U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke at Arcadia on Oct. 22, 2013.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke at Arcadia on Oct. 22, 2013.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s Inspiring Appearance at Arcadia University

It’s easy to equate the act of becoming more established with becoming more boring as stress eats away at your once-vibrant personality.  The more responsibility placed on anyone’s shoulders should logically translate into a duller, drier, more burdened-seeming individual, right? U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor debunked this myth once and for all with her conversation regarding her book, My Beloved World, in the Kuch Center this week. Though she is a sitting justice, with the weight of our country’s law atop her shoulders, she positively glowed with warm, infectious enthusiasm.

As a peer mentor, my evening began with meeting my mentees (otherwise known as the students of the class “Understanding Your Brain”), handing out tickets and making sure all were in attendance for the mandatory event. Some were over-the-moon excited and others were skeptical and a little resentful that they were being forced to forsake their term papers in favor of an event they assumed would be boring and of little value. At the end of the evening, though, they’d reached a consensus: The discussion was amazing.

“I feel like I should be a lawyer now!” one exclaimed (there’s a slight chance it was me —can’t be one hundred percent sure on that though).  The Justice’s advice, as she walked about the room taking pictures with those that asked her questions, revolved around making the most of opportunities. She espoused the virtues of a well-rounded education. She highlighted the fact that people can “have it all,” just not at the same time (this particular tidbit was quoted again and again on Facebook in the hours after her talk).

Her discussion of her college experience made me want to read everything I could as quickly as I could to educate myself about every facet of the world. She was absolutely inspirational, but in an inexplicable, almost sneaky way. She shared her experiences as candidly as a sitting justice can. The authenticity of storytelling can’t help but to relate to people and force them to action.

So, my takeaway was that it is possible to remain a likable, kindhearted, genuine, understanding person, regardless of the amount of pressure you face.  And maintaining this type of worldview and demeanor makes you more effective at completing the many things on your to do list—be it speaking to a room full of college students or (in my case) juggling several publications.  The discussion served to remind me that warmth is an asset, not the weakness it’s often portrayed to be in our cold, hard business culture. I am more dedicated than ever to authentically caring—about those around me, about the quality of my work, and about the state of our world.

Photo by Cindy Graul