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Working to Build a “Supreme” Life


Obviously, not many of us can become a Supreme Court judge. After all, there are only nine of them and they serve for a lifetime. But many of us have goals that are just as important and just as difficult to achieve. Typically, the more important our goal, the more difficult it is to achieve. Therefore, we thought the example of this Supreme Court judge and her hard work would remind us that anything can be achieved if we’re willing to make the choice and work to achieve it.  

Don't let fear stop you. 
Don't give up because you are paralyzed by insecurity or overwhelmed by the odds, 
because in giving up, you give up hope.

Sonia Sotomayor

United States Supreme Court Justice

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going


Sometimes we feel a bit overwhelmed with life. We feel that nothing is going our way and little hope is in sight. When we try to reach our goals—even the small ones—we encounter obstacles: our classes are hard, our funds are low, our calendar seems too full, our parents are too busy to help, our friends are interested in other things, our anxiety is high. When facing such things, it’s easy just to give up on an important goal and look for something easier to do. But, as others have proved, if we work hard and stay focused, we can be successful in reaching our goal. 

Here are some important questions:

What does it take to make your dreams come true? 
What does it take to know your life’s purpose and work to fulfill it? 
How do you really beat the odds when it seems as if they are stacked against you? 

Listen to Sonia Sotomayor, United States Supreme Court Justice, and she will tell you.

Sotomayor was born in 1954 in the South Bronx area of New York City to parents of Puerto Rican descent. The family lived on a very modest income, and each family member had to chip in to do their part. Life became very difficult when her father died in 1963, leaving her mother to raise the two children as a single parent. In spite of the challenges, Sotomayor’s mother worked hard to make sure they had a good education, even sacrificing to make sure they had a set of encyclopedias in their home for research (in the days before home computers). 

Even with all of her previous hard work in school, though, Sotomayor felt overwhelmed with her classes when she entered Princeton University after high school. But instead of giving up, she held on to the dream she had of becoming a judge. Sotomayor's first thoughts about the justice system began after watching an episode of the television show Perry Mason. In one episode, a judge decided to dismiss a case when the accused was proven to be innocent. She became fascinated by the role of the judge and didn’t want to let challenges slow her down. So, she sought help through tutoring at Princeton and took even more English and writing classes to improve her abilities. She became involved with the Puerto Rican groups on campus for encouragement and friendships and joined the university's discipline committee where she started developing her legal skills.

Her hard work paid off. She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton and was awarded the Pyne Prize, which is the highest academic award given to Princeton undergraduates. That same year, Sotomayor entered Yale Law School, where she was an editor for the Yale Law Journal. When she passed the bar, she started working as a lawyer in New York. Along the way, she remembered to serve others and donated her time to several nonprofit and state agencies. Her pro bono work caught the eye of some Congressional leaders who were partially responsible for her appointment as U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York City. President George H.W. Bush nominated her for the position in 1992. When she joined the court, she was its youngest judge. On her 43rd birthday, she was nominated for the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton. On May 26, 2009, President Barack Obama announced his nomination of Sotomayor for Supreme Court justice, making her the first Latina Supreme Court justice in U.S. history. 


She had plenty of challenges in life and in school, but she never gave up. As a result, she is achieving much with the life that she is living.

while we can make slight changes to our outward appearance,

No Latina had ever been a Supreme Court Justice. Very few women are appointed for higher judicial positions—she’s only the third woman to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. To add to the odds against her, children from single-parent households often have to face challenges by themselves. People who struggle with classes at Princeton often have to drop out, and few bounce back enough to receive an academic award. The list of obstacles that stood in Sotomayor’s way was long. But she had a dream to become a judge. She was willing to face the challenges and worked hard every step of the way. She served others, believed in herself, and knew that her life’s purpose was worth working to achieve. 

It’s Your Choice

You have the choice to do the same thing. You may struggle at times just as Sonia Sotomayor did, but you can make the choice to never give up. You can hang on to hope, work hard and find ways that will lead you to your goals and dreams in life. You can beat the odds and work through the challenges to find your purpose and live to fulfill it. 


Not all of us will be Supreme Court Justices, but we all are called to do significant things with our lives…to accomplish important things and bring hope to others. You can beat the odds, overcome the challenges you will surely face, and do something special with your life. It will all depend on the choices you make along the way…starting today.

while we can make slight changes to our outward appearance,

Experience has taught me that you cannot value dreams according to the odds of their coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire.

Sonia Sotomayor

United States Supreme Court Justice

Questions/Discussion Points



Do you know someone who has overcome challenges to get to where they are today?
Who are they and what challenges did they face?


What challenges are you facing to reach some of your goals? 


What challenges do you think you might face in the future?

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