I spent an evening with Justice Sotomayor and over 2,700 patrons (including about 900 local high school students) in Portland's Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. While the nearby Portland Art Museum held an overflow crowd of about 1,000 additional folks watching a live simulcast.
It was presented by the Literary Arts (www.literary-arts.org), the Multnomah County Library and The Library Foundation.
It was being recorded for later broadcast on OPB.
|"The Schnitz" - Built in 1928|
Sonia Sotomayor was appointed by President Obama in 2009 as the first Latina person to the U.S. Supreme Court. Her recent book "My Beloved World" is a New York Times best seller. To quote the Christian Science Monitor's review of the book "A surprising wealth of candor, wit and affection. No topic is off limits, not her diabetes, her father's death, her divorce, her cousin's death from AIDS."
The Washington Post said: "Anyone wondering how a child raised in public housing, without speaking English, by an alcoholic father and a largely absent mother could become the first Latina on the Supreme Court will find the answers in these pages."
She will be sixty in a couple of months and last September she went back to riding a bicycle.
Earlier this afternoon she spent time talking with students at a local high school. At 7:30pm, she began her talk by addressing the importance of books, more specifically the written word, especially in the age of the internet.
She shared about four or five reasons why she decided to write her book. She wanted to capture the memories of her life, to remind herself of where she came from and that no one is self-made. She said, "From trauma we grow; one of the greatest teachers in life is failure."
What makes a good memoir? She replied, "Insights born from a caring deep within." She said that writing her her book was a journey of discovery and sadness but also of important realizations. Some examples she provided included: most families don't grow close except through tragedy; fear is the most debilitating of all emotions; she's had a deeply blessed life; and it's best to always deal with others with grace and compassion.
When asked what book or character was most inspiring to her in her younger years, she replied, "Lord of the Flies." She explained that she identified with the young child who tried to keep order.
Other questions and answers focused on sexism in the court system, her early days as a Supreme Court Justice, advice from Justice John Paul Stevens, the process of finding the right career and the important things she has learned from being a judge.
After nearly an hour and a half of speaking without notes (all the while standing and walking around the stage), she was told by the moderator, "We have time for two more questions." To which she quickly inquired, "Why?"
The crowd roared. She went on to answer more than a dozen additional questions from the audience. At the end, she invited all who had asked questions to come to the stage for a photo with her.
Her talk was clear, substantive and personal. Looking down from the upper balcony, I saw an audience in rapt attention for nearly two hours.
I was very glad I attended.