Newsroom Archive


A Fierce Advocate for Justice

The Convocation on Sept. 17 that officially welcomed the entering Class of 2014 to John Jay included a historic visit to the College by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Bronx native who was hailed as a true hometown hero by an enthusiastic capacity crowd in the Gerald W. Lynch Theater.

“It is my honor and pleasure to officially welcome you into the John Jay family,” President Jeremy Travis said to the newest students and Justice Sotomayor. He then formally presented the Justice to the assembly and awarded her an honorary Doctor of Laws degree — only the second Supreme Court Justice to be so honored.

“I am honored to be part of your class,” Justice Sotomayor said, “the first entering class in the second half century of John Jay’s existence.” She praised the College as “a jewel in the crown of the City University system,” and its mission of “educating students in the love of justice.”

Justice Sotomayor, a Princeton- and Yale-educated former prosecutor, litigator and federal judge, went on to offer what she called a “recipe for success” in college: spend every day here creating memories; learn new things and then share them, and devote part of each day to doing something nice for someone.

“Learning how to think is a key ingredient in doing anything in the future,” she said. The Justice went on to urge students to find their passion for life in school. “Don’t specialize too early,” she said. “Take courses in as many different things as you can. Take courses just because you know nothing about that area.

“Squeeze every moment from this experience,” she concluded. “Have fun in discovery, and challenge yourself.”

The students, who were presented with special-edition Convocation pins to seal their membership in the John Jay community, signaled their appreciation of Justice Sotomayor with a lengthy standing ovation before she headed to an exclusive meet-and-greet in the Moot Court room.

Quite obviously reveling in the intimate setting with some 60 lucky students, the Justice fielded question after question, and posed for countless photos. The pre-screened questions covered a wide range of thought-provoking topics, including:

How do you stay grounded amid all of your professional accolades?

What question do you ask yourself before rendering a decision?

What accomplishment has meant the most, other than your appointment to the Court?

Why is there such a dearth of Hispanics in high-ranking government positions?

What lessons would you impart to a young person of color pursuing a career in criminal justice or public service?

Justice Sotomayor, who has been on the Supreme Court since 2009, had one more opportunity to interact with students at a reception in her honor held in the Shiva Gallery.