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Remarks by U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer Senate Judiciary Committee Introduction of Judge Sonia Sotomayor July 13, 2009

Today is a great national opportunity.  It is an opportunity to recognize that the nomination of one of the most qualified candidates to the Supreme Court in American history could not have happened anywhere else in the world.  Judge Sotomayor’s story is a great American story, and, I might add, a great New York story as well.


Consider this: In no other country in the world could a woman from a minority group, who grew up in a working-class family, have received an education at the best institutions and, having thrived there, gone on to be a judge – and now, a nominee to the highest court in the land. 


This is because we do not have a caste system in this country, or even a class system.  Two hundred fifty years ago, we threw away the centuries-old framework of gentry and nobility.  We started fresh, with no ranks or titles.  Less than four score and seven years later, a farmer and self-taught lawyer from Illinois became perhaps our greatest President. 


So the American story goes.  And Judge Sonia Sotomayor from the Bronx, daughter of a single-parent practical nurse, has written her own chapter in it.  


Judge Sotomayor embodies what we all strive for as American citizens.  Her life and her career are not about race, or class, or gender – although, as for all of us, these are important parts of who she is. 


Her story is about how race and class, at the end of the day, are not supposed to predetermine anything in America.  What matters is hard work and education, and those things will pay off, no matter who you are or where you have come from.  It’s exactly what each of us wants for ourselves, and for our children.  And this shared vision is why this moment is historic for all Americans.


Judge Sotomayor was born to parents who moved to New York from Puerto Rico during World War II.  Her father was a factory worker with a third-grade education.  He died when she was nine.  Her mother worked and raised Sotomayor and her brother Juan – now a doctor practicing in Syracuse – on her own.


Sonia Sotomayor graduated first in her high school class from Cardinal Spellman High School in 1971.  She has returned to Cardinal Spellman to speak there, and to encourage future alumni to work hard, get an education, and pursue their dreams the same way that she did. 


When Sonia Sotomayor was growing up, the Nancy Drew stories inspired her sense of adventure, developed her sense of justice, and showed her that women could and should be outspoken and bold.  Now, in 2009, there are many more role models for a young Cardinal Spellman student to choose from – with Judge Sotomayor foremost among them.


Judge Sotomayor went on to employ her enormous talents at Princeton, where she graduated summa cum laude and received the Pyne Prize, the highest honor bestowed on a Princeton student.  This is an award that is given not just to the smartest student in the class, but to the most exceptionally smart student who also has given the most to her community.  She graduated from Yale Law School, where she was a law review editor.  


Because we have such an extensive judicial record before us, I believe that these hearings will matter less than for the several previous nominees – or at least, that these hearings will bear out what is obvious about her:  that she is modest and humble in her approach to judging.


As we become even more familiar with her incisive mind and balanced views, I am certain that this hearing will prove to all what is already clear to many:  This is a moment in which all Americans can take great pride.   Not just New Yorkers.  Not just Puerto Ricans.  Not just Hispanics. Not just women.  But all Americans who believe in opportunity -- and who want for themselves and their children a fair reading of the laws, by a judge who understands that while we are a nation of individuals, we are all governed by one law.


Mr. Chairman, people felt at America’s founding that we were “God’s noble experiment.”  Judge Sotomayor’s personal story shows that today, 200 years later, we are still God’s noble experiment.


Thank you.






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