Professor Marisel Moreno's Editorial on the Visit of Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Author: Institute for Latino Studies

This editorial by Professor Marisel Moreno first appeared in the Notre Dame student paper, The Observer, on Thursday, September 3, 2015.

‘Be a voice for change’

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, September 3, 2015

Like many in our community, I was very excited when I heard Justice Sonia Sotomayor was coming to visit Notre Dame in early September. As one of the very few Puerto Rican faculty members at this University, this represented a moment of pride. You see, for a long time Puerto Ricans in this country have received bad press. Think about how the media typically portrays Puerto Ricans — the stereotypes that are perpetuated — and you can see where I’m heading. We can count on the news to report the “bad stuff” that’s going on in Puerto Rican communities across the U.S. (or on the Island), but we hardly ever hear the “good stuff” that’s happening. And, something really good happened here at Notre Dame on Sept. 2 and 3. Thanks to some of the most generous people I have met in my life, Puerto Rican Trustee Emeritus José E. Fernández and his wife Mary Jane — who made Justice Sotomayor’s visit a reality — many of us were able to listen and learn from an incredibly inspiring person. I had never met a Supreme Court Justice before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I did not expect to meet someone who despite her status and position treated everyone with such warmth and dignity. I also didn’t expect to struggle trying to keep up with her as I jotted down every phrase or sentence I found inspiring. Although she far exceeded my expectations, I did have the feeling her message would resonate profoundly with our University’s mission and values. I’d like to share some of the most powerful quotes that I was able to capture in writing during the events I was lucky to be able to attend. Here are a few:

“You make choices about the kind of person you want to be.”

“What is it that you want to do in this world?”

“The bad will always exist around you, but in the end the choice is yours.”

“You can’t change the world in big ways, but you can change it in small steps.”

“Do what’s right.”

“No job is worth your conscience.”

“Be a voice for change.”

About underprivileged kids, especially those who have lost a parent: “Take an interest in the child.”

“The greater obstacle to success is the lack of knowledge of what’s available.”

Justice Sotomayor didn’t tailor her message to Notre Dame; these are the guidelines she has followed to become the person she is today. The essence of her message, especially to our students, was to follow your heart and your conscience because they will lead you to a place where you’ll be able to make a difference in this world. She emphasized the importance of using college years wisely: take courses about topics you know nothing about; befriend people who have different backgrounds from you and learn their stories; sit at different clubs’ meeting and learn from their conversations; get out of your comfort zone; study what you love; inform yourself and become a better person. Have fun. She also emphasized the privilege we all have or have had to go to school and that it’s our responsibility to help children, especially underprivileged children, reach that goal. Notre Dame students can play an important role through community outreach. Students can “take an interest in the child” and help them build their dreams. As she put it, “The greater obstacle to success is the lack of knowledge of what’s available.” Notre Dame students can show children in this community what their options are for the future. We can “be a voice for change” as she has urged us. For that reminder and her down-to-earth wisdom, we’ll forever be grateful.

Marisel Moreno
associate professor of Spanish