One of the things I love about where I work is that we often have interesting/influential people come speak to the students...and the staff, too.
Justice Sotomayor came and spoke at an informal, off-the-record forum on Tuesday morning and I scored a seat up close. It was a fairly small crowd- probably 150 of us in all - and Justice Sotomayor sat and talked for about half an hour and then answered questions for another half hour.
I was surprised to see how much older she looks in person than she does in the news. Also, I was struck by what an amazing public speaker she is. She brought no notes with her and spoke eloquently, with nary an "umm" or pause for a full thirty minutes.
She talked about the differences between the district, circuit and supreme courts, how it is to work with 8 other strong-willed people, how she got her start in law, and even about her time spent judging a dispute for Elmo on Sesame Street. It was absolutely fascinating.
When questioned about normative issues and the law, she called attention to a specific footnote on an opinion (not written by her, mind you) of three years ago. Who has a memory that recalls that kind of detail!? Incredible! All politics aside, who wouldn't be impressed by that?
My favorite moment of the session was when a student got up to ask the Justice a question. With tears streaking her face with mascara and a voice cracked with emotion, she preceded her question by heaping praise and admiration on Justice Sotmayor. And Justice Sotomayor looked more than a little uncomfortable about the show of emotion. Good stuff.