Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor inspires students at Brown University

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (right) visited Brown University on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. (WJAR)

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was diagnosed with diabetes at a young age.

Ever since then, she said she has appreciated that each person can have their differences, and that everybody can contribute.

Sotomayor shared some stories from her past, and answered questions from students, during an appearance at Brown University in Providence on Wednesday that lasted a little more than an hour.

When asked her response to people who accuse her of getting ahead through affirmative action, the daughter of Puerto Ricans living in a project in the Bronx before being admitted to Princeton and Yale law School, she provided an inspirational answer.

“I try to be humble, but there’s nothing more that can upset me more than to say I’m in a place because of affirmative action. And I look at them and I say, 'Probably. But I’ve done more than you have. I’ve come further than you have. I am more deserving than you. You were privileged to have an extraordinary education. You were privileged to have parents to train you and guide you to where you are. My parents couldn’t because they never had it. I didn’t start out with that guidance. But look it, I’m here, too,'" she said.

Sotomayor continued, "I came further than you did, and every day I do more than you do to earn being here. Because I study hard, I work hard, I’m struggling every day to catch up…But in the end, what I’ve done is more valuable, because I’ve worked harder than you, and will have gone as far as you did."

A sophomore asked her what the top two challenges that young women face today.

The Justice said pay inequality and gender discrimination.

“We still have to fight gender inequality. It still exists. It exists in people’s stereotypes. In how they view women compared to men,” Sotmayor said.

Students said they were impressed.

"Her inspiration for educating the future generation of America and her connectivity with personal struggles is inspiring," Drew Hawkinson, a junior, said.

Others shared similar sentiments.

“She talked about pursuing our passion, rather than going for things strictly because of cost, and I thought that was really important,” said sophomore Gabriella Etonriu.

Sotomayor's presentation, which lasted a little more than an hour and started and ended with standing ovations, comes 18 months after the Class of 2020 read her memoir, "My Beloved World."

Brown President Christina Paxson said Sotomayor's success is a testament to her ambition, drive and intellect, and also to the vital importance of role models and opportunities opened for historically underrepresented students.

Sotomayor became the first Hispanic and third woman on the nation's highest court when she was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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