Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor comes to Seattle with a message for children

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke to an audience with many children. (Photo by Eder Reynoso, University Book Store)

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor came to Seattle on Sunday with a message for the children in her audience.

“I’m offering you the key to my success, the secret,” she said. “And that secret is very simply, reading and learning.”

Sotomayor visited the University of Washington to talk about her new children’s book and autobiography, “Turning Pages: My Life Story.”

Sotomayor said she was inspired to write books for children because they are the world’s future-problem solvers and she wanted to share her experiences with them.

She also wanted to send an encouraging message to kids who think they’re too young or think they can’t succeed because their lives have been too difficult.

Despite challenges and failures that a person might face in life, it is possible for that person to be successful and make a positive impact on the world, she said.

“So how do I know that?” she said. “Because now I’m a justice on the Supreme Court.”

Sotomayor, who is Puerto Rican and the first Latina to be on the Supreme Court, grew up in the Bronx in a Spanish-speaking home. Books played an important role in her childhood.

As she faced the challenges of growing up poor and surrounded by others who were poor and didn’t speak English, she said that reading opened up a whole new world for her and showed her, “what it was possible to become.”

Sotomayor draws from her own experiences to generate ideas for her children’s books. Her diabetes diagnosis is the inspiration for another book she wants to write about children who have different conditions and disabilities. Sotomayor plans to publish the book, tentatively titled, “Just Ask,” next fall.

During the Q&A portion of the event, Sotomayor stepped down from the stage into the audience — which she said her security didn’t like.

As she answered questions submitted by attendees, she encouraged people, especially kids, to step out of their seats if they wanted to give her a hug.

One of those kids was Luna Martinez Blackmore, who said she had come to see Sotomayor because, “She’s cool, she’s a woman, and she’s Latina.”

Luna’s mother, Janice Blackmore, works with migrant and immigrant Latinas. She added that she and her daughter attended because they like to pay attention to strong Latina women and feel that Sotomayor is a strong leader.

“I think we’re at a point in American history where we need a lot more leaders who are women of color, those from immigrant backgrounds and those who come from economic and social hardships,” Blackmore said.

Correction: The quote from Janice Blackmore describing a need for more leaders who are women of color has been corrected to include the words “leaders who are” (9/14/18 at 7:00 p.m.).