Interview With Justice Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor is an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme court
February 3, 2022
Micaela Trujilo Ponce, 17
KidScoop Media Correspondent
Through my extracurricular work with the nonprofit organization KidScoop Media, I was able to interview Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the third woman and first Latina Justice of the United States Supreme Court who recently wrote a children's book called Just Help! The interview took place over the phone at Immaculate Heart high school. My teacher and principal let me sit out of class for 15 incredible minutes.
I remember feeling extremely nervous, reciting "you're going to do great" in my head as a means of comforting myself. However, that all changed when the line connected, and Justice Sotomayor greeted me. Immediately, the atmosphere shifted. There was this presence that was felt by everyone in the room. It was tangible even from across the country through a phone!
I first asked Justice Sotomayor about the nuances in her book which she was happy to have been questioned about. "I am a Harry Potter aficionado, and I loved the owl in Harry Potter," said Sotomayor. Justice Sotomayor then explained the various nuances found in her book, each with a very personal significance to her whether it be from childhood, or something she developed later in life. Much time and care was put in the creation of Just Help! and she was grateful to her illustrator, Angela Dominguez, for working with her closely to create these images.
As I was talking to Justice Sotomayor, I began to understand her overall message to kids in reading Just Help! "They often look at me and say, "I can't even vote, so what can I even do?'" exclaims Sotomayor about her interactions with the young adult community. "And I look at them and say, you don't even realize how important the voice you have is and how much power you have." I realized then that from the start of our interview together, never once did Justice Sotomayor treat me like a kid. She treated me like a professional reporter who cared about my questions and even my responses.
The Justice continued, "We adults have been jaded. We have to stimulate new and creative ways to make the world a better world." I felt so empowered by her message. Justice Sotomayor taught me the importance of valuing my youth, because with youth there comes a rich perspective that has power to change.
My next question was my fangirl moment. I told her that she inspired me, being a Latina who I could look up to. But who was her role model when she was my age? Justice Sotomayor then responded, "Oh Micaela, I am so touched that I am one of your role models." I was so extremely content in that moment, I had to pinch myself to see if that moment really happened. (It did!)
Justice Sotomayor explained that when she was growing up, there was hardly any representation, specifically in books. "We just weren't portrayed." However, her greatest inspiration was her mother. "She was my role model. I may have lost her physically, but I have not lost the many, many lessons she gave to me." The story she shared about her mother's life in Puerto Rico and how she came to the United States touched me so much. I felt comfortable telling her that my mom was my role model, too. My mom continues to teach me valuable lessons. "You can look on tv or read books and you can find role models there, but a lot of times your role models are living with you." I encourage everyone to take Justice Sotomayor's words and apply them to their lives.
My final question was simple: what would Justice Sotomayor like kids to take away from her book? Her answer was something that resonates with me a lot. Sotomayor wants to encourage kids to act. To believe in themselves and say "Yes, I can" when faced with adversity. This was so inspiring to me because my personal motto since I was little is "Miki puede"--"Miki can" in English. I know firsthand that this attitude of "Yes, I can" can help you realize that your input and actions are important.
"The world does not get better if you are a bystander waiting for things to happen. The world is better if you are an active participant waiting to make things happen," says Sotomayor. I believe in Justice Sonia Sotomayor's message wholeheartedly and will do my best to carry out this message. You can, too. Just Help! is a children's book all kids should have on their bookshelf. And don't forget to support your local bookstore!