Those who have read my biography of Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor know that I was not able to interview her for the project due to her schedule of confirmation hearings and subsequent new post. Other than the C-Span series on the Court, she diplomatically steered clear of interviews across the board.
I had the great fortune to finally meet her when I attended an invitation-only event at the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas on January 28th. In a morning Q&A session with law students from KU and Washburn, she spoke about changes in her life since joining the Court, accepted a Native American student's invitation to have a meal with his people and advised the young women to develop a healthy mix of assertiveness and feminine-style cooperation.
I introduced myself just before she left and was thrilled, but not at all surprised, to find her as warm, approachable and gracious as all my sources had described her. In our brief exchange she thanked me for taking an interest in writing about her. Forget assertiveness and cooperation (I learned that pretty well being self-employed in NYC); my new aspiration is to achieve her combination of humility, openness, self-confidence, straightforwardness and warmth that nimbly knocks people off their feet. There's not an ounce of pretension in her.
I am grateful to the Dole Institute for giving me the opportunity to meet her face to face and to Justice Sotomayor for remaining who she has always been, as she promised President Obama she would do. Since joining the Court, her commitment to inspiring young people to follow their passion no matter how many obstacles may stand in their way has only grown stronger, as seen in the many appearances she has made at schools and universities. The job doesn't require it of her, but she does. And we will all be better for it.