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What Obama said to Sotomayor and what she said to him and to us

May 26, 2009 |  8:14 am


"I don't take this decision lightly," President Obama said in unveiling his choice for the Supreme Court, federal appellate court judge Sonia Sotomayor.

Citing her "distinguished career that spans three decades," Obama said that, as a former prosecutor, district judge and appellate court judge, when Sotomayor gets to the Supreme Court, "walking in the door she would bring more experience in the bench -- and more varied experience -- than anyone now serving when they were appointed."

But the greatest credential in her case, said Obama, is "the wisdom accumulated" from a life that began in a housing project in the South Bronx, where her widowed mother worked two jobs to nurture her children's education, buying them the only set of encyclopedia in the neighborhood.

The lesson of her life, he said, is that "it doesn't matter what you look like, or where you come from, no dream is beyond reach."

For her part, Sotomayor thanked Obama "for the most humbling honor of my life."

To friends and family gathered in the White House's East Room for the announcement, she said, "My heart today is bursting with gratitude."

To her mother, she said, "I am all I am because of her, and I am only half of what she is."

And to the larger public audience, she said, "Never in my wildest childhood imaginings ... never did I dream that I would live this moment." Promising to bring her life experiences to her role as a judge, she added that as the nation gets to know her they will discover: "I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary experiences."

--Johanna Neuman

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Photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press