Education

Sotomayor Tells Students Diabetes No Barrier to Aspirations

By Mark Walsh — June 21, 2011 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Justice Sonia Sotomayor says that when she was in high school, she probably did not even realize that the U.S. Supreme Court existed, much less did she aspire to serve on it.

“I’m not sure I learned that there was a Supreme Court” until college, Sotomayor told a group of 150 young people in Washington at the Children’s Congress of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The 56-year-old justice used much of her half-hour talk before the 150 children and teenagers at a Washington hotel to describe her experiences and challenges of living with type 1 diabetes.

“You get to do anything you want,” she told the young people, who also live with type 1 diabetes. “I now have the job of my dreams. And it’s a really cool job.”

During a question-and-answer session, Stephen Wallace, of Detroit, told Sotomayor that he was in 10th grade and his goal was to become a Supreme Court justice.

“What were you doing in the 10th grade to prepare to be on the Supreme Court?” Wallace asked the justice.

Sotomayor smiled and said, “Not much.”

She explained that despite her lack of awareness about the high court, by that age she did know she wanted to be a lawyer and perhaps a trial judge. Those are two ambitions that the Bronx native achieved before also serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, in New York City, and on the high court since 2009.

Sotomayor told the young people she participated in activities that proved to be helpful in her career. She joined her school’s debate team and also took part in a public speaking club, what was then widely called forensics.

“I also got involved in student government, though I never wanted to be a politician,” she said.

She noted that law schools welcomed students from a variety of backgrounds, instead of requiring a rigid, singular path of preparation.

“If you want to become a Supreme Court justice, do the things you like, and do them well,” Sotomayor said.

“Maybe someday I’ll be there when you are being sworn in” as a justice, Sotomayor told the young man who asked the question.

Sotomayor discussed being diagnosed with diabetes at age 7, when she found herself constantly thirsty and fainting in church. She once ran from doctors and hid under a car to avoid being pierced by a large needle for a diagnostic blood test, but she was soon sterilizing her own syringes in boiling water.

“I learned it takes forever to get water to boil,” she said, noting that she would make her school lunch or set out her school clothes while the water warmed up each morning. She told the young people they now have it somewhat easier with disposable syringes and insulin pumps.

She injects her insulin four to six times a day, she said.

“Before I take the bench, I check my sugars to make sure I’m not going to have a low while I listen to people argue” cases before the high court, Sotomayor said.

Asked whether there was anything about having diabetes that was a positive, Sotomayor said that it taught her discipline, whether with nutrition, her study habits in school, or in learning to salsa dance at age 50.

“I pay attention to my body,” Sotomayor said.

Alexander Oppen, from Kenosha, Wis., a 17-year-old participant in the Children’s Congress, said he found Sotomayor’s talk inspiring.

“She grew up in an era when she did not have all the resources that I have” to deal with diabetes, said Oppen, who is involved in drag racing and may become a teacher. “It’s really a bad disease, and she takes it with such a great attitude. It’s great to see that we can aspire to do anything. We’re not going to let this disease stop us from doing what we want to do.”

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP