tv Justice Sonia Sotomayor Participates in Discussion with Students CSPAN April 17, 2022 7:01pm-8:01pm EDT
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>> supreme court justice sonia sotomayor sat down for discussion at washington university in st. louis. she told student to navigate partisanship by listening and educating others with different views. she also urged students to basically engaged in their future endeavors. this is just under one hour. [applause] mr. martin: thank you, sir. thank you very much, doctor. isn't this something? justice sotomayor: it's amazing. all of you should know that he has prepared about 15 questions. and they were also good. so i am going to be as surprised as all of you are at what questions he picks, ok? mr. martin: before
our university's history and our nations history. and on behalf of all the students, faculty, and staff, we are so pleased you are with us today. i also want to thank all the people who made this possible. your office, all of your security folks, our events team, everybody at student affairs, this was an extraordinary team effort and i'm so proud of the way in which our teams have pulled together to make this possible. and, of course, i want to thank you. justice sotomayor: 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. mr. martin: we have a wonderful team here. [applause] and a very generous and gracious guest.
so why don't we why don't we , jump right in? so, when writing about your achievements and your academic and professional trajectories, it seems that over and over again chance encounters with the , right people are met with deep self-awareness to launch you into the next step. can you share how you come about possessing such a deep self-awareness, and is this something you think people can cultivate? justice sotomayor: yes. [laughter] in answer to the last part of your question, i do think it's something that people can cultivate. i think it starts largely with self-honesty. 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 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 sad. but i try very hard after it, decide to try to sit down and analyze the situation without looking at the part that others delayed, because it is all too easy to ascribe fault 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 describe as chance encounters, i describe as those moments where i meet someone who i see acting and doing things that i admire that i am not sure that i can do. and so, i'm always looking for mentors and for role models. just 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. i think that's the thing that people can learn how to do, which is to understand what they
need to learn. 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 think it is to seek out mentors, but i also think it's critically important for every person to be able to say the words, "i don't know." i often use the example that i was always one of those students in class that, if the teacher was talking too fast for was explaining something in a way that i didn't understand, i was the first one to raise my hand and say, "please slow down, i am not sure what you're saying, back up.” and everybody in the classroom
would 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 is a skill, thankfully that i learned, which has been a mantra, to be open about what i don't know. that's terrific advice. mr. martin: so, let me ask you a question about your family. you've written in the past about, your story is filled with lessons learned from your family particularly your mother, , selena, your paternal abuelita, mercedes, both of whom were raised in poverty and built new lives after leaving puerto rico for the bronx. i understand that 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? ah, 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? " mercedes was my abuelita, my grandmother. and i said “mommy, because she's , not here, but i promise you that they will learn about her." that's one of the reasons i wrote my book, “my beloved world." you learned 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 face, i have a round face -- she and i differed in our looks completely.
but my mother has always said that i more my grandmother's am daughter than her own real daughters. and in the sense of, my grandmother was a poet. she loved reciting poetry, and at family parties while we still had them, which 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 reciting some poetry, the other one would get up and counter it with something else, and they'd 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 the beauty of it, the richness of it. my social nature is my grandmother.
my grandmother loved parties. and she was the center of every party, because she organized them, she got people up to dance, she had them reciting poetry, she had them playing instruments. she loved to cook, all of the things that my grandmother loved, i loved. 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 taught me about family. and not immediate family, because what my mother taught me about -- 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 the family, it was strangers that my grandmother had picked up and just invited to join us. so 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 when i spoke about everything my mother was, all of my friends afterwards came up to me and
said, “you're just reciting the best things in you." 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 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 40's and early 50's. 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 spac off in school. and we didn't.
but more important, mother was her commitment to people. mom was the local community nurse. every stranger in the neighborhood that had a medical problem, they would come running at our door. 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 cell phones, okay, so i'm calling my mother from the office literally the entire day.
late afternoon, i family tell her what happened, and i said “where have you 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 participation. and that, she passed on to me. i truly am engaged with and devoted to inspiring all of you in this audience to understand how important your obligation is to participate in bettering the world. [applause] it should be your number one goal in whatever passion you find for work. now, it doesn't have to be being a lawyer, it 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. 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. they always 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. organization started by my colleague, sandra day o'connor, and icivics.org teaches middle school children about civics through video games.
icivics has grown, and it's now doing lesson plans for high schoolers and college students. it's also involved in a national program going on across the country to reintroduce civic education in each of the states, and missouri should be one of those that undertakes that effort, and i am challenging somebody in this audience to think about how to get your state to make civic education a part of its curriculum. because it is so critical to the survival of our republican form of government, but 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 in people.
you know, my mother had friends that never stopped talking, and [laughter] and i, after they would leave, i'd look at my mother and make eyes at her and say, “how can you stand it, it's like non-stop, mommy,” and she would turn to me and she would say, “aye, sonia, yo se, -- i know," but you know they're such a kindhearted person. you know that good she does for x y and z, she really, you know she's lonely so she needs to talk. i can listen." any fault that you found in another person, my mother would always talk about a virtue. sh define people by their faults. she refused to define them by
their political views, by something they did that she didn't like, myself included. i knew my mother loved me no matter what, even when i wasn't patient with her. that is a great security blanket , to have not only as a child, but as a friend of my mother's. i am 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 onto me. and i think that they define who i am -- i hope -- as a person. mr. martin: what a wonderful legacy. so, before i invite our students to come and ask -- justice sotomayor: well, you know that it's my time now to go and walk around. mr. martin: you're going to walk it, i'm going to ask you a question about politics while you walk because you're an
opportunity -- justice sotomayor: can i stop and give one? the guys up here the big guys , you know, with stuff around their waist and things, they're here to protect you from me. [applause] [laughter] i do things they don't like, including walking in the audience. i thank you for wearing masks because that 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 they're calm, but please don't get up without my sort of lifting you up, okay? please don't make them nervous, all right? [laughter] morgan: all right. let's talk about politics. justice sotomayor: go ahead. mr. martin: so our students have entered adulthood in a time of extreme political polarization. your formative years took place during the american civil rights movement, 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 do you have words of wisdom for our young people on how to navigate the polarized discourse that is inescapable today in their lives? justice sotomayor: [sighs] [laughter] it isn't easy. i live in a polarized world in washington. you see it on tv among politicians, and it's never ending now. and there's a lot of screaming between people and among people, and it is sometimes very hard to get past that din you know? it sort of gets into your head, doesn't it? some of the people i'm hugging i know, okay? [laughter] thank you. i have two law clerks who are from st. louis. they are sitting right here. [laughter]
and their parents are here, so i am giving them hugs. how's that? [laughter] but, my answer harkens back to the lesson that i just described that my mother taught me, and that is, i try, for example, with my colleagues with whom i have very divergent views, with many, probably the majority right now -- [laughter] [applause] i tried very, very hard to see the good in them. because i know there is good in everyone of them. justice souter 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 was what my mother taught me, which is, you're going to differ in views with people. and some of the views are going to be or feel offensive to you. i mean, issues, the sensitive issues around racism, can be very, very hard, particularly if you feel someone is attacking your integrity as a person or your worth as a person. you know, 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, cut me to the quick. and i realized, you know, coming from princeton with the honors i received there, going to yale, doing fairly well -- [laughter] -- being a district court judge and a circuit court judge, it felt like, what's enough, and when is it enough, okay? and really, the reality is that for some people, if you're a minority, particularly one from new york, 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 conversations. and they are hurtful. 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 themselves, in order for them to listen to your side of what you are trying to say. and that for me is the best answer i can give, chancellor, of how you live in this polarized world. stop screaming. listen. try to put yourself in the shoes of that other person. try to figure out what it is they're feeling and the why of it. people, when they feel threatened, tend to lash back and that sense of being threatened can stop them sometimes from being nice, and
so you have to work into getting them to be a better part of themselves. i don't know if it will always work. it certainly doesn't work to change my client -- my colleagues minds, but we are civil to one another and there have been moments, small victories when some things have been won. and i think long-term, it makes a difference in letting our institutions survive. and i hope in the end our society to survive if we can start remembering the good in each other. thank you. mr. martin: thank you. for your honor, our students, if we gave them the possibility, would be asking you questions for probably the next 48 hours. justice sotomayor: all right, go ahead.
mr. martin: we are not going to do that. [laughter] but i am going to invite some students up to pose some questions. first is kimberly from the brown school of social work, class of 2022. [applause] justice sotomayor: kimberly, where are you? i'll be back up, okay? i'm gonna walk around and come up and take pictures with all of you, ok? but ask your question, i am listening. student: good afternoon. how have you found your latina upbringing and life experience impact your decision-making as a supreme court justice? justice sotomayor: [sighs] i am asked that all the time. and i try to tell people, how do you disaggregate from anything a piece of who you are? if you look at me and say sonia is only a latina, i'm insulted . because i hope i am something more than just one little piece
of who i am. i am the sum total of a lifetime of varied experiences. and all those experiences have worked together to make me the person i am, to make me the human being i am, to make me the justice i am. you know, you none of you could ever sit back and 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 am catholic. i grew up with a catholic school education but then i went to ivy league schools.
i was a prosecutor. i worked for corporations. i worked as a district court judge, a circuit court judge. i have done countless pro bono activities of different kinds. i have no idea whether one thing or another leads me to a particular view or particular outcome in any one situation. what i do know is who i am as a judge. and that is committed to the rule of law. because i believe it's 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 old people used to
do in old times, goat into a stadium and fight a bull or whatever they did or fight each other. crazy as that may sound, that doesn't seem very effective to me. so, as a society, we have laws. and we interrelate with one another, and 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 personal whim, but according to law what the outcome should be in that case. that's the best that i can do as a judge. is to give you that fairness, understanding that even when i announce that i agree with one side, because i think they are right, that the other side feels aggrieved.
they've lost something. they thought they were right. and so, i am not god. i don't really know that moral right and wrong. i can't know it, because no matter what i do i'm going to hurt somebody. and so, i try not to do that. i try very hard to make my decisions on what i believe the law requires, so that is not to naysay in any important way the importance of my of being a latina to me.
i very often say, i am an incredibly proud american. i wear my pride in my nation on my sleeve, but i have a latina soul. that was created by my family, by our culture, by our music, by our food, by our dancing together. that's what your family does for you. it creates the 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 mr. president. i don't know how to do anything else." what i didn't tell him, is that i have a very big umbrella as a
community. it's not just latinos, it's everyone in this world, including all of you in this room who care about each other. so yes, sonia sotomayor is a latina. but she is that and i hope much more, too. [applause] mr. martin: hello. before our next question, i would just like to give everyone a friendly reminder that we're not taking photographs, and so if you could keep your cell phones in your pockets i would be exceedingly grateful, as i'm sure the justice would be as well. our next question is from raevyn ferguson, arts and sciences, class of 2023. [applause]
justice sotomayor: hello, how are you? student: hi. thank you so much for being here with us today and sharing your wisdom. my question is, how do you suggest we as minorities learn to trust in the justice system as you do, knowing the ways in which the justice system has failed us in the past? [applause] justice sotomayor: [sighs] ah, it's a big question, isn't it? you know, i've been studying recently dred scott, and this 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, had 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 lawsuit in misery, should have made him a free man permanently -- 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 little bit about it. ultimately, the case went to the 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, were 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. so, then you get plessy versus ferguson in, i think it's 1898, where the court says separate but equal is okay. famous dissent written by justice harlan, one of the most important influential dissents, as was the dissent in dred scott by justice curtis, by the way. both extraordinary dissents, 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 question. the court, until justice ginsburg came to the court into the 1990's, had had no decision 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, terribly late, it took a civil war to undo dred scott and give citizenship to black people, it took more than 50 years for brown v. 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. we are 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 correcting our errors. but that is how i keep optimism, by realizing that, yes, there have been inherent flaws in our system of justice. but i am here working as hard as i can, even when i just said, 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. many of the decisions we make, not the 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 yourself that you can do it. so, rae, i don't give up on anything. i'm in it for the long haul. i hope you are, too. [applause] thank you. mr. martin: next question is from jarea from the sam fox school of design and visual arts, class of 2022. justice sotomayor: all right, if that lovely photographer's here and you come up, i can take the pictures with these guys. joe, hello.
he's been following me around since sunday night. [applause] [laughter] student: hello your honor. ,justice sotomayor: how are you? student: i am doing great. i'm happy to be here and i'm very happy that you're here, and my question for you is -- justice sotomayor: to me your name again. jarea, thank you. student: and my question for you today is, what is something that you want to say to all the young women of color who want to serve on the highest court of the land? student: ok. you vaccinated and everything? student: yes. justice sotomayor: ok. take off your mask and the two, yes three, okay, all right. thank you. to become anything in this world, and it doesn't mean just being a supreme court justice. thank you. [laughter]
it means becoming anything you want to become. you have to work hard. thank you. your next -- i'll do it because i'm going to go on that side next, okay? [laughter] all right, thank you. [laughter] thank you, sarah. thank you for your introduction. there's nothing that's handed to you in life. whether you are a woman of color or anybody else. i tell young people when i meet, when i talk to them, think of the greatest athletic star 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 the basket in that rim, didn't happen that way. he practiced, he practiced, he practiced and practiced until he took the very best in himself to reach the height of his game. and he became a superstar. but he had to work at it. and whether you are a person of color -- sometimes people of color, they expect more of us. we are not given a lot of slack at moments. the mistakes 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. now, if you were asking me the more specific question, i didn't aspire to be on the supreme court. because i didn't know what 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 you getting arrested. with that kind of example -- a, i had nowhere to know what a supreme court justice was. but b, 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 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 worse odds than that even. i don't know how true that is, but it is hard. 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 have lived my 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 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, a good court of appeals judge. and then luck plays a role in everything that happens in life, because there's plenty of people out there who have done what i've done and they're not justices. ok? 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, “mr. president, this has been the greatest honor of my life to be interviewed by you for a position on the supreme court. i understand it's a difficult decision and you have some great candidates you're looking at. please understand that i love my life. i love everything i do as a circuit court judge. i love my life in new york. if you don't select me, i won't come away disappointed, i will 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 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, is your own internal happiness in what you're doing. so i hope that answered your question. and you are? [applause] mr. martin: this is victor kalil from mckelvey engineering, class of 2022. justice sotomayor: hello, victor. student: hello. it's an honor to be here with you today. i was saying my question is, i believe 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. so i was wondering, how do you incorporate empathy into your work, especially when you know your rulings can have such a life-changing impact? justice sotomayor: thank you, victor. did i take a picture with you? yeah. i did, okay.
sorry. [laughter] i do concentrate on what i'm saying so sometimes i lose the moment. if you read my decisions, and i say if you read my decisions -- one of my greatest disappointments is by how few people actually ever read -- thank you -- a supreme court decision cover to cover. do i have hands here? even law students. how many of you have read a supreme court decision from beginning to end? [laughter] handful, not all of you. most people don't bother. you read the headlines, right? you read quotes that the newspapers think are important, and that's 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. 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 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 ruling party.
because i believe that out of respect for someone who's brought their case to me, that if i'm going to say they're wrong, i explain why. and, i explain why the issue was important to them. because recognizing what motivates people is a part of what empathy is about. is explaining to them, i know how you feel, and i know you feel this. this is why i believe the law can't give you a remedy. 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 a
justice, as a judge, you are required to pick a side. you are required to pick a side as right and the other side by definition is going to feel that you're saying they're wrong. but i do believe that most judges do spend time doing that in their opinions. there was a case that i was involved in a number of years ago. it's called "phillips. and it involved an organization, a religious organization, that believed 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, because they put up really big signs accusing the fallen soldiers sometimes of having sexual deviant conduct, and you can imagine how parents feel, okay, and how charged the families are about this behavior. and the court was asked whether there was a way consistent with the first amendment, to bar them completely from protesting. and the court ruled that there wasn't. now, they 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 in the opinion, went on rightly describing the heroes that fallen soldiers are and how offensive our ruling would feel to many americans. and so, he acknowledged the emotions that people reading this decision would have. but he then explains why we thought that that soldier had fallen for a greater value. and that was the value of the first amendment. he was serving in defense of our nation and its constitution. some people will not be convinced. 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 try to talk to both sides. chancellor, are we near the end or? mr. martin: your honor, we have time for one brief question. justice sotomayor: go ahead. mr. martin: of course, you were an academic rock star, both at princeton and then at yale, but you've continued your education throughout your life. you've learned how to dance, you learned 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? [laughter] tell us a little about your commitment. justice sotomayor: all of those things i started to learn after i was 40 years old. there were things i didn't grow up knowing how to do, couldn't swim so i took swim classes and
i am passable. i am not a great swimmer, but i can at least survive in the water for now. [laughter] now my mother said, because all of my cousins dance, especially all of my female cousins, and i chided my mother one day for not teaching me how to dance and she looked at me and said, “sonia, i tried to teach you. you simply were too busy going around and playing and never wanted to stop to learn it." she was right, i apologized. [laughter] so, at 50 years old, i took private lessons and i'm passable in dancing. i have done many other things that i learned to do. in the past for years, i took up playing poker. [laughter] i read books about it, i've watched the world series of poker on tv.
i've watched better players than me play, and i've learned a little bit. it's a bit of, my playing is a bit of a charity. i invite people to my home, i feed them, i give them all the liquor they want. you buy any advantage you can in poker. [laughter] so when i win their money, i don't have to report it. [laughter] [applause] mr. martin: your honor, it has been a true privilege and an absolute delight for you to speak, 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. so, thank you so much for being with us.
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