Emotions high at White House for “Puerto Rican girl” Sotomayor

August 12, 2009

USA-SOTOMAYOR/President Barack Obama took a break from his tough fight over healthcare reform on Wednesday to throw a victory party for Sonia Sotomayor, who on Saturday was sworn in as the first Hispanic and third woman justice in the 220-year-long history of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sotomayor, Obama’s first nominee to the highest U.S. court, was praised for breaking barriers not only for her ethnic background and gender, but also for her unique history as a justice who was raised in humble New York City surroundings as the child of a single Puerto Rican mother.

 ”It is this nation’s faith in a more perfect union that allowed a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx to stand here now,” Sotomayor told the crowd in a packed East Room, who responded with applause, loud cheers and a standing ovation.  “I am struck again today by the wonder of my own life and the life we in America are so privileged to lead,” she said.

Republicans who had opposed the nomination had charged that Sotomayor lacked impartiality by zeroing in on her past comments that a “wise Latina” woman might reach a better decision than a white man.  Obama’s remarks touched on that controversy, by citing not just Sotomayor’s credentials as a lawyer and judge, but also insight she had gained due to her upbringing. “Her life is one of those ‘only in America’ stories,” he said.USA-SOTOMAYOR/

In replacing the retired Justice David Souter, Sotomayor is not expected to change the court’s ideological balance. Souter sided with the liberal wing of the court, which in recent years has often issued 5-4 rulings in favor of conservatives.  Two members of the court’s liberal wing, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens, were the only two justices to attend Wednesday’s reception.

Activists, particularly from the U.S. Hispanic community, have hailed Sotomayor’s appointment.  “This is a good day,” said Fernando Negron, 32, a radio host and community activist from Orlando, Florida, whose father moved to the mainland United States from Puerto Rico, who was a guest at the reception.

“My father came here back in the 1950s, so he went through what her mother went through. So you get a little emotional for the people who allowed this to happen.”

Photo credit: President Barack Obama and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, REUTERS/Jim Young

 Photo credit:  Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, REUTERS/Jason Reed

3 comments

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There is more emphasis on her ethnicity/race rather than the importance of her job, distorting how Americans view the importance of nominations like this.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

I just DON’T understand the emphasis on her ethnicity, would’ve felt allot better is she’d just said an AMERICAN from the Bronx, if that needs to be said at all….THIS is about the interpretation of constitutional law NOT about being this/that first at bat, like were in some Rocky Balboa skit, are you kidding?
Actually, SHE didn’t REALLY have a tough time of it all, by her own admission, an “affirmative action baby”, Other have walked a harder road for their accolades of far less, which is WAY beyond the point of being a supreme court judge….wow….c’mon Obama, this is getting old.

Posted by Shane | Report as abusive

I couldn’t agree more with Jason’s and Shane’s comments. I was born and live in Puerto Rico. We have been US citizens for about 100 years and want to be called Americans.

The emphasis on her “ethnicity” just creates more confusion in the US, as to our relationship as a territory of the US for over 100 years, something many of us are trying real hard to clarify. Most people in the US think of us as foreign and legal or ilegal immigrants.That is why the “puertorican girl” phrase, to me, is offensive.

Thanks to those who also see it our way. I don’t recall that the state of origin of the family of other Justices to be an issue during their nomination and confirmation.

Posted by Marcy | Report as abusive