An Afternoon with Sonia Sotomayor

As much as I love living in Pittsburgh, sometimes I feel like we miss out. Some people consider it the midwest (I do not), but we’re certainly no New York or DC. Lots of tours either do not make it here at all, or make it here mid-week at 8 PM when you have to be up for work/school the next day. Less than ideal, for sure.

But sometimes, things happen in Pittsburgh that I cannot believe I am lucky enough to be able to attend. That’s what happened last week when I went to Duquesne University to hear Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor talk and receive an award.

Going into the event, I didn’t really know what to expect. Details had been kept very vague… all we had was a date and a start time. But it ended up being a fascinating, Q and A-style discussion. Justice Sotomayor answered a few questions from the President of Duquesne and from Judge Rendell, a local judge, and then went on to answer a series of questions that had been pre-submitted by a variety of Duquesne students.

Justice Sotomayor used these questions to share stories about her life – growing up in the Bronx, making it to Yale, what it’s like being on the Supreme Court – and her story is truly a fascinating one. But there was one answer she gave that really stuck with me.

One of the students asked about affirmative action, and how Justice Sotomayor responds to claims that that’s the only reason she got into Yale. Her answer? “So what?” I’m sure I’m paraphrasing now, but she essentially said – it doesn’t matter how I got in, what matters is what I did after I got in.

That’s something I think about a lot. At time, there are things – I call them #WheelchairPerks – that I get from being in a wheelchair (for example, I got to sit up front at this event), and even more doors that are being opened to me as Ms. Wheelchair USA. It can get to be overwhelming to think about whether or not I really “deserve” to be places or do things. But her mindset of not worrying about why/how something came to be, and instead focusing on what I can do because of it – that’s something I can get on board with.

People use the word inspirational a lot now, but to me, her talk was inspirational in the truest form. It really did inspire me, that afternoon, to think about my life, and my path, and what and how I want to do to keep moving forward.

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