President Obama has nominated federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court. If confirmed, the New York born jurist will be the first Hispanic to sit on the nation’s highest court. While we had hoped Mr. Obama would name a second Black to the Court, to break the decades long unspoken “one Black rule,” we believe he did not err in naming Judge Sotomayor. It says something about our nation when the first Black President can name the first Latina to the Supreme Court. We should all be proud because this is a sign of true progress.
The President’s choice of Sotomayor, who is unquestionably qualified to serve, is also an important gesture to our nation’s Latino community. Many of us can recall the joy that our community experienced with President Lyndon Johnson’s pick of Thurgood Marshall to the Court in 1966. Blacks viewed that appointment as long overdue recognition of our citizenship status in this country. This morning Latinos all over America are waking up with that same exhilarating feeling, and rightly so. For too long, they too, have been treated as second-class citizens - mostly due to language differences and opposition to immigration that is racially biased. At a time when immigration remains a divisive issue in our country, the choice of Sotomayor, native born, is a bold move by critics who are biased against all Spanish-speaking residents and citizens of our nation.
Despite the obvious significance of her pick to the nation’s Hispanic community, Sotomayor should serve as an inspiration to us all. The “Nuyorican” is a true American success story; rising from humble beginnings in an East Bronx public housing project to become a student activist at Princeton University and to graduate from Yale Law School. She has been a steady and consistent advocate for Latinos throughout her life. At a time when many young people, Hispanic and Black, are searching for meaning in their lives, Sotomayor will serve as inspiration and further proof that hard work and commitment can pay off. The perspective she brings to the Court will be that much richer because of her life experiences and understanding of the challenges that many of us face in securing rights as American citizens.
Judge Sotomayor will certainly come under scrutiny during the confirmation process. However, given Republicans earlier support of her during her previous confirmation to the federal bench, we would hope that decency would prevail this time around. President Obama, while making the right call from a legal perspective, has also scored well politically with his selection of Sotomayor. It is no secret that both major political parties are vying for the Hispanic vote. It is a significant and growing bloc of our nation’s electorate. During the last election, Mr. Obama did extremely well among Latinos despite early concerns that they would not support him. Republicans, on the other hand, may have permanently damaged their relationship with the Hispanic community due to the virulent position many in the GOP have taken on immigration. Taking nothing away from Judge Sotomayor’s credentials and fitness to serve on the Supreme Court, her nomination also serves the President and the Democratic Party well over the long-term.
We applaud this appointment and look forward to Senate confirmation hearings where Judge Sotomayor will be able to demonstrate her command of the law and show the nation why she is qualified for this historic appointment. Her seat on the Supreme Court will move us one chair closer to a Court that truly reflects our nation today and the America we are destined to become.