UVI Student Convocation with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor


Good Afternoon everyone. Another round of
applause and a great big thank you to our band, our Virgin Islands Youth Ensemble: Dion
Parson’s and UVI’s mentoring through the arts and music project.
Thank you. So, good afternoon students,
faculty, staff, trustees, UVI community here in the
Sports and Fitness Center and those who are listening
to us livestream on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St.
Croix in the Great Hall: Welcome
and good afternoon. As many of you know, I
am Camille McKayle, UVI’s Provost and Vice
President for Academic. Affairs and is likely the
case for many of you, this is my first time and
my first opportunity to be in the same room as a Supreme Court
Justice – so I’m excited. I’m sure you’re excited too and so lest we
forget in our excitement, proper decorum, I’m
going to remind us: No phones please so
please silence all your phones. I am sure there
is nothing more important for the next hour and a half than listening
to what’s going on in this room. So off, or at least on airplane mode or silent. No
pictures – not with your cellphones, not with your cameras. No walking around during
the event. And just overall respect. I expect it; I’m just remind you because I am all
jitters up here, myself. At this time I would like to invite our speakers to the podium –
well not to the podium but to the stage. I’d like to invite our president, our board
of trustees [laughs]. President, Chairman. Smock, Jeanette Ferdinand of the St. Croix’s SGA
and Dewein Pelle, St. Thomas SGA [applause]. Thank you. President Dr.
David Hall: Good Afternoon. It is my honor and pleasure to invite to the
stage Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor [applause]. SCJ Sonya Sotomayor:
Ask me what has changed in my life since becoming a Supreme Court
Justice. I tell them that the most significant change, is that I no longer [background noise]
– that I no longer sit in audiences observing; I am always at the front and middle
of the room [audience laughs]. Dr. McKayle: Well we are happy you are in
front our room today [Sotomayor laughs]. At this time I would like to invite our Chairman
of the Board of Trustees, of UVI’s board of trustees, Chairman Smock. Chairman
Smock: Good afternoon. On the behalf of the board of trustees and the entire UVI
community, it my pleasure and honor to welcome the Honorable Sonya Sotomayor, Justice of
the United States Supreme Court. As in your past opinions Justice, your words today will
undoubtedly inspire a greater appreciation that justice is a precious commodity and must
be guarded over by capable and learned person such as yourself. Justice Sotomayor, you are
given our warmest welcome today. Thank you for being here. Dr. Camille
McKayle: And now we invite to the podium, student Government Association
President for the St. Thomas campus, Dewein. Pelle. Dewein Pelle: Just
like when sand meets the sea, the University of the Virgin Islands is
the center for quality student development that meets the pragmatic mindset of a community.
Good afternoon, to the student body, faculty, staff, esteemed guests, President Hall and the
honorable Justice Sotomayor. Comparatively to whenever any student matriculates and ultimately
graduates from this glorious institution, the presentation of an esteemed honor to an
individual that has etched a mark on American history, adds a great taste to the gusto of
this university. I am humbled to have the opportunity to welcome a new member of the
UVI community. It is befitting that since academia is an avenue for men and women to explore
opportunities that satisfy their individual passions and convictions, a well-regarded
guest who happens to hold one of the highest seats followed her dreams and overcame cultural
stigmas currently sits among us as a new member of our intellectual kinship. Most of us can
certainly reminisce on the impediments that have been busy in our lives; However, we must
all feel the sensation of triumph which has brought us here. As I have certainly been
positioned to achieve great things at a young age from my family and community members,
I too can admit that I’ve never seen this surmountable. However, a moment like this,
at the cusp of change within the mainland and the Virgin Islands, I can certainly say
that this our inspiration to become better versions of ourselves, a community and an
institution. On the verge of our VI centennial celebration as a treasured portion of American
history, and UVI’s fifty-fifth year as beacon of advancement, it is noteworthy that we are
continuing to expand our arms of brotherhood by having an iconic American figure step on our
soil as a new voice within our UVI community. Nonetheless, the grace, humility and vigor
presented by Justice Sotomayor and her persistence to not allow her life to be overcame by a
manifestation of her failures, allowed her to be chosen by the first Black US President
to become the Supreme Court’s 111th Justice, the first Hispanic Justice and third woman
to serve in her position. She is certainly a small fish from a small town, a Nuyorican at
heart, a woman who saw beyond her own existence to facilitate the growth of her country. Our
institution is ever-growing and has positioned us as a premiere institute within Caribbean
waters with an infusion of Caribbean and American soul. As students with a vast array of backgrounds,
we certainly seek guidance and change as a people. Thus, we continue to ask for enlightenment
and countless forms of achievement for the university. The student body graciously thanks
you for your service, your sisterhood, your powerful stance and most importantly your
struggle. You are a lighthouse for many who feel lost at sea. To them, you are the embodiment
of sacrifice and service, pride and hope and we welcome you as sail out of the sunset and
onto the pearly white beaches of our alma mater by the sea. Thank you! Dr. Camille
McKayle: Thank you, Dewein. And now…Oh… Now I’d like to invite
President Hall back to the podium. President Dr. David Hall: Good afternoon,
again. It is a special honor on behalf of the entire University of the Virgin Islands
community to welcome you to this event and to have the privilege of introducing at this
student convocation, one of our most distinguished guest in the history of this university, Justice
Sonya Sotomayor. As a member of the legal profession and former law professor, it is a
rare and coveted opportunity for me to introduce a member of the highest court of this land.
After an illustrious career as student, lawyer, and judge, on May 26th, 2009, President Barrack
Obama announced his nomination of Judge Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. The nomination confirmed
by the US Senate, making her the first Hispanic. Supreme Court Justice in US history. In the
United States’ governmental framework, the. Supreme Court plays an extremely critical role
in a society where the will of the majority could easily trample the rights and protections
of those who are vulnerable, discarded, and disempowered; The Supreme Court was created
as the guardian of the constitutional rights of all citizens. And though it has not always
lived up to this high mandate, we are fortunate that many justices have remained true to this
vision and calling. Justice Sotomayor falls in that tradition. She is a legal realist
who understands that the constitution must be interpreted and applied in her own words,
“to the realities of ever-changing social, industrial and political conditions.” She
has rejected formalistic blindfolds so that she can truly see the people, circumstances,
and challenges that come before the court; And in the process, she has helped to usher
into existence protections for citizens that did not previously exist. Justice Sotomayor
has been woven by a Puerto Rican culture not far from these islands and by a people who
share this space with us in the Caribbean. Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. She is part of
us and carries with her a calling to serve those who are easily forgotten. Justice Sotomayor
is a voice crying the wilderness of flawed legal constructs, trying to breather justice
into rules and into human lives, our desire is that her experience with is today becomes a
stronger wind beneath her wings as she continues to carry out this awesome responsibility.
Justice Sotomayor is more than a judge on the highest court of the United States. She
is an inspirational reminder that dreams do come true. She is living proof that barriers
created to lock people out can be broken. She is the best evidence that excellence does
not belong to any race, gender, or nationality [applause]. Her achievements, despite obstacle
and setbacks are a clarion call to our students and students around the world that hard work,
perseverance, values, and dreams are still the ultimate keys to success and to a good
life. The University of the Virgin Islands is honored to host the student convocation
for justice Sotomayor during this year the. Virgin Islands commemorates its historic connection
to the United States. The transfer of these beautiful islands from the Danish to united
states created a legal conundrum that this nation nor its courts has adequately resolved
but which impacts the lives of virgin islanders every day and we know that her presence here
will make her and the court even more sensitive to those challenges. So with great humility,
with deep respect, I present to Associate. Justice of the Supreme Court, the Honorable
Sonya Sotomayor who will answer questions developed and presented by our students.
Justice Sotomayor [applause]. SCJ Sonya Sotomayor: I have been on the islands
since Tuesday night and I have been as warmly welcomed as any human being could be. I have
traveled and seen St. Croix. I will be before I leave tomorrow, see a little bit of St.
Thomas again. I am revisiting; But the last time I was here was more than 15 years ago and
I wasn’t as famous then. A lot has changed since then: I didn’t have marshals then,
those wonderful people that keep me safe; And back then I could actually wear a bathing
suit. Today I have to wear a cover-up. But besides the changes of sitting in the front
of the room always, one of the things I value the most about this new world that I’m in
– this new life that I have – is that I get these opportunities: Opportunities to
interact with people and learn about the them, the issues that they are concerned about and
the human qualities that we share together. This is a – are amazing islands. I don’t
know that I really noticed when I was last here, how diverse the population of the islands
is. And what is so wonderful and different about where I come from, is that people of different
backgrounds, races, colors and ethnicities, are actually friends with one another. Um
– [audience applause]. You have a lot to teach the mainland. I’m gonna go back and I
explained that one of the things justices do is regularly have luncheons together. [Um]
we have lunch after every argument; But we have lunch after every Friday conference,
which we have almost every Friday morning. What we’ll do this coming conference at
lunch is talk about what we did; And I’m gonna be encouraging my colleagues to come
to the Virgin Islands [audience applause]. Now, I know that students have questions and
so I’m gonna let them get up and ask the question. I’m gonna circle around the room
and I’ve been every audience: My marshals are here to protect me, not from you, but
from myself [audience laughs]. They don’t like me doing this because they worry about me.
They worry more that I’ll fall or something like that; But if you don’t jump up unexpectedly,
they won’t get nervous. I’ll reach over; I’ll shakes your hands; I may even give an
occasional hug, but if you stay put, they’ll stay put. OK? So, who will be the first student?
You gotta tell me what your name is; What year in college you’re in; And
what you’re studying. How’s that? [To marshal] Can I have some help down
the steps? Thank you. Go ahead and … Dwane Hendrickson: Good Afternoon. SCJ
Sonya Sotomayor: Uh, ‘scuse me. I don’t know how many of you remember, but I broke
my ankle – you should be listening – during my confirmation process and one of the things,
one of the lingering things is that my ankle is a little weak; And so when I’m stepping I
always need help. And so people like Judge Lewis who is here with me today and Karen,
who is the head of my security here, provide and so I’m always grateful to them for
keeping me safe. But go ahead… Student 1-Dwane Hendrickson: Good afternoon,
Madam Judge. It is indeed an honor to welcome you to the University of the Virgin Islands. We
are thrilled to have you and we are definitely excited to have you. I am Dwane Hendrickson,
majoring in accounting – junior major, actually. I was previously the President of the Day and
the student ambassador for Thurgood Marshall. College Fund and my question for you today
is, what do you think your success in being appointed to the highest court in the land
contributes to this nation and its future? What misconceptions might
people have about them? SCJ Sonya Sotomayor: Hmmm, well come and turn
around that lovely photographer will take a photo of us. I’m gonna answer your question;
But I’m gonna say something. To many audiences, especially of students and particularly for
freshman and sophomores who are suffering with, what am I gonna become? What major am
I going to take? What life path am I gonna follow? That anxiety can sometimes be overwhelming
because you’re unsure. What if I do this, I lose out on that? What if I do this and a
door closes here? Will the other door open there? Those are legitimate concerns but they
shouldn’t be all-consuming. You see, I’m a very firm believer that every person contributes
when they are passionate about what they’re doing. If you like what you’re doing and you
think it’s important then you will make yourself make a contribution. Your success
will be the success of our community, and it will improve the lives of the people you
touch. So, you’re gonna hate me. I tell kids all the time: You know, I’m pretty
good at math but I would be bored stiff if I was an accountant. And people don’t think of
accounting is particularly helpful to other people, but it really is. It is. It helps
businesses stay in business so they can employ people. Many accountants I know, as contributing
public service, take on not for profit organizations and help them with their books so they can
stay alive and afloat. You can take any job that you have and make it meaningful to society.
You can become a bus driver, who every morning says, “Hello” to you and smiles. If you
find that kind of bus driver doesn’t that make your day better? When you go into a store
and a salesperson starts talking to you and helping you out and making jokes with you,
you leave that store feeling happy don’t you? And often they’ve made sale because
of it. But my point is, that unless it is illegal activity, any job you take will make
a difference if you’re doing it with that passion and love so that you make people feel
good about themselves. And so my success – I think, I hope – is that when people look
at how far I have gone in life, from where I started, because I think most of you know
that I was born into a working class New York family, whose income was low enough so that
we qualified for public housing in the Bronx. We lived in one of the poorest neighborhoods
of the nation. It was the neighborhood with the highest crime in the entire United States.
There’s a movie called Fort Apache. I have had persons die of drug addiction, my father
died of alcoholism at age 42. My mother worked to support two kids by herself. Am I telling
the story of a lot of people in this room? Alright. I think when you see where I started
and where I’ve gone that it – I hope – gives people hope. Now every once in a while that is
confirmed for me. Last night at the community event in St. Croix, at the local cardiac hospital,
a woman got up and told me about her young child, a young man of mixed heritage – Puerto
Rican and he calls himself Puerto Rican and mulatto – who when President Obama was elected,
looked at his mother and said, “Is it possible? A kid like me could become President?” And
she said, “Yes.” And his response was, “I’m not sure – I come from here.” When I
was nominated, she said he said, “She’s. Puerto Rican like me. You’re right mommy.
I can do and become anything I want to.” For me, my life is already a success with
that story because if I’ve changed one life, that’s enough for me. But I might be able
to change more is what I hope for. That’s why I’m here among you. If one of you writes
me one day and tells me that you did something because of something I said, then my life has
become more meaningful. So that, I think, is for me, the greatest success of what I’ve
done. But as I’ve explained in my book, I didn’t do it alone. Nobody does it alone.
Have you ever heard rich people say, “I did it by myself?” You don’t know rich
people right? I didn’t either when I was a kid, ok. But a lot of people who have done
well will look at you and say, “I did it by myself. I did it all.” What bull! Nobody does
it by themselves! You don’t run a business, you don’t work by yourself. Everybody has
either an assistant, or employees and others who help. If you’re really lucky you have
family to help the way I do, and you have friends that make a difference and pick you
up when you fall down and dust you off and kick you back out. Or you have family who
stands by you through the thick and thin of life. So none of us do it by ourselves. My
success is a product of what you the student are gonna go out to do when you finish and
it’s my hope that what you will do I become involved and caring citizens. And that’s
the example I’m trying to set. It’s the example that I am hoping that you will follow
because everything you do to make your community a little bit better helps not you get ahead
but helps the kid behind you get ahead. And so that’s what success means to me. There
is a second part to your question which is what is little known about – or what
was the word you used? Misunderstood? Dwane Hendrickson: Misconceptions.
Sotomayor: Misconceptions: As I was being introduced, and someone said that I was the
111th justice. All I could think about was my grandmother. My grandmother supported herself
when she first got to New York by playing the lottery. She used to dream numbers and
every time I hear somebody the 111th justice I keep thinking to myself, if she were alive
she’d be playing that number every single day. There are so many misconceptions. Starting
with that somehow I’m a Latina Justice. I’m a justice. All the other justices are
justices. We have different life experiences. We come from different backgrounds. We have
done different work and activities makes us the person we are. It does not make me representative
of all Latinos. It doesn’t make me representative of anybody. It makes me Sonya; And when Sonya
votes on a case, I never think how about would a Latino vote on this case? I think about, how
should a justice think vote on this case? And those are very different approaches to
thinking about both law and one’s role in society. Now justices have to think about,
and President Hall mentioned this: I think about how our decisions impact people and
having coming from a particular background, I can be sensitive to what that impact is but
I can’t rule just because of the impact. I can share that information with my colleagues.
I can talk to them about it; But they and me can only vote the way we think the law
commands; And sometimes the impact is good an sometimes it’s not. But if we don’t respect
the role we play in the greater society, then we try to become God. See, I can’t
vote based on what I think is right because. I’m not sure I know what right is. You know,
when two people are in a fight, usually each side has a point and if each side has a point,
and I’m trying to play and God and say, “I, god think this is the judgment that
I’m gonna give you.” You’re neither going to respect me, nor will you think that
the law is just. You’re before me because you want a judge to tell you what the law says;
And I can be informed of those judgements by my background. I am informed by it, at
times, but that’s not the basis of my ruling. I’m ruling because I believe that this is the
way and what the law commands. So I think that’s the greatest misperception. It is
absolutely true that every good judge will render a decision or more decisions that are
not gonna be popular because if you don’t then there’s something wrong. But that generally
– when I do, and I will if I haven’t already, bforgive me ok. And understand that I’m
trying to do my job with as much integrity as I can. Dwane Hendrickson:
Thank you, madam judge. Sotomayor: Ok! Who is the next student? I’ll
be up don’t worry and don’t go away cuz. I’ll take a picture of you even if I’m
down here for a while. Tell me your name. KEDERSAH BOLAND: Good afternoon my name is
Kerdesah Boland. I am a freshman; I am majoring in criminal justice and I am aspiring to be a
forensic scientist. My question to you today madam justice is what is the most challenging
aspect of being a US Supreme Court Justice? Sotomayor: I almost touched on it before and
I’ll finish the thought, ok. I talked about not knowing what the right answer is and two
people coming in because they each think they have the right answer. In law, there is one
answer in law. That answer makes only one side the winner. If you’re a winner, what
does that mean there is left? A loser. Every time I render a decision, I remember first,
that there is going to be a loser that is going to be unhappy. That someone is going
to leave the process believing and thinking that justice wasn’t done for them. And I play
a role and I have to announce that winner but the hardest part is always remembering,
no matter how right I think my vote is – and I don’t vote unless I think it’s right
– that there’s someone else who feels something has been taken from them and that’s
a heavy burden to carry. There’s no decision I make that’s easy. And there’s no decision
no matter how much one group or another, is joyful that I don’t realize comes at a cost
to someone else. That’s why where others rejoice in legal victories, I’m proud to a
part of the system that works to find answers but I can’t rejoice knowing there’s
another side who’s in sorrow [applause] I’ll be back up, don’t worry.
I won’t forget you. DURYAN COZIER: Good afternoon justice Sotomayor.
SCJ SONYA: I’m not hearing you is that on? DURYAN COZIER: Good afternoon Justice Sotomayor.
Welcome to UVI, we are very honored to have you here. My name is Duryan Cozier and I’m
a senior here at UVI pursuing a Bachelor’s of science in psychology; And I’m also the
president of the newly formed literacy and debate club. My question to as a student and a
club leader is, what were the greatest challenges that you faced while in college
in starting your career? SCJ SONYA: Well I talk about this often because
I think it is the greatest challenge of most students. Particularly students of diverse
backgrounds. In part because our parents generally are immigrants or migrants and speak different
languages, sometimes creole, sometimes a mixture of languages. But I spoke Spanish before I
spoke English, and I didn’t realize that I couldn’t write English until I got to
college. And you’re gonna ask, why was that? I was top A student during high school; I was
valedictorian of my class. Well back then, most test were multiple choice [audience laughs].
I have a great memory; And secondly when there were essays, they were short things you know;
And I was insightful – this is not bragging, I saw things when I read. And so I would pack
them in with all the things I saw. And I think my teachers were impressed that I was thinking
about things and they gave me good grades. None of them actually stopped and said, “Wait
a minute, this is not a sentence,” until college. And a professor, first history paper,
– I would ultimately major in history-gave me a C; And I was shocked and devastated and
I picked myself up and I went to her office and asked her why. And she explained to me
that I had too many ideas but I didn’t have theme. I hadn’t really explained a thought
in a cogent way. One thought or two or three but put them in a framework that makes sense.
That I understood because I had been a debater in school and so that – when she said it, I
reread the paper and said, “She’s right, there’s no theme here.” And I went back to
my debate skill, ok. And so I knew I could figure that out by myself. So I had to think
about how to figure out writing again; And I learned from books. And I decided that summer
to go to the then and only one Barnes and. Nobles – in Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. I lived
in the Bronx; This was an adventure. I went down there – back then on one stretch of
block in new York city, there were like six to eight little store fronts and every one
of them was one section of Barnes and Nobles so I had to keep walking from one section
to another to find grammar book – I finally did; And I bought grammar books from first
to twelfth grade, and I reread them. And as I picked up the books next to this section,
there was a whole display of vocabulary books and the vocabulary books had little pictures
on the front that said, “Become a power speaker” and so I bought a bunch of those
and the book said, “Learn ten new words a day and you will become absolutely literate.”
And I thought to myself, “Ten is too much, I’m gonna do five.” I tell this for a
reason and I’m gonna tie up the points in a moment. Then I went back to college and I
took another history course after that summer intending to see if my writing had improved.
And I took a course with another professor and I got back a B. I had figured out the
themes but he had circled a lot of things on this paper and I went back and talked to
him and he said, “You spoke Spanish before English.” And I said, “Yes.” He said,
“You’re doing a lot of translating when you’re writing in English and there’s a
lot that doesn’t translate exactly the same in the two languages.” I still remember
the very first sentence; It started with “the authority of dictatorship…” And he said, “Look
at this: In English, adjectives precede the noun. ‘Dictatorial authority.’ It’s
awkward to say ‘authority of dictatorship’ and your paper is filled with that. And that’s
because – not all the time, but very very often – in Spanish, adjectives are introduced
with the preposition ‘of.’ We don’t say, ‘cotton shirt, ‘ we say shirt of cotton
in Spanish. So he said, “Go back and fix all that.” So I searched through the paper,
I fixed it; I rewrote it, he took it back, he said I got all of ’em; But there’s
more [audience laughs]. And I said, “ok, what next?” and he said, “One more thing.”
And he pointed out to my subject and my verb not being in the right tense. I fixed that.
Then he said, ‘Ok, let’s stop here. Write the next paper and we’ll do more.” I wrote
about eight papers for him and over that time – including my senior thesis – and over
that time he showed and taught me more. So what are the lessons of this story? Number
1: Ask for help [audience applause]. I find it so startling when a student who doesn’t
know tells me they do. I think the stupidest judges – not judges, lawyers – are the
ones being questioned by judges who try to give an answer when they really don’t know.
There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about in saying, ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I
don’t understand.’ And yet most people are ashamed of that. Why? You should be more
ashamed that you’re not learning the answer than that you don’t know the answer; But I
have never ever in life hesitated in saying I don’t know or I need help. In my book I
tell a story that I didn’t remember – not my story, I don’t remember it. It’s a story
of a classmate from grammar school and she told me the story when I was writing my
book. She had reconnected with me sometime through the Supreme Court nomination. And
she told me that in fifth grade, which is where I began to be a good student, I had
gone up to her and said, “Donna, I don’t know how to study. How do you study?” She
was the smartest kid in the class. She now says it was the stupidest thing she did cuz
then I got better grades than she did. But I didn’t remember I did that. But I do know,
that even today in conference when somebody says something I don’t understand, I’m
the first one to say, “I don’t know that reference” and almost all the time, some
other colleague will bend over and say, “I didn’t know it either.” And sometimes nobody
will say that but at least I’ve walked the way a little bit smarter. And so I asked
my history teacher – my first one and the second one, the question of why. Why was I
getting a bad grade? And I looked for someone who would help me to learn. The second
is – lesson of that challenge – Duryan: Thank you. Sotomayor: Was
helping myself. You see there is nothing that comes natural in life. People
think there are natural athletes: There are some athletes that have more skill than other
people, you know. They have a better sense of coordination. They may have a better eye.
They may have a better swing. They may have whatever; But they have to practice to become
perfect. A baby doesn’t get up and start running or walking with perfection. We practice
until we improve. And so that was a life lesson for me about how to succeed in life. So understand
that it took two things: Asking for help but my making sure that the person who was giving
me the help knew that I was trying to work with them. That’s my key to the challenges.
But I think that that moment in college which was the first I remembered of my sort of getting
up and I’m gonna do something; I’m gonna improve my writing so that I can be successful
in college – it worked. And I do that with everything I’ve done in life. I look for
help. And sometimes I read book but then I go and talk to people and makes sure what
the book tells me makes sense. That’s how I learned to play poker by the way
[applause]. Duryan: Thank you Madam Justice. Ki-ana Tonge: Good day madam justice, my name is
Ki-ana tongue. I am a second semester sophomore; I am majoring in early childhood education
and I am currently the treasurer of student government association at the Albert A. Sheen
campus. And my question reads, “What are your greatest strengths and limitations
as US Supreme Court Justice.” Sotomayor: You know, I had seen these questions
before hand and this one was the toughest. A, you don’t want to brag about yourself;
But B, you don’t want to admit your flaws either. You know we live in this fine balance.
What’s my greatest strength? I think it’s. I’m doggid. I just won’t give up. I’m
often asked what’s the greatest strength that I have; And I tell kids all the time
is that I’m stubborn but a good stubborn. If I can’t figure something out, I will work
at it until I do and I won’t let anything stop me from trying to figure out the right
answer. And that actually I think can work for anything in life but it has worked as a
Supreme Court justice. You know I’ll tell an example, a story. You might not like my
telling this story. One of my colleague in a tax case wrote that he wasn’t gonna bother
to learn the math because he was a judge and it was too complicated. Well, I thought that
was just insane. You give cases to judges because you want us to figure out the answer
and you’re trusting us to take the time and give the effort to do it. And so for me,
that I think is what marks what I do. I’m not the smartest person in the room but I
work really hard at what I do. What’s my greatest limitation? I’m not the smartest
person in the room; And that’s humbling. I had that experience when I was in college
and especially in law school where I went to Yale law school that has some of the smartest
people in the whole wide world. And I felt dumb a lot. Sometimes I hear my colleagues
talking and I think to myself, “How did they think of that.” Why didn’t I see that?
It’s a weakness because not seeing it is not great but admitting to yourself is
hard but I do and that’s where that first thing helps me because I recognize it and
I’m willing to work hard to try to figure it out. Ki-ana: Thank you. Andre’a Dorsey: Good day Justice Sotomayor.
Welcome to the University of the Virgin Islands; We are pleased that you are here with us today.
My name is Andre’a Dorsey and I am a doctoral student of our University’s first PH.D program
in Creative leadership for innovation and change. Sotomayor: Wow,
that’s pretty impressive. Dorsey: Thank you. I am also an academic advisor
here at UVI for the Center for Student Success. My question is, you are known as a strong
advocate for diversity. What value is added to the Supreme Court when it includes justices
form different racial, gender, age and economic groups? Sotomayor: Now I’m
gonna back up a little bit, ok? Because I think diversity – not
just in those categories, but in every way – helps the Supreme Court. I’m most worried
today not about the lack of that diversity but the lack of professional diversity on
the court. And by that I mean there is not one single justice who has criminal defense
experience. Every justice has either government experience or a prosecutorial experience.
We supervise criminal law; It’s made up of two sides. Having people who have practiced
and been involved in the most important aspects of legal practice is important. I mentioned
criminal law: We have nobody with background in environmental law. We have nobody with
immigration background. We have only one civil rights lawyer; And that was on women’s rights
but nobody with race, ethnicity, handicap, educational rights – knowledge or experience
in any of those areas. So what does that lack mean? It certainly doesn’t mean that the
justices don’t try to understand both sides of any issue that comes before them – we
try hard – but having people on the court who can share what their perspective in practice was
add some value to the nature of the conversation. When Thurgood Marshall died, Sandra Day O’Connor
said, “He forced us always to look at the people we were judging. No other justice brought to
the deliberative process that kind of humanity.” That’s a gift, and it doesn’t mean that
because you bring your voice – as I said earlier – or the impact of your experience
that the justices are gonna rule your way; But you take more comfort in knowing they’ve
at least considered that because the worst decisions are the ones in which you don’t
take note in what you’re doing. Sometimes you’ll get it right; Sometimes you’ll
get wrong but if you’re at least aware, it’s a better decision, more often than
not. And so for me, yes, I worry about lack of diversity. We have no justice who’s not
from an Ivy League school. We have no justice who comes from a public school education. We
have no justice, currently, that is Jewish or catholic. Now, some people would say, but
you’re religious and so you can figure it out. Yes we can. But it is a more rich conversation
when people are talking about what they know. And so for me, if I were a congress person, as
many senators asked me when I was interviewing with them for this nominations they would ask
me how to pick a judge. I would say start with looking at the bench you’re looking
for. See what they do and try somebody who does something different. And I still
believe that’s sound advice, thank you. Dorsey: Thank you Sotomayor:
And now I’m gonna up so wait, and I’m gonna come and take a picture with you,
finally! And with the other people who….and then I’m gonna walk to the other side, ok?
Turn around. Thank you. Going back there to do the same. Thank you. Alex Cintron:
Good afternoon Madam Justice, my name is Alex Cintron; I am a senior by
credits, applied mathematics major on the Albert A. Sheen Campus. Honorable –
Sotomayor: I have to say you guys did a great job of picking people doing different
things. I really admire that, thank you. Alex Cintron: Honorable Justice Sotomayor,
what advice would you give Hispanic students about pursuing a career in law?
Sotomayor: Alright, let’s talk about what I think law is, ok? And this is advice for
everybody. For me, law has to be a passion. First of all, law schools are very expensive
today. They’re no longer the safety net they used to be because to become a lawyer,
you gotta pay a lot of money. But even though you have to pay a lot of money, it’s really
worth it if it’s something that excites you because lawyer do so much good for society.
There’s a lot of jokes about bad lawyers, I don’t let people do that in front of me
because it was lawyers who made my life. Under. Thurgood Marshall and his team at the NAACP
fund, they for decades figured out a strategy to strike down segregation in the United States.
They planned it: Case by case, court by court. They built a record over decades until they
finally went to the Supreme Court with volumes of evidence to prove that separate but equal
didn’t work. There was no such thing in existence anywhere in the United States.
That started the Justices’ thinking and then what finally convinced them was them going
back to the drawing board and looking at the constitution and realized that equality can’t
have two meanings. And they did what they should have done 54 years before that they
didn’t do; And they said that segregation in education couldn’t exist. So we’re all
here sitting together because of that decision. Without it, we would not have the
society that I live in; And I wouldn’t be on the Supreme Court. Neither would have any
of the other women and neither would have the African Americans who have sat and sit
on that court. So that’s only a small part; Most of the good laws that people pay attention
to and like – let me talk about the women in the room, Title IX for sports athletes.
The country went for decades with girl’s teams being given no support. Title IX legislation,
helped to passed by lawyers, it requires schools to educate kids in sports in equal ways. That
affects any athlete in this room. You’re doing that because of lawyers. Why is it that
you buy products that may not be completely safe but are more safe than they used to be?
You buy drills today. Saws. You get protection helps people from cutting their fingers off.
Look around the older generation, I bet in this community you will find older members
of the community that don’t have pieces of their fingers because of those saws from
before didn’t have protective guards. So I like lawyers and lots of people and lots
of politicians don’t like them but those laws help and have helped keep us free. Lawyers
help people. They help people navigate the society in a better way. They help you in
your relationships with each other, with the government, with your employers, between family
members. That is what the law does – service to people. So Alex, it shouldn’t just be
Hispanics, it should be about everybody. Who feels like they want to help people in this
particular way because you can help people in lots of different ways; But if this appeals
to you, it the most direct way to change how the society functions as a society because
the relationships with one another is what laws create and govern. Every relationship
you have is affected by laws. So if you want to change the way a society works with one
another, become a lawyer. Good luck to you. Alex: Thank you for your imparted wisdom.
Brittane Peter: Good afternoon, Madam Justice. My name is Brittane Peter and I’m a senior
attending the University of the Virgin Islands and I am majoring in psychology and criminal
justice; I am also the PRO for the Criminal. Justice Club. My question for you today is
how have you been able to address challenges such as discrimination against women,
especially against minority groups? Sotomayor: You know we spend – well most
people believe that to every problem, there’s a silver bullet answer – that one thing
will cure the problem. So think about the cancer research that was done years ago. Everybody
was spending billions of dollars trying to find the cure for cancer. With genetics and
DNA testing, we’re finding out that different cancers respond to different things and to
different drugs. One drug will work on one kind of cancer, another works on a different kind
of cancer and there is a genuine understanding: What cancers may not just be one thing. If
the treatment is different, then there may be more than one reason. Well it’s the same
thing with discrimination, there’s no one way to fight it, any kind of discrimination.
It’s in many ways situational. There are discriminations for many reasons, in different
ways, expressed in different ways, and that you need to address in different ways. I’ve chosen
myself in my life to treat it as situational. And let me give you a number of examples. The
first was the marshal who called me honey in my old courthouse. I knew he never called
a male judge honey: He probably would have been demoted or at least kicked to the basement
where nobody would see him, ok? But I sat there – or stood there – and thought to
myself, “why is he calling me honey?” and I realized it’s because he felt comfortable
with me. I was friendly. I smiled. I talked to people. I didn’t think anything of it but
I also knew that it felt like a lack of respect for me because I’m a judge, working in
that building; And I thought about – actually in my head this is all going on – do I go tell
his supervisor? What do I do? And I finally decided, let me make a joke of it. And I
went up to him and I said – I won’t say his name, I’m making up a name ok, john – “I
know you didn’t mean anything by calling me honey and we’re friends but you know
if somebody heard you say that to me they would think that something funny was going
on. I don’t think your wife would like that. How about you just call me Judge.” He calls
me judge. I was at work as a lawyer in a room full of men on a negotiation and I was one
of the leading lawyers on the negotiation and one of the other side’s lawyers looked
at me and said, “Could you get us coffee.” And I was sitting there about to say something
like, “No!” when the man I was working with, the partner looked up at him and
said, “No, she doesn’t get coffee; She’s a lawyer.” And he went to the phone and ordered
some coffee. I tell that story because that was a different way of it being handled and
sometimes it requires working with others. And discrimination cannot be fought alone
by the person being discriminated against. People of good will have an obligation to
get up and do something too. And my friend did. Then the third way: I’m in law school,
one of classmates wanted me to interview with the firm he had worked with the summer before
because they had asked him to bring other Yale students to be interviewed. And he asked
me to come, sit down to dinner; There’s about ten of us. Now you have to understand,
the reason we go to these dinners is because they’re paying for food at an expensive
restaurant. And the partner, my friend, goes around the room basically giving a thumbnail
sketch of everyone and he says, “Sonya is a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. She’s gone
to school at Princeton; She’s now at Yale.” He went around the room doing that it with
everybody. The introduction’s finished, and the partner looks at me and says, “Did
you get into Yale only because you’re a. Puerto Rican?” And I looked at him and
said, “No, I don’t think so.” And he said, “Well you know that’s what affirmative
action does; It makes me believe that you’re not qualified.” And I looked at him and
I said, “Well maybe if you wait and see my resume you can decide whether asking me
that question is appropriate or not.” And I let it be. And the next day, I filed a complaint
at the placement office at the law school. Now today I have a lot more thinking to do
about that because today with the internet, everybody would have known that I filed a
complaint. Back then a lot of people knew because minority students from across the
country wrote to me to tell me about similar experiences. But I went ahead, I filed the
complaint. The firm was barred from interviewing on campus for a while.
The partner was barred from the interviewing
at Yale at all for a longer time; And there was open conversation
about this happening to other monitories. You see I had figured out that if he felt
comfortable enough to do that to me, that a lot of other people felt comfortable enough
to do that to others; And that someone – and someone with my credentials because it had to
be someone as well qualified and as successful as me – who would take the chance and make
it public, and that’s what I did. I say today that I’ve had to think about it because
back then everybody else knew about it but it died its own natural death. Today every
firm would know it; It might be harder to get a job. There’s lots of things that you’ll
have to think about today; But at least in that moment I knew what was right to do and
I did it. So, those are just three. There are other examples in my book of ways I have
worked on – publicly and privately – ending discrimination against me as a
woman and as a Hispanic, a Latina. B. Peter: Thank you Sotomayor:
What do I do today? I try very, very hard. I am not always successful to make
sure that I hire women law clerks on the Supreme. Court. We have an unequal number of male law
clerks to female law clerks. It’s like two to one, three to one – when we’re fifty
percent of law school. This year and last I have had women to one man. I’ve been got
lucky; They’ve just been better qualified. I don’t suffer lack of quality for anything
but I don’t think you need to when it comes to treating people equally. You just have to
be willing to judge people as individuals and to look at the strength of each person
as a person. I am a member of the Women’s. Bar Association. There are the big and the
little things. I don’t rule based on this belief about equality for women but I guide
what I do in life by the belief that I have to treat people equally to set the example
that everybody else should treat each other equally. Thank you. Brittane
Peter: Thank you madam justice. Sotomayor: Are there questions? Yes!
Hello Jerome Philbert: Good Afternoon…. Sotomayor: Good afternoon! Jerome Philbert:
Good afternoon Justice Sotomayor. My name is Jerome Philbert.
I am a freshman studying psychology; And
my question for you is, what do you think
self-determination means for. US possessions such as
the…[mic feedback]….such as the… such as the US Virgin Islands and
Puerto Rico? Should equal voting rights or statehood be considered? Sotomayor:
How do I answer this by…and not upsetting people? Remember
I come from a commonwealth that was also a territory
in the United States. And I’m explicitly familiar with the tension
surrounding self-determination. It’s an issue that for Puerto
Rico is the center of its existence. When I
say the center, I mean the center. I have a friend who once said
you can take any Puerto Rican you want, ask them about the three statuses – independent,
commonwealth or statehood – and they’ll do a good enough job of
arguing every position equally well. You know why?
Because every one of them has held a position at some point
in their life. I don’t know if the same obsession is present in
the Virgin Islands. The problem with the term
‘self-determination’ is that in any bilateral relationship, of any
kind – I’m not talking about a territory with the United States; I’m talking about
any relationship that two people have-both parties have to agree. Without that agreement,
the relationship can’t and won’t exist. And so when you think
about, for the territories, self-determination, it
can mean only one thing. It would be independence.
But even that is not guaranteed if the mainland says no.
Because the status quo wouldn’t exist. You could
go to war. Where does that get you? For me self-determination is
each of our islands determining what they think
is best for themselves and then going out and working at making
it happen. You can’t – it won’t happen through __1:22:21_. It won’t happen because
you say you want it. It only happen if you begin doing what everybody does to change
a relationship. You lobby for it. Whether its marriage or a friendship
or in any relationship that you have. To change
it, you have to work at it and you have to convince the other
person that it’s the right thing to do. That’s how you get anywhere in
changing any relationship. I don’t know the answer
for the Virgin Islands and certainly don’t the answer for Puerto
Rico. In large measure – and I’m the first to say – I don’t live there. I’ve lived in
New York and in Washington D.C.; And now with this job, I’m never
gonna live there. I said that as a joke but
I do think the people who live in all of these communities, the
choice – first choice – is yours. And then the second choice is your working to
achieve that which you want. Do I think it’s possible? Yes. I think
it takes a lot of hard work. And it takes a lot
of effort and commitment to making a change. So, I don’t know what you
want but if you have a clear idea of what the right answer is, go make it happen.
Jerome Philbert: Thank you. Sotomayor: Now, who did I miss back here?
Come. Hello. I missed your picture. Iris Battiste: Good afternoon madam justice
Sotomayor. I am Iris Battiste and I am a freshman honor student from the Albert A. Sheen campus
majoring in accounting. Sotomayor: Two accountants! Battiste: In some biographies, you are referred
to as the child of dreams. Besides being a lawyer, can you tell us about another dream
you held that has made a positive difference in the community or informed
your career as a justice? Sotomayor: I never dreamt about being a Supreme
Court Justice. I didn’t know what a Supreme. Court Justice was when I was a kid. Didn’t
learn about it until probably – I may have heard about it in high school, learnt a little
more – a lot more – in college. And really understood it when I got to law school. But
you can’t dream about what you don’t know. My dreams have always been step by step. I
don’t believe in dreaming necessarily, the impossible first. I take every problem I face
and I break it down. And I figure out step by step how to achieve it. I gave you an example
in writing. But when I was a kid, I started with very simple dreams. I was gonna be the
first member of my family on the mainland to receive a college degree. I was. Then I was
going to be the first of my entire family anywhere – here or Puerto Rico – to become
a lawyer. I did. I wanted back then to be a prosecutor and I did. And then I figured
out I wanted to be a judge but I wanted to be just a trial judge. And I don’t think until
I got to law school that I fully understood the difference between state and federal courts.
And then I started dreaming about being a federal judge. Now, once I got to be a federal
judge I stopped dreaming about my professional career. In large measure because I loved being
a district court judge and I didn’t want anything else. I was forced into being a Court
of Appeals judge. Literally. I was asked by the then President before his reelection,
whether I would want my name put in for the court of appeals and I said no. And I told a
couple of friends who then beat me up. Literally. And pushed me into saying yes the second time
I was asked. And the day of my swearing in as a court of appeals judge my closest friend
is standing next to me and looked and her and said, “Have I made the mistake of my
life?” I fear that down line someday I’ll wake up and say, “I’m not happy doing this.
I was happy back then.” Why did I do it? Because I heard a woman I greatly admired,
Constance Baker Motley, the first African American federal district court judge in the
country. Connie Baker Motley had been a part of Thurgood Marshall’s litigation team. She
argued ten Supreme Court cases, won nine and won the tenth twenty years later when the
Supreme Court reversed the case she lost. She had a batting average – before the Supreme
Court – of ten of ten. Connie had been a litigator in the civil rights movement, Bronx
borrough president, a member of the states, the first person of color in New York City.
And in a moment where another person of color wouldn’t take on a particular job, I was
present and so were a number of other judges and Connie gave a speech that said, basically,
we don’t have the right to say no. Those of us who have been given opportunity, have
an obligation to always say yes. To move our community forward in every direction that
we humanly can. It’s not a choice. It’s an obligation. She didn’t convince that
other judge; She convinced me. That’s why I said yes when I was called the second time.
So I’ve dreamt of silly things but I’ve made them happen by working at them. Been a
horrible swimmer, still am but when I was fifty I decided I at least had to learn how
to really save myself. And I took swimming lessons and swam twenty laps without stopping.
I was very proud of myself. I can’t dance salsa. Couldn’t. I’m still not a very good
dancer but I wanted to get up and dance. So I took some lessons and the guy I was dancing
with, the instructor, was trying to teach me and I couldn’t do anything he said. So
he would then hold and try to show me. And the one thing I can do – and it surprises
my colleagues – is I can follow. He danced the step, I mimicked him. He danced the step,
I followed him. If I see you dancing, and you have a body that shows me the rhythm,
I’ll follow your rhythm because I can’t find it. And so when I’m in a place with a
lot of people dancing, I watch to see the guy whose rhythm I can follow; And that’s
the guy I say yes to. Dreams have to be big and small. I think you have to start with the
small ones. You have to stop, start with the steps. You gotta figure what you want.
That’s the big dream. I wanted to be a judge, and understand it_1:32:30__ but I also knew
I had to take some steps to get there and so I made each of those steps a goal and that’s
what I think you have to do with everything in life. Dream not just of what you want to
become but the kind of person you wanna be. I’ve worked hard and I describe it in my book,
to change myself form the person I was. It’s hard to believe but I was actually not
just shy but very withdrawn and not open to people. I started by asking the children
of my friends to hug me every time they saw me. And I told them, “I don’t get hugs
and I don’t know how to give hugs; Teach me.” And they’re young men now in their
thirties – all of these children – who I walk into the room and give me the biggest
bear hugs you can imagine; And I know how to give them a big hug back. And slowly by
doing that I learned how to reach out and be more open to people. So for me, every step of
my life has been a dream to take one additional step forward. And even when I’m knocked
back, I pick myself up and I try again, and if I take a half step, I’m happy. And I start
again and I take another half step and then sometimes I jump a lot of leaps. But
what would I tell you about your dreams? All of them are possible. Just not immediately.
So dream the small steps. Take them and enjoy them. Each moment and then reach
the big ones. Good luck to you. Iris Battiste: Thank you. [Chatter
between Sotomayor and Chief of Security] Sotomayor: Hello! Devon Williams:
Good afternoon Justice Sotomayor. Hello? My name is Devon Williams and I am a
senior majoring in accounting. Sotomayor: _1:35:10_What did you do, just
go to the accounting school? Devon Williams: Good afternoon, Madam Justice.
My name is Devon Williams and I’m senior majoring in accounting and I am the treasurer
of the student government association as well as the former student representative
to the board of trustees. Sotomayor: I’m impressed. Devon Williams:
Thank you. And the final question is, if you only had one inspirational statement
to say to millennials, what would it be? Sotomayor: Don’t travel to road of success
alone. You know I started by saying that no one achieves what they’re doing by themselves.
And so the only way you can measure true success was the day of my inauguration. When I got
up to take the oath, sitting in the audience was my entire family from New York and Puerto
Rico, all of my friends from grammar school through every job I’ve ever held and I saw
tears in their eyes. And I knew then, because they were with me, that I had succeeded because
without them it would have been an empty victory. So yes concentrate on success, work hard
at it but don’t forget the people who love you. Take them with you. Good luck. Provost
Camille McKayle: Thank you, Justice. Sotomayor. We are so honored to have had you
in our midst today and we will have a special. UVI recognition that will follow so as I ask
our chair and our president to leave the stage to prepare for the recognition, I will invite
our VI Youth Ensemble back to give us a brief interlude and I will introduce them now. We
have Shurwayne Williams on the saxophone, UVI student. Tarik Lionel on the piano, UVI
student. Uriel Rogers on the bass, Charlotte. Amalia High School student and Joshua Farrell on
the drums, Antilles student and their mentors of course, Roanne Creque and our very own
UVI artisan resident, Dion Parson. Take it away young men. [Jazz
music playing] [applause] Provost McKayle:
So in just a moment we will have Justice Sotomayor, our President Dr.
David Hall and our chairman of the UVI board of trustees, Henry Smock, on stage to do something
that we usually do at graduation; But this – we couldn’t let this pass. Dr. Hall… Dr.
David Hall: Honorary degrees are bestowed upon individuals by universities as a way
to recognize their outstanding achievement and to indicate that those achievements are
things the institution greatly admires, and who they desire their students to emulate.
It is a sacred tradition that the University of the Virgin Islands fully embraces. Today
we will bestow this honor on an individual whose contributions and achievements demonstrate
that she is more than worthy of this degree. So I now ask the chairman of the board of
trustees attorney henry smock to present our honorary degree candidate. Justice Sonya Sotomayor:
Dreamer. Trailblazer. Accomplished lawyer. Judge. And Associate Justice of the Supreme
Court. Her journey through life and the legal profession is worthy of our honor and recognition
because she has excelled at every level. Sonya. Sotomayor graduated valedictorian from Cardinal
Spellman High School in the Bronx. And then attended Princeton University where she graduated
summa cum laude. She was also awarded the. Pine Prize which is the highest academic award
given to Princeton undergraduates. She chose to pursue a career in law and entered Yale
Law School where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal and received her JD degree.
She worked initially in the public sector as assistant district attorney in Manhattan
and then in the private sector making partner at a commercial litigation firm where she
specialized in intellectual property litigation. But even in the private sector she embraced
fully her pro bono commitment and served on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense
and Education Fund. She was appointed as US district court judge for the southern district
of New York by President George H. W. Bush and was its youngest judge. Later, she was
nominated for the US second circuit court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton and conferred
by the Senate. During this period she taught law as an adjunct professor at New York University
Law School and Columbia Law School, inspiring student to fully embrace the deeper and sacred
calling of the legal profession. On May 26th, 2009 President Barack Obama announced his
nomination of Sotomayor for the Supreme Court – the highest honor that any lawyer could
ever obtain. In this role she has continued to make history by being on the right side
of justice, equality and liberty. She was among the majority in two landmark Supreme Court
rulings. One upholding a critical component of the 2010 Affordable Care Act and also being
in the majority when the Supreme Court handed down its historic decision that made same-sex
marriage legal in all fifty states. And even in her dissents she has been a voice for civil
liberties and affording protection to citizens in the face of police stops and searches.
Her presence on the court and her career as a lawyer has left an
indelible mark on the legal landscape. Her care for
others, especially students makes her a national treasure and
therefore we are proud to bestow upon the. Justice Sotomayor, the degree of Doctors of
Laws with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities appertaining thereto. In
recognition of this degree, Chairman Smock with vest you with a hood and I will present
you with a diploma from the University of the Virgin Islands. We are humbly honored
and thrilled to have you counted as one of our graduates [applause]. I indicated
earlier in my introduction of. Justice Sotomayor that this was a special
year because this is the year that the Virgin. Islands commemorates the centennial.
But it also the year that the
University celebrates its 55th anniversary [applause]. And in the
spirit of those dual celebrations or this dual commemoration and
celebration, the University has commissioned a
special medallion which on one side recognizes the
centennial and on the other sides recognizes
the 55th anniversary of the University. And we
are honored to present the first medallion of this
special 2017 collection to Justice Sotomayor. The
inscription reads, “In honor of your impeccable
and groundbreaking service on the US Supreme
court and your memorable and inspiring visit to
the University of the. Virgin Islands [applause].” We would
not be here today and the Virgin. Islands would not have
been blessed with the presence of Justice Sonya
Sotomayor if there was not an advocate, a person who was very
committed to making this happen; And so we could like to present the
second special medallion to the Honorable Wilma A.
Lewis [applause]. It reads, “With deep gratitude for your
dedicated and enlightened service to the US. District Court, and your
leadership in securing. Justice Sotomayor’s
visit to the University of the Virgin Islands.” Provost
Camille McKayle: And at this time. I’d like to invite our
bookend to our wonderful ceremony today, our student
Government Association president from the Albert A. Sheen
campus, Ms. Jeannette Ferdinand. Jeanette Ferdinand: An individual has not
started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his
individualistic concerns to the broader concerns
of humanity, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Good afternoon. My name is
Jeanette Ferdinand, the Student Government. Association president on the Albert A. Sheen
campus. I humbly stand before you today to give the closing remarks
at this significant event. It is a student
to be in the presence of such greatness. On behalf of the student
body, I will like to take this opportunity to commend the Honorable
Justice Sonya Sotomayor on her role in the
ruling of the affordable care act which has extended
health care coverage to millions of Americans
especially those of low income households.
Honorable Justice. Sotomayor is a remarkable
example of how one selfless act can invigorate
the lives of many. She is also our first
Hispanic Supreme Court. Justice and the third
female on the Supreme Court who was also selected
by our first African American president,
President Barack Obama. In the words of Mark Twain,
the two most important days of our lives are the day we were born
and the day we find out why. Everyone finds their passion in different ways.
The honorable justice found her passion
at a young age while watching a television show, Perry Mason.
Thereafter, she has followed her
dreams, conquered her challenges, and has
triumphed above all odds. So my closing message
to each of you today is: It is imperative for
you to discover your purpose; And when you do,
you too must persist against all odds. Make your why greater than
your how and continue to push toward your goals just as the
Honorable Sonya Sotomayor did. There will be
challenges and there will be doubt. They are not obstacle but all part
of your journey. I echo the sentiments of Nelson Mandela when he said, “It always
seems impossible until its done.” We thank you President Hall for the opportunity to a
part of this spectacular event the University of the Virgin Islands. Thank you [applause].
President David Hall: As president I would like to take one minute- and I know we are
over time – to thank the community for all that has been done to make this a very very
special event. I believe that this student convocation will go down in the history of
the University of the Virgin Islands and it would not have occurred but for a lot of hard
work by members of this community who have worked together and so I would just like to
quickly call out their names and will just ask that you hold your
applause to the end. But I know this could not
have happened without these individuals: Ms. Una Dyer and members
of the President’s Office, Ms. Gail Steel in the Board of Trustees Office, Mr. Charles
Martin and the entire physical plant, Ms. Denise Humphreys and
members of the Reichhold. Center staff, Michelle
Neaves, Tamika Williams, Raul Carrillo from
Institutional Advancement an d the entire staff of
Institutional Advancement, Chief Glasford and the security team on this
campus, Student Affairs on both campuses, led by Deans Moore and Dean Rivers and all
of those in their areas, our IT department led by Tina Koopman,
Dean Emily Williams who is over our honor program
and all of the honor students who participate, the student show
submitted questions, our SGA leadership, our music department and the
group that performed here today, our athletic
director, Wilberto. Ramos, Phillipe Ayala and Government House.
There are numerous other individuals whose names may not have been
called but who contributed greatly to this spectacular event.
Please join me in thanking all of those individuals
[applause]. And as we now finally close, I want to a say a heartfelt
thank you to Justice. Sotomayor for not only
being here but being so generous in your time,
being so open with this community and we
will never forget your generosity and gift to the University of the
Virgin Islands. Thank you and thank to all of you. Provost Camille
McKayle: So as we stand to wish a UVI farewell to Justice Sotomayor I
ask that we stand as she exits and no one can leave the room until
we have advised you that you can. So lets her a
hearty, UVI buccaneer thank you.

1 Response

  1. Barhn_Crucian G says:

    Where's the one when she was in st.croix

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