think of people in those ways. so for me, i don't know that i can ever say that the latina part of me decided this case. there is no such thing. i am first and foremost, a woman but also latina, i'm catholic, i grew up with a catholic school education and then i went to ivy league schools. i was a prosecutor and i work for corporations. i have worked for as a district court judge and a circuit court judge. i've done lots of pro-bono activity of different kinds. i have no idea whether one thing or the other leads to a
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particular view or particular outcome anyone situation. when i do know is who i am as a judge. and that is committed to the rule of law. because i believe it is the way that we can more effectively survive together as a community. you know it seems simplistic. we go to court, to avoid battles in stadiums. right? you can resolve your disputes by duking it out in a boxing ring, or like the you know the people used to do an old times, go into a stadium and fight a bull or whatever they did. or fight each other. as crazy as that may sound it does not seem very effective. so as a society we have laws. and we interrelate with one
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another. those laws set the parameters of that relationship. and what we as judges do, is to provide you with a form of neutrality. where you can come in, make your best argument, and we can decide not on a personal win but according to law. what the outcome should be in that case. that is the best that i can do as a judge. is to give you that variance. understanding that even when i announce that i agree with one side, because i think they are right, that the other side feels agreed. they lost something, they thought they were right. and so i am not god. i do not really know that moral
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right and wrong. i can't know it. because no matter what i do i'm going to hurt somebody frechette. and so, i try not to do that. i tried very hard to make my decisions on what i believe the law requires. so, that is not too nay say in any important way the importance of being a latina to me. i very often said, i am an incredibly proud american. i wear my pride and my nation on my sleeve. but i have a latina sole. that was created by my family. by our culture, by our music,
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by our food and byron dancing together. that is what your family does for you. it creates inside of you. it makes it alive. brings it to life. and that will never change for me. when president obama called me to tell me he would nominate me to the supreme court, he asked me to do one thing. and that was to stay connected to my community. and my response was, that's a very easy promise to make mister president. i don't know how to do anything else. and what i didn't tell him though, was that i have a very big umbrella as a community. it is not just latinos. it is everyone in this world including all of you in this room who care about each other. so, yes, sonia sotomayor is a
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latina, but she is not and i hope much more to. [applause] >> so before our next question, i would just like to give everyone a friendly reminder that we are not taking photographs so you can keep yourself phones in your pockets i would be exceedingly grateful as i'm sure the justice would be as well. our next question is from raven ferguson, arts and sciences class of 2022. >> hello raven how are you? >> hello. >> hi. >> i'll get it back up there. >> thank you so so much for being here with us today and sharing your wisdom. my question is how do we
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minorities belief or can believe in the justice system as you do considering how it has failed us in the past [sigh] [applause] it's a big question, isn't it? you know, i've been studying recently dred scott and the city played a prominent role in the dred scott case. he was an african american, a black man, who had come to st. louis and under the laws of st. louis then, have been declared a free man. his owners moved him to another state, where he wasn't where he continued to be a slave. when they moved him back to st. louis, he sued for his freedom. and the law, up until his
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lawsuit in missouri, should have made him a free man permanently. it's a long, interesting history. you are in st. louis, you should learn a bit about it. ultimately, the case went to as a supreme court. and in one of the most vilified decisions of the court, the dred scott decision, the supreme court decided that black people, even in free states, we're not citizens of the united states. that decision -- there were many other components -- but that decision was one important factor in the start of the civil war of the united states.
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so, then you get then you get plessy v. ferguson, i think it's an 1898, where the court says separate but equal, it's okay. famous descent, by justice harlan, one of the most important dissent, as was one of was a descent in dred scott by justice, both extraordinary to sense, both of them basically talking about the fundamental equality that underlay our union and our sense of citizenship. so i wanted to put that historical context in play for those who don't understand this
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based question. the court, until justice ginsburg came to the court in the 1990s, had had no decision on behalf of ruling in favor of women's rights. the court was always behind the equal rights movement for women. we permitted the exclusion of women from juries, we permitted -- in decisions by the court -- the exclusion of women from occupations like butchers, we permitted open discrimination against women as well. so, how do you maintain faith in a system that does that? you do have to take the long view. you have to realize that
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terribly late, it took the civil war to undo dred scott and give citizenship to black people -- it took more than 50 years for brown versus board of education to strike down separate but equal. it took justice ginsburg getting to the court and deciding the first case in favor of women, the vmi, the virginia military institute case, but it happened. we are a nation of men and women, and by definition, we will be a flawed nation. we are building towards a more perfect union -- were not there yet -- we have to keep building it -- we have to keep self correcting when we go off path -- we have to have the energy as citizens to insist on
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correcting our errors -- but that's how i keep optimism, by realizing that yes, there have been inherent flaws in our system of justice. but i'm here, working as hard as i can, even when i dissent, to try to avoid us going off in the wrong directions. and as i said from the very beginning of my talk with you, that's your job, too. many of the decisions we make -- not a constitutional ones, you can't change the constitutional ones -- but you can certainly change our interpretation of statutes. you can lobby for laws to be changed that you don't like. you have the power to make change. you have to believe in yourselves that you can do it.
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so, raay ray, i don't give up on anything. i mean it for the long haul. i hope you are too. >> [applause] our next question is from jeriah fong from the sam fox school of design and visual arts, class of 2022. >> all right, you've got a photographers here and come up, i can take pictures with these guys. i have, joe, hello. he's been following me around since sunday night. [laughter] >> hello, your honor. >> how are you? >> i'm doing great. i'm happy to be here! and i'm very happy that you are here. and my question for you is -- >> tell me your name again. >> oh, i'm jeriah.
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>> duryea jeriah. >> jeriah. >> thank you. >> and my question today is what do you have to say to all the young women of color who want to serve on the highest court in the land? >> oh, okay. take off -- you, vaccinated and everything? >> yeah. >> take off your mask. and the two -- yes, three. okay. [laughter] all right. >> thank you! >> to become anything in this world -- and it doesn't mean just being a supreme court justice -- [laughter] thank you -- >> thank you. >> it means becoming anything you want to become. you have to work hard. -- [laughter] thank you.
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you're next -- come, because i'm going to do it on that side. thank you. >> thank you. >> there -- are, yes! [laughter] thank you, sir. thank you for your introduction. >> thank you. >> there is nothing that's handed to you in life. whether you're a woman of color or anybody else. i tell young people that i meet when i talk to them, think of the greatest athletic star that you can think of. michael jordan. if you think he was born with a basketball in his hand, not likely. if you think he was born with that unerring sense of getting at the basket in that room ring, didn't happen that way. he practiced, he practiced, he practiced, and practiced, until
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he took the very best in himself to reach the height of his game. and he became a superstar. but he had a work attitude. and whether your a person of color or -- sometimes, people of color, they expect more of us -- were not given a lot of flak at moments. the mistake we make are sometimes highlighted a lot more than others, okay? but it doesn't give us an excuse not to put our heart into working as hard as we can to achieve what we want. that means studying as hard as we can, when we can't figure out how to do something, asking for help, devoting the time, the energy and the passion to achieving what we want.
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now, if you are asking me the more specific question, i didn't aspire to be on the supreme court. because i didn't know what it was when i was growing up. i grew up in a housing project in bronx, new york, in a very poor, poor neighborhood. there were no lawyers, there were no judges. our only contact with law enforcement was not a positive one. it was somebody we knew getting arrested. with that kind of example, a, i had no way to know what a supreme court justice was. but the, nothing positive to lead me towards the goal of becoming a lawyer or a judge. television and books did that for me, ultimately. but not life example okay? and even after i went to law
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school, i realized they say becoming a supreme court justice is like being hit by lightning. those are the odds. somebody said to me it was worth shots than [inaudible] . i don't know how true that is. but it's hard. and so, i don't think you can ever live or measure yourself or your success as a person by something so far away and unlikely that it may never happen. and so, how i've lived by life is that every job i do i concentrate on that job and doing it as well as i can. because once you do that, people will notice. and that will carry you to the
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next step. you can't lobby in that way to be a supreme court justice, but you can lobby to be the best lawyer you can become, the best district court judge when you serve as a district court judge, good court of appeals judge, and then [inaudible] plays a role in everything that happens in life, because there's plenty of people out there who have done what i've done but they are not justices, okay? so there's always an element of luck that i was lucky enough to be noticed by president obama. having said that, the one thing i said to him, the last words i said to him as i was leaving his office, was, mister president, this has been the greatest honor of my life to be interviewed by you for a
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position on the supreme court. i understand it's a difficult decision and you have some great candidates you are looking at. please understand that i love my love. i love everything i do as a circuit court judge and i love my life in new york. if you don't select me, i would come away disappointed. i'll just be grateful that you considered me. and i meant every word i said. i meant it because i felt it. and if you can't live your life every day that you work, doing something that gives you that sense of satisfaction and that sense of accomplishment, you've succeeded. and it's a wonderful measure of success as your own internal happiness in what you're doing. so, i hope that answered the
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question. and you are -- [applause] >> this is viktor kahlil from the healthy engineering class of 2022. >> hello, victor. >> hello. it's an honor to be with you here today. my question is one of the most important qualities anybody can have, whether they're a friend or a leader, is empathy. you've talked about this a lot today. and so, i was wondering, how do you incorporate empathy into your work, especially when you know your railings can have such a life-changing impact? >> thank, you victor. did i take a picture with you? yeah, i did, okay. [laughter] sorry, i do concentrate on what i'm saying, so sometimes i'll use the moment. if you read my decisions. and i say if you do read them. one of my greatest
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disappointments is by how few people actually ever read, thank you. a supreme court decision cover to cover. do i have hands here? even lawsuits? how many of you have read a supreme court decision from beginning to end? a handful, not all of you. most people did not bother. you read the headlines, right? you read quotes that the newspaper thinks are important. and that is all you read. and from that you make a decision about whether the outcome is right or wrong based on what you feel is right or wrong. i say what you feel is right or wrong because you haven't read the decision to see how the judges analyzed the question.
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and you haven't taken the time to figure out whether their analysis makes sense to you. whether it is convincing. whether the approach makes sense or not. and that is the only way you can have it basically an informed judgment about what a supreme court decision is about. so i started with my statement, because victor asked me this question. if you read my decisions, [laughs] , what you will see is that i very carefully try to answer all of the points raised by the losing party. because i believe, that out of respect for someone who has brought their case to me, that if i am going to say they are wrong i explain why. and, i explain why the issue
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was important to them. because recognizing what motivates people, is a part of what empathy is about. is explaining to them that i know how you feel and i know why you feel this, but this is why i believe that the law can't give you a -- but it is not that i am demeaning either your views or the emotional impact of what is happening to you. that is really the only thing i can do. because as i explained, as the justice and as a judge your acquired to pick a side, right? and the other side by definition, is by saying they're wrong. but i do believe that most judges do spend time doing that in their opinions.
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so there was a case that i was involved in a number of years ago, and it is called phillips, and it involved a religious organization and that believes that the military is corrupt and not religious enough. and that it supports behavior that this religion opposes. they took and have taken to protesting at the burial of war victims. of our soldiers in the military. now as you can imagine, their behavior and because they put a really big signs accusing the
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falling soldiers sometimes of having sexual deviants and conduct and you can imagine how parents feel. and how charged the families are. about this behavior. and the court, was asked whether there was a way that was consistent with the first amendment to bar them completely from protesting. and the court ruled that there wasn't. now, we couldn't disrupt the service. and they couldn't get into the face of the family. but that they had a right to be at a location near the service and express their views. the chief justice wrote that opinion, and if the opinion went on rightly, describing the
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heroes that the fallen soldiers are. and how offensive are ruling would feel to many americans. so he acknowledged the emotions that people reading this decision would have. but we then explained why we thought that that soldier had fallen for a greater value. and that was the value of the first amendment. and he was serving in defense of our nation and its constitution. and some people won't be convinced. and some people may still disagree with that decision. one of my colleagues did. others didn't. the point remains however, that you will find in many supreme court decisions, especially ones involving divisive issues, that we tried to talk to both
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sides. and chancellor are we near the end? >> your honor we have more time for one brief question. >> go ahead. >> and you are an academic rock star, both a princeton than at yale, but you continue your education throughout your life. you have learned how to dance, you learn how to swim as an adult, you even learned how to throw a baseball. are there any new skills lately that might surprise folks that are here this afternoon? [laughs] . >> tell us about your commitment. >> all those things i started to learn after i was 40 years old. things i couldn't do like i couldn't swim, so i took swimming classes. and i'm passable, i'm not a great swimmer but i could survive in the water now. and my mother said because all of my cousins dense. especially all my female cousins and i tried my mother one day for not teaching me how
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to dance. and she looked at me and said sonia, i tried to teach you. you simply were too busy going around and never wanted to stop to learn. and she was right i apologized. so at 50 years old i took private lessons. and i'm possible with dancing. so i've done many other things that i've learned to do. in the last few years i took up playing poker. [laughs] i read books about it, i watched the world series of poker on tv. i have watched better players than me play, and i've learned a little bit. and my playing is a bit of a charity thing, i invite people to my home and i feed them, i
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give them all the liquor they want, and you buy any advantage you can in poker. and so when i win their money, i don't have to report it. [laughs] >> your honor it has been a true privilege and an absolute delight for you to spend time with us today. this is one of the days that will go down in the history of washington university. and certainly one that no one in this audience will ever forget. thank you so much for being with us. [applause] >> it's a great
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afternoon, wonderful students. >> thank you. [applause]
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