“In times when people are so afraid, the only way through is to listen.” -Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice of the United States
The student affairs “blog” is due. My very able assistant, Audrey Jones, says, “Cissy, what inspired you at NASPA last week?” I thought for a moment, and the answer was so easy: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Sotomayor was the keynote for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators last week in Philadelphia. Over 7,000 professionals attended the conference and even a spring Nor’easter or two could not keep the over-flowing crowd from this event!
I had the good fortune to meet, listen and cheer many famous (and not so famous) enthralling speakers. That said, I have never witnessed a speaker engage with an audience the way Justice Sotomayor did. She graciously sat down, allowing a colleague to ask a few warm-up questions. She answered eloquently, with humor, and spoke in complete and grammatically correct paragraphs! All of a sudden she stood up and changed the nature of the entire interview.
I was sitting in the third row center. She walked to the front of the stage, looked left and right, and said something like, “Boy, is this going to make my Secret Service detail nervous!” With that, she began to climb down the stairs, to a thunderous standing ovation, shaking hands and making eye contact with folks. Without missing a beat, the interviewer asked questions while Justice Sotomayor calmly answered, and continued acknowledging each and everyone’s presence. At one point, she said, “Don’t jump up and hug me; it makes my team very nervous,” and then again the audience applauded, enjoying her “everyday presence.” Justice Sotomayor reminded us what matters most is recognizing each other’s humanity, listening intently, and understanding that compromise is not about losing - it is about living together in a world that only we can make better.
I have included the website of Dahlia Lithwick’s article, “The Elmo Antidote,” a fuller account of Justice Sotomayor’s speech at NASPA. Well worth the read! https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/03/sonia-sotomayors-message-of-empathy-listening-and-compromise-is-what-we-need.html
I left the Justice Sotomayor keynote of a #fangirl!