Lessons from a Supreme Court Justice

Author: Julia Tombari


Last Wednesday, I was truly honored to hear from one of the most influential voices of our time in politics-Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. My mother has read her book, “My Beloved World” and when I found she was coming to campus, I didn’t hesitate for a minute to sign up to ask a question. As a student of color at Notre Dame, I have often felt that it is important for the student body to hear from someone from a different background or demographic than the majority.  Sonia Sotomayor has truly made her own success. A graduate of Princeton and then Yale Law, she has become a role model for not only women, but for aspiring politicians and law students who have their own passions and dreams.

I felt that Sonia truly was one of the most composed yet amiable speakers I have ever heard. Not only did she meet every question from us students with the same intellectual fervor and thought, she made a point of engaging with every single member of the audience, whether through eye contact, or stopping by for a photo, particularly with the young people in the audience.

I believe that learning how to connect with your audience, particularly when public speaking is such an important and powerful skill. Sonia Sotomayor exhibited not only grace and wisdom, you could tell she was extremely passionate in her convictions.

I found myself after the talk reflecting on how I can take some of the wisdom she brought us all that night into my daily life. She stressed the importance of talking to people about issues and where people agree and disagree. She stressed the need for leaders, particularly those in the minority, to get involved in as many things as we could during our time in college, and to become a part of the community in areas we wouldn’t necessarily have thought of aligning with, such as joining a new club or taking a class we are intrigued by.

Another important lesson that Sonia taught me was how to separate myself from the panic when I am stressed with a task before me. As someone who is actively involved on campus and taking a full course load, it sometimes gets to be too much. However, learning to take a deep breath and focus on each task before me has really been a valuable asset to me achieving my goals as a student, as well as a leader.

The Notre Dame community was truly blessed to hear from such an inspirational woman, and I look forward to attending more talks this semester from a variety of speakers with different and diverse viewpoints.