Why politicians should strive to be like Sonia Sotomayor

By Shankari Sureshbabu

Sonia Sotomayor, associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, visited the University on March 7, and had a public conversation with professor of law and philosophy, Robin Kar.RB In the sold-out conversation, Sotomayor talked about a variety of personal topics, from the influence of her mother to how her life changed after taking her position on the United States Supreme Court.

What stood out to me, however, was her response to a question about the late Justice Antonin Scalia. As he had been on the court since her appointment in 2009, it was clear she knew him well. When asked how she felt about his passing, she described him as “an annoying older brother,” but one that she loved nonetheless. Sotomayor made sure to note that although her rulings often opposed those of Scalia’s, this did not affect her judgement of his character.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/scotus-key-decisions-2015/

She went on to say that he was one of the most warm-hearted and caring people she had known, and it was important to understand that his perspective on cases was not an indication of his character as a good person.

Sotomayor had the common decency to be admirably respectful to someone with whom she often disagreed. Almost immediately after Scalia’s death, there was an influx of harsh, negative messages berating him for his beliefs. They criticized him for his conservative ideology and rigid interpretation of the Constitution. Although his work did put him in the public eye, many also believed that criticizing a man so soon after his passing was disrespectful.

Sotomayor, however, took a higher road and emphasized Scalia’s humanity. She refused to narrow him down to only his votes in cases. This mentality should be more prevalent in our judgmental, unforgiving world. The realization that political figures who influence our world are also human is important.

As the presidential race kicks into high gear, I think this is something we should try to remember. The 2016 race in particular is filled with animosity. Most candidates seems to be dead-set on ripping their opponents to shreds, and the American people are doing the same.

Although Americans have a responsibility to try and pick the best candidate for president, we should realize all candidates are not infallible, even those we support. As each candidate’s every word and action are being critically analyzed with the intensity of a laser beam, we can’t forget the next president isn’t an android programmed to act perfectly.

During her speech, Sotomayor talked about how people put others on pedestals, and that it was important to realize these people we respect and admire deeply make mistakes as well.

Sotomayor’s attitude is something that sets her apart in the political community. She is brilliant, experienced and charming; when Vikram Amar, dean of the law school, introduced Sotomayor, he said she had the ability to make everyone she met like her. As she walked around the auditorium in Krannert, cracking jokes with Kar and taking photos with young children, it was nearly impossible not to adore her. My friend even related her to a loving grandmother. She was whip-smart and wise, but her affection shone through most prominently during the speech.

Sotomayor’s insistence on showing humanity in as many aspects of her life as possible was personally inspiring. In today’s competitive world, and especially in politics, that compassion is something that should be seen more often.

Shankari is a freshman in DGS.

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