“We learn who we are and who we set our intention to become, through our own story, and through the stories of others.” My grandmother, whom I call Bubbie, said to me after we discussed the event with Sonia Sotomayor on October 22, 2013.
I was aware of whom Sonia Sotomayor was, prior to the event, and knew it was a big deal she chose to come to speak to the students and faculty of Arcadia. To be honest however, I wasn’t personally interested in attending the event because I never followed politics and am also one of those lazy college students that doesn’t take advantage of all of the opportunities offered on campus. (Even though I know I probably should.)
My Bubbie knew about the event and brought it to my attention before I even saw it advertised on campus. She was a huge fan and was dying to attend Sonia’s lecture. I had class on the night of the event so I didn’t plan on trying to get tickets and told my Bubbie I wouldn’t be able to go. She was disappointed that I was missing out on such a wonderful opportunity.
On the day of the event my night class wound up getting cancelled. I highly considered taking this opportunity to work on homework or more likely watch some shows on Netflix and take a nap. However I thought of my Bubbie and how much she would love to go see Sonia. I was able to get two tickets to the event and called my Bubbie up with the news. You would have thought I told her she just won the lottery.
My Bubbie of course insisted we get a seat by the front and her eyes lit up as Sonia entered the room to begin the event. I could tell how happy my Bubbie was that she was able to see her speak, and more importantly that I was there with her sharing the moment. She listened intently and every so often told me to write something down when Sonia said something particularly relevant or something my Bubbie found important. I could tell she felt honored to simply be in her presence. When the event was over I was very grateful that my Bubbie encouraged me to attend.
We didn’t sit and listen to a political figure speak about government mumbo-jumbo. We sat and heard parts of a beautiful story of the life behind Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. My Bubbie also always told me, “You gotta do what you gotta do, to get where you wanna get.” Whenever I’m feeling lazy or unmotivated I picture my Bubbie saying that to me. This helps me to remember if I want to be successful and go places in life I have to work for it. No one is handed anything and Sonia Sotomayor is a perfect example of that. She came from an upbringing where the odds weren’t likely that she would grow up and graduate from Princeton, go on to law school and eventually become a Supreme Court Justice. She came from a low income family and neither of her parents went on to receive a higher education. She wanted a better life for herself and to also help others around her. Sonia was persistent in her studies and achieved her goals because of what she wanted. She did what she had to do, in order to get where she wanted to get.
From as long as I can remember, my Bubbie has showered me with books; colorful, illustrated books. Books that told stories. Stories that she helped me relate to my own life. One particular book I will always remember is the book Tiger Flower, by Robert Vavra and illustrated by Fluer Cowles. It was a special book that my Bubbie only shared with me and kept a secret amongst the book shelves of a million stories. It is out of print now and considered an expensive collectible. The beautiful illustrations pull you into the story of a tiger in love with a flower, living in a world where everything that’s small is now large, and everything that’s big is now small. It was a story that sparked my imagination. I was taught at such an impressionable age to find wonder in the story, as it relates to my world. My Bubbie encouraged me, like Sonia Sotomayor’s grandmother had, to be a sponge, soaking up all there is to learn in life and use it to prosper. To be adventurous, to listen to the stories of people and be accepting of those who are unlike ourselves. To always remember the small world from which I come, where I’ve formed my lifelong values. But to also expand out into the larger world where I’ll listen and hear the stories that will paint a mural of humanity.
At the lecture, Sonia told us that the reason she agreed to come to Arcadia, is because we place a large importance on Global Studies which has allowed us to become such a diverse university. Not just diverse in ethnicity but diverse in worldly experiences and global knowledge. She encouraged us to take advantage of the liberal arts school which we belong to and attempt a class in the arts, outside of our majors. My Bubbie has always supported my desire to pursue arts in addition to my typical academic courses. Throughout high school and my college experience I have developed a love for ceramics. Ceramics allows me to relieve stress from the heavy workload of my academic classes and express myself in the form of art. Many of the pieces I have made have come from my Bubbie’s inspiration. Her love for the arts was indeed passed down to me and I believe it is important to incorporate into any and every lifestyle. Sonia suggested that learning something within the arts, better prepares us for communication with people from all walks of life. For it is through communication, via our stories that we might become a world open and tolerant and peaceful to those of all different backgrounds and experiences. Who knows, the personal story might be the vehicle to felling empathy and connection to the human experience, forging a way to a more peaceful understanding world.
My Bubbie then went on to tell me was that the main reason she was happy I saw Sonia speak is because she feels she is a hero. Coming from a place of poverty and a woman of color, she has risen to the highest level of decision making in our country; a Supreme Court Justice which entitles her to a life-time commitment to truth, fairness, humanity, and justice.