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Breakfast with the Bronx Girl

She entered. We were silenced. She spoke. We listened. She smiled. We stared. This was the effect the presence of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor had on everyone, including me. The entirety of the morning was filled with nervous giggles, fluttering sensations in my pit and conversations of how the event would turn out until I saw her. I was in shock – the best word I could define how I simply stared as she paced and spoke passionately with her hands. I was mesmerized, but not a single part of me stopped listening to what she had to say.


Her sense of humor lightened the tension in each student as she encouraged us to eat, stating, “When I was a college student, I never wasted free food.” Accurately describing the struggles of being a college student, we all laughed, it was through that simple sentence that I felt a little more connected to her than simply knowing her from a book or screen. As a response, a few of us began to eat, whereas the others like me, simply felt full from being able to be in this anticipated moment. To hell with food, I thought, I don’t get to see a woman of her stature every day.


The questions soon began with the hands of a brave few shooting up in the air, as she gracefully approached each student with a smile and questions. Justice Sotomayor was humorful about her comments in response to our answers. Once a student had said she was an undecided major and her response was “Finally! Someone normal.” This was accompanied by her wise words that every student was carefully attuned to, her encouragement in our passions and pursuing fields such as the law field that was competitive and selective. She never once made me feel as if pursuing law was impossible, but an inevitable struggle that could be overcome.


However, there was one key moment that stood out to me amidst all of the questions, answers and uproarious laughter. One student had asked a question that would haven’t crossed my mind. Why did Justice Sotomayor decide to write her book, My Beloved World?  Without missing a beat, she looked at all of us and explained how she didn’t want to lose who she was and her roots.


“I told my friends to hit me over the head with a large heavy book if I ever became too conceited. That hasn’t happened, yet.” Justice Sotomayor was scared of losing who she was, the roots that had given her the identity she became to be known as today and the person she embodied. Her response to this question had made me realize why she was as successful and love as she was; her humility.


A woman of Sotomayor’s stature, the first Supreme Court Justice of Hispanic descent and the first Latina, as well as the third woman on the Supreme Court, has every right to be filled with pride. The position as a Supreme Court Justice, let alone the memorable mark that Justice Sotomayor has made, is a phenomenal feat. Justice Sotomayor has encouraged and inspired thousands of girls including myself that a woman who looks like her, came from a background similar to hers, had hardships that molded them can be as successful as she. Yet, she spoke of her insecurities in the woman she was and her desire to remain who she had been the entirety of her life. Her humility was humbling and a reminder to all of us that our achievements are to encourage and make us strive to become a better individual than we had hoped rather than our hubris.


As I watched her move from student to student, I was utterly grateful. I always wanted to meet someone like Justice Sotomayor, someone who exudes wisdom and warmth. Most importantly, I had the chance to see who she was underneath the title of Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor and it reminded me of myself. As I was a Brooklyn girl through and through, she was a Bronx Girl at heart.

Raifa Chowdhury is an undergraduate at Stony Brook University, originally from Brooklyn, New York. She is currently double majoring in English and Psychology; her passion is to pursue a career in writing and international law. In her spare time, Raifa looks for adventures by either getting lost in the streets of New York or her collection of books. She is a daydreamer of wonderlands and has the impulsive need to write poetry and stories whenever she can. You can always find her reading a novel or furiously typing on her laptop with iced coffee nearby.
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