On Monday, surrounded by first-generation students sitting in rows behind her and adorned in a black robe not unlike the one she wears to oral argument, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor accepted an honorary doctorate of laws from University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel (“Go Blue!” she said, to thunderous applause from an electric crowd, given the snowy weather outside and the early hour). Sotomayor was in Ann Arbor to participate in one of the first events of the University’s bicentennial, a colloquium titled, “The Future University Community.” After receiving her degree, the Justice joined German Justice Susanne Baer for a wide-ranging conversation moderated by NPR journalist Michele Norris.
When she spoke, I noticed the difference in temperature: words of wisdom, warm and kind, stood in stark comparison to the bitter and harsh cold of outside, both in degrees Fahrenheit and in empathetic (or lack thereof) logic.
When she spoke, I noticed the support that this woman had in my community: an elderly woman, whose written words are the source of both admiration and contempt from one half of this country or the other, was as popular as a rock star or rap icon. Every inspirational tidbit landed with immediate applause, not in awe but understanding. Every bout of humor landed with cacophonous laughter, each louder than the one before it.