Ruhana Amin ‘17
On Thursday, September 15, 2016, while most students were presenting their polished pieces of prose to commemorate another successful conclusion to the Writing and Thinking workshops, a small group of Bard students had the unforgettable experience of visiting the New York County Supreme Court and learning about the Voir Dire process. They had the opportunity to participate in a mock jury selection activity and speak with a judge. Moreover, students learned about the architecture and history of the monumental courthouse and observed the Pusterla mural, “Law Through the Ages.” The mural depicts historical developments in law over thousand of years, using figures among the ranks of Hammurabi and Justinian.
Although this already turned out to be a very eventful afternoon, the highlight of the trip was yet to come. The students had the rare opportunity of meeting the honorable Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor. These fortunate students were able to attend a lecture with the Justice alongside a few other selected high schoolers at the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse. Justice Sotomayor appeared as radiant as ever, in casual formal clothing as she began the meeting by narrating her upbringing. She grew up in the Bronx and attended Cardinal Spellman High School, which clearly grasped the audience’s attention as people cheered proudly about her New York upbringing. Justice Sotomayor emphasized the importance of hard work and believing in oneself. She credits her hard work and self-motivation for her academic accomplishments, which got her accepted to Princeton University, despite people telling her she wouldn’t make it in. She advises students to never say that they are not good at something because “How will you know if you haven’t tried?”
“I was embarrassed of telling people that I wanted to apply to an Ivy League school, and that’s why I emphasize that students don’t make the same mistake. Seek help and take advantage of the resources that are available to you,” she encouraged.
After she described her life experiences, Justice Sotomayor opened up to questions. The questions ranged from personal ones to questions about current legal issues. For instance, one student asked her who she would prefer as a replacement for Justice, to which she responded that although she had someone in mind, she could not say who it was. After answering a few more questions about her life as a Supreme Court Justice, it was unfortunately, time to leave. There was an unanimous sigh of frustration at the termination of the meeting, as no one wanted to part with Sonia Sotomayor.