Students at a Flushing college had the unique opportunity to ask a Supreme Court Justice questions about law, learning and life at an assembly this week.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor participated in an open forum with students at Queens College on Oct. 16. Moderated by QC President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, the special event was part of the school’s 80th anniversary celebrations.
Sotomayor told the dozens of students and faculty gathered at the LeFrak Concert Hall that she believes a liberal arts degree is “the most valuable degree in the world.” The Justice herself earned a bachelor of arts in 1976 from Princeton University and took a chance on an Introduction to Art course, which forever changed how she appreciates painting.
“[Liberal arts programs] are supposed to expose you to some things you don’t know anything about,” the Bronx native said.
She encouraged students to take risks when selecting courses — even signing up for classes in which they might not easily succeed.
“We’re all living in this world together,” she said. “Take the classes you think might scare you.”
In her role as Justice, which she has held since August 2009, Sotomayor said she has learned that personal feelings cannot be completely eliminated from the process. She has, however, learned that getting past her emotions begins with acknowledging and processing them.
“A lot of the things we feel, a lot of the prejudices we hold, are emotions that we don’t control because we don’t recognize them,” Sotomayor said. “And so, as a result, I think its very important to be self-aware enough to recognize your own biases, your own emotions, and to counter them in an impartial way.”
Students also fielded questions about Sotomayor’s memoir “My Beloved World,” stress management techniques and the Justice’s roles as a mentor. During the open forum, Sotomayor circulated the room to meet, greet and take photos with students in between questions.
The Justice asked students to encourage their peers to register to vote and get involved in their local and global communities.
“The worst thing in the world is to let life happen to you,” Sotomayor said. “You have to care about something within your world.”