(NEW YORK) — Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor had three opening words as she addressed the graduates of New York University on Wednesday who were holding their ceremony at Yankee Stadium.
“This is a-w-e-some,” she said.
“I grew up in a public housing project in the Bronx just a few miles away from the old Yankee Stadium,” the nation’s first Latina Supreme Court justice told the graduates. “So, for me, this event at the new stadium is momentous.”
“Nothing in my childhood hinted to me that I would be in a position someday to stand on this field and speak to such a large crowd,” she said. “As a child, I only saw the stadium on television when I watched baseball games next to my dad on the sofa. So it is not hard to understand how delighted I am to be here with you today.”
Next, Sotomayor launched into a nostalgic tribute to her hometown.
“I have felt excitement in returning to New York,” she said. “My new home, Washington D.C., is lovely, and I have been warmly welcomed by my new colleagues, the court family and the residents of my new city, but every time I cross a bridge or a tunnel to return to New York for a visit my heart sighs with joy. I love this city and all it has given me.”
“Stand in the middle of a New York City street and you sense immediately the magnitude of this city. I remember coming to Manhattan as a child to visit the Empire State Building, looking up and being amazed that I could not see its top. Walk around Manhattan and you will inevitably see tourists craning their necks upwards to find the tops of buildings and bumping into new Yorkers hurrying somewhere. The feeling of bigness can be overwhelming initially, but there is a magic in being a part of this city once you have lived here. I love having New York in me….The cacophony of New York is as overwhelming, at times, as its size. Nothing is small in this city. Everything is large, big and noisy — including its problems. Yet the city does not merely survive — it thrives.”
Sotomayor encouraged the audience to tackle challenges.
“I dreamed about graduating from college,” she said. “Up to that point, none of my family in New York had done that. Then I grew bold and dreamed about becoming a lawyer and, someday, becoming a judge. But the only kind of judge I knew about was a trial judge on Perry Mason. I did not know what the Supreme Court was, and you can’t aspire to do things you don’t know.”
She said that fear is a part of the game and admitted to being a little frightened during every step in her life, including becoming a Supreme Court justice.
“Just keep dreaming,” she concluded, “and keep enjoying the process of new discoveries.”
Video of the speech can be viewed here.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio