Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor Inspires NYC Girls
Kate Griem & Flora Lange
October 22nd, 2017
On this past Tuesday, October 17th, a small group of Hunter students from the club Fast Forward Girls attended an event in midtown Manhattan which was centered around its guest speaker, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The event consisted of a Q&A with Justice Sotomayor followed by a session in which she answered previously submitted questions from students at the event.
The event was initiated and sponsored by Seneca Women, Fast Foward Girls, and ICivics. These three groups are all interconnected and work towards making sure that all people, especially women, are educated and empowered to make both political and local change in their worlds.
ICivics is a project founded by the first female Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O’Connor. It focuses on making sure that young people have a chance to learn about how the United States government functions in an engaging, interactive way. The website includes links to online games that allow the user to go through a real-life government scenario, such as running for president, passing new laws, or acting as a local official.
Seneca Women is, in the words of their mission statement, “a global leadership community centered on the principle that advancing women and girls will fast forward us to a more equitable and prosperous world.” A book called Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose, written by Ambassador Melanne Verveer and Kim Azzarelli and with a foreword by Hillary Clinton, details the inspiring stories of women who used their skills and power to create a better world. In addition to an ICivics tote bag, a pen/pencil, buttons, and more, each person that attended the event received a copy of the book and had the opportunity to have it signed by one of the authors after the event.
Fast Forward Girls is the name of a club that has subsections in many different schools throughout the country. The members of Fast Forward Girls clubs participate in events like workshops, town halls, and speaker-based occasions like this one. The leader of the Hunter chapter of Fast Forward Girls is Hannah Oblak. Because of all the amazing work that she has done for Fast Forward Girls in the past, Oblak had the opportunity to be the person sitting at the front of the room with Justice Sotomayor, asking her an opening round of questions.
The event took place at 4 Times Square in a set of rooms on the 38th floor, and the huge, almost ceiling-to-floor windows on one side provided an amazing view of the surrounding area. A wide array of refreshments and snacks greeted attendees when they arrived, and after Justice Sotomayor spoke, a reception that included catered dinner (think hot wings, pigs in a blanket, and guacamole) and dessert was held.
One thing that was unique about the event was the fact that it was held in such a small environment. Because of this, Justice Sotomayor was able to address more personal questions, not just questions about her profession. Since the students there were all girls, she did answer one student’s question related to what it means to be a woman in her profession. She responded by speaking about how it will always be harder to be a woman, but that is what makes it all the more worth it; she loves being a woman not even with the challenges it brings to life, but because of them.
She also addressed what it means to be a woman of color in her profession. One experience that she shared with the room was when a white male lawyer doubted her ability and intelligence. Justice Sotomayor and the other lawyer were representing the opposite sides of the same case. At first, when she was talking, the man wasn’t really paying attention, even though she was making a point that shook his argument to the core. Slowly, the more she talked, the more he started paying attention to what she was saying until eventually he realized that winning this case was not going to be a walk in the park just because the opposition was a woman of color. A point that continued to come up throughout the story was that the way Justice Sotomayor fought against the prejudice she constantly encountered: by succeeding and proving her doubters wrong over and over again until they finally realized how competent she really was.
Another question that Justice Sotomayor responded to was about how technology affects women and girls in today’s world. In her opinion, the effect has been very negative; cyberbullying has proved to be a prevalent issue in today’s society, and girls constantly questioning their worth as a result of social media is definitely not a positive thing. As she finished up her response to the questions, she reminded the whole room that your girlfriends and the bond you share with them is the most important and core relationship in your life.
Freshman Chloe Rollock shared some of what she took away from the event. “Going into it, I knew that the event was going to be really cool – seeing a Supreme Court Justice talking and answering our questions – but when I was there it was beyond anything I imagined. I felt very empowered when I walked away – Justice Sotomayor made me think that I could do anything I wanted to.”
For both of us, this experience was, to put it simply, life-changing. Justice Sotomayor’s words and the confidence and passion with which she spoke were amazing to see, and we send many thanks to ICivics, Seneca Women, Fast Forward Girls, Hannah Oblak, and, of course, Justice Sotomayor herself.