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Supreme Court Judge Nominee Sonia Sotomayor and Her Mom

Sonia Sotomayer is one of the most remarkable Supreme Court nominees in history. If her nomination is approved by Senate, she’ll be the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court, and only the third woman.

She was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, and was raised in the Bronx. Her father died when she was nine, and after his death her mother worked six days a week as a nurse, sometimes working a second job, to support the family.

Even as a hardworking single mother, her mom, Celina Sotomayor, never stopped encouraging her children to focus on their education. She bought a set of encyclopedias for her two children, much talked about in the media in the last few days for being the only set in the neighborhood, and worked extra hours to pay for the tuition costs and send her children to the nearby Catholic school.

Sonia’s brother is a doctor, and after graduating from Princeton university, Sonia went to law school at Yale. She then worked in private practice briefly, but has spent much of her career in public offices, first as an Assistant District Attorney in New York, and then as a Federal District judge and a Court of Appeals judge. During that time, one of the organizations she was involved in was the Maternity Center Association, now called Childbirth Connection, a non-profit organization working to improve the quality of maternal care.

As well as education, Celina said that her parenting focused equally on character. She says that “I always taught my children to study and be honest and be good.”

In a speech at the White House with Barack Obama on Tuesday, Sonia paid tribute to her mom.

“I stand on the shoulders of countless people. Yet there is one extraordinary person who is my life aspiration. That person is my mother, Celina Sotomayor. My mother has devoted her life to my brother and me. And as the President mentioned, she worked often two jobs to help support us after Dad died. I have often said that I am all that I am because of her, and I am only half the woman she is.”
Celina’s neighbors and friends also spoke of her devotion to her children, and of how her kids were always her first priority.

Sonia has worked hard to get to where she is now, but her story is powerful proof of how good mothering can make a huge difference in a person’s life. Not all our children will end up on the Supreme Court, but we hope that they will achieve the things that they dream of. But how does what we do as mothers affect the lives of our children, and how can we help them become successful in their own lives?

I think perhaps the best thing Cecilia did for her children was to love them unconditionally, and be there for them through all the tough times. And so they grew up with an unshakable foundation and the certainty of their mother’s love that has helped both Sonia and her brother achieve things that aren’t usually expected from kids from the Bronx.


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