Totenberg on Sotomayor on NPR
January 19, 2013 4:05 PM   Subscribe

In conjunction with the publication of her autobiography, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor sat down with NPR's Nina Totenberg for an extended interview. 1: Sotomayor reflects on her upbringing, her family, and the formative years of her life. 2: Exploring her educational background and her motivations toward excellence. 3: Her post-education career and the path toward her being appointed to the Supreme Court. Audio links and transcripts available for all links. posted by hippybear (9 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
"And I went to one of my classmates who was receiving more gold stars than anybody else, and just said to her: Please teach me. How do you study and get all those gold stars?"

I like the theme she hits here, and elsewhere, of figuring out how to master whatever environment surrounds her. Not in a domineering way, but in the spirit of acknowledging that others have a working knowledge of how to do well, and that asking, plainly, for specific feedback can help one thrive and do better work.

On a lighter note....Sonia Sotomayor on "Sesame Street."
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:51 PM on January 19, 2013

I have to admit that I interpret that very same quote very differently, and in a much less flattering light, as her being someone who confuses the map the for the territory. In all of these gold stars and Ivies and law firms I can't see someone who actually values anything that they've done for its own sake.
posted by invitapriore at 9:22 PM on January 19, 2013

invitapriore, I have no idea what your comment means. Can you expand?
posted by spaltavian at 7:38 AM on January 20, 2013

If I was allowed to make one change at NPR, if I could do just one key reassignment to improve the listening experience for millions, I would divorce the Supreme Court from Nina Totenberg.
posted by Rash at 10:33 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am astonished this item received so little comment. Listening to the interviews last week felt like sitting at the kitchen table with a stranger named Sonia Sotomayor and coming away with a sense of having talked with a real person, warts and all, regrets, weaknesses, embarrassments undisguised. A more experienced (or less lazy) commenter than I would quickly link the family album bonus with its additional audio, which pretty much had me in tears. My friends who heard it likewise fell in love with, finally, a real public woman, a woman who knows full well what a role model is, yet whose operating principle seems to be that being human is the best course. If this all sounds a little overboard, I don't care. Totenberg, NPR and Sotomayor gave us a priceless and unprecedented oral history of a point in history that I never thought I'd see in my lifetime (I am five years her senior).
posted by kemrocken at 12:11 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

spaltavian, I confess to being a little intoxicated when I posted that comment, and now by the light of day I think I wasn't being very charitable. What I meant, though, was that she talks about achievement as though the signifiers of having achieved something (gold stars, a degree, etc.) are the important things and the focal point of her ambition, rather than, you know, the actual content of her education. Where I think I failed to be charitable was in not acknowledging that you probably don't get as far as she has without an actual abiding love for legal thought.

Part of my objection, too, is just that I tend to react emotionally to that type of thing in a way that probably doesn't have much to do with Sonia Sotomayor. My mom was also born to Puerto Ricans that had moved to NYC around the same time, so I recognize the mindset a little bit. Of course you're liable to get fixated on those signifiers when society is bringing them to bear as a valuation scheme extra-intensely on you as someone who is not a member of the privileged class, but that fixation can get unhealthy. One of the moments I remember best is getting a report card in third grade, where grades were one of "U" (unsatisfactory), "S" (satisfactory) or "E" (excellent), and then getting an earful at high volume for like fifteen minutes because I got an S on one thing. I've been pretty skeptical of "gold stars" ever since, so I get suspicious of people who don't give any indication of sharing that skepticism.
posted by invitapriore at 12:43 PM on January 20, 2013

I am astonished this item received so little comment. Listening to the interviews last week felt like sitting at the kitchen table with a stranger named Sonia Sotomayor and coming away with a sense of having talked with a real person...

kemrocken - I completely agree. I only listened to parts of the interviews on my drive to work and I was fascinated by details of Sotomayor's working class upbringing. I'm looking forward to listening to all three parts in one sitting.
posted by exhilaration at 8:09 AM on January 21, 2013

Thanks, invitapriore. Not sure I agree with your comment, but I understand your point.
posted by spaltavian at 8:26 AM on January 22, 2013

“It’s not a living document. It's dead, dead, dead," -- Justice Antonin Scalia speaking about the U.S. Constitution
posted by jeffburdges at 7:07 PM on January 29, 2013

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