WASHINGTON — Justice Sonia Sotomayor sidestepped a question Tuesday about last week’s election, but told an intimate audience, “We can’t afford to despair.”
“We can’t afford for a president to fail,” she said, speaking in Washington at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital.
She added that it was the responsibility of the people to support that “which is right and help guide him to those right decisions in whichever way we can find to do that.”
But then she cautioned the audience: “We can’t afford to despair, and we can’t afford to give up on pursuing the values that we and others have fought so hard to achieve.”
The comments came after Sotomayor — who was appointed by President Barack Obama — was asked by moderator Bill Press if she was in any way “apprehensive about what happened in this nation last Tuesday.”
Sotomayor told Press she was going to answer the question in a “different way.”
“I think that this is the time where every good person has an obligation both to continue being heard and to continue doing the right thing,” she said.
As she usually does in public appearances, she left her chair and roamed through the room to take questions from the audience and to pose for pictures.
She was asked about her judicial philosophy, why she chose the law, and whether she had a mentor. Sotomayor — who wrote an unusually candid autobiography in 2014 — is known as the “people’s justice” for her ability to connect with her audiences.
Near the end of the evening, a woman named Jessica stood up and asked an unusually poignant question. She identified herself as a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum in New York who had traveled from New York to meet the justice after being inspired by reading her book.
“What would your advice be when you are feeling sometimes hopeless or discouraged in any aspect or spectrum of your life?” asked Jessica, in a question seemingly unrelated to the election.
Sotomayor, did not hesitate to respond.
“I am not perfect, I get discouraged and I get sad and there are moments in my life where I thought ‘why do I bother?'” she said.
She explained however, that her thinking has been shaped by the fact that she was diagnosed as a child with diabetes, something she discusses in great detail in her book. She said at the time the prognosis for the disease was very poor.
“I believed most of my childhood, and I probably didn’t change my mind until I reached 50, that I was going to die young,” she said. “And the one thing that that thought gave me was a drive to pack as much as I could in my life as fast as I could.”
She went on to advise the woman to to find her passion: “Don’t give up, good luck.”