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Sonia Sotomayor

  • The best I could say about third grade was that it was a more or less continuous state of dread.

  • Traveling with Mami to Puerto Rico was a little like being around Rip van Winkle on the day he woke up. She wore an expression of constant wonderment: everything surprised her by how much it had changed, except for the things that surprised her because they were just as she remembered them.

  • You can't say: This much love is worth this much misery. They're not opposites that cancel each other out; they're both true at the same time.

  • I was fifteen years old when I understood how it is that things break down: people can't imagine someone else's point of view.

  • They were an odd couple, those two sisters. ... They were like two trees with buried roots so tangled that they inevitably leaned on each other, and also strangled each other a bit.

  • ... a surplus of effort could overcome a deficit of confidence.

  • That tide of insecurity would come in and out over the years, sometimes stranding me for a while but occasionally lifting me just beyond what I thought I could acomplish. Either way, it would wash over the same bedrock certainty: ultimately, I know myself.

  • ... success is its own reward, but failure is a great teacher too, and not to be feared.

  • [On the desert:] The wind was a constant, and when you paid attention, it seemed like the earth's own breathing.

  • I had no need to apologize that the look-wider, search-more affirmative action that Princeton and Yale practiced had opened doors for me. That was its purpose: to create the conditions whereby students from disadvantaged backgrounds could be brought to the starting line of a race many were unaware was even being run.

  • ... to doubt the worth of minority students' achievement when they succeed is really only to present another face of the prejudice that would deny them a chance even to try it. It is the same prejudice that insists all those destined for success must be cast from the same mold as those who have succeeded before them, a view that experience has already proven a fallacy.

  • ... as for the possibility of 'having it all,' career and family with no sacrifice to either, that is a myth we would do well to abandon, together with the pernicious notion that a woman who chooses one of the other is somehow deficient.

  • ... how many times would a defendant's lawyer enter the courtroom before a session and ask each of the male clerks and paralegals around me, 'Are you the assistant in charge?' while I sat there invisible to him at the head of the table?

  • There are no bystanders in this life.

  • I've spent my whole life learning how to do things that were hard for me.

  • To me, lawyering is the height of service — and being involved in this profession is a gift.

    • Sonia Sotomayor,
    • in O: The Oprah Magazine ()

Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. lawyer, judge, Supreme Court Justice

(1954)