40 Inspiring Sonia Sotomayor Quotes

Inside: A list of Sonia Sotomayor quotes, along with suggested books and a biography.

Sonia Sotomayor is an inspiration for millions, as a Latina who overcame many obstacles and rose to hold one of the top positions of power in the United States Supreme Court.

According to the White House Archives,

“She has been hailed as ‘one of the ablest federal judges currently sitting ‘for her thoughtful opinions’ and as ‘a role model of aspiration, discipline, commitment, intellectual prowess and integrity’ for her ascent to the federal bench from an upbringing in a South Bronx housing project.”

If you are here specifically for Sonia Sotomayor quotesclick here to jump to that section.

“Experience has taught me that you cannot value dreams according to the odds of their coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire.”

– Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World

Related: Famous Latinos & Hispanic Americans Home Page

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First, let’s take a look at Sotomayor’s life and I’ll share some resources for learning more about her in the classroom.

Here’s an index of what’s included in the post. You can click on any link to jump straight to that section.

Sonia Sotomayor Biography

Fast Facts about Sonia Sotomayor

Birth: June 25, 1954
Birthplace: South Bronx, New York
Education: Princeton University (A.B.), Yale University (J.D.)
Career: Law, Associate Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States
Famous For: First Latina to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court

Sonia Sotomayor was born in the South Bronx in New York on June 25, 1954, to a Puerto Rican family. Her father died when she was nine years old, making finances even tighter for Sotomayor’s mother. Her mother worked very hard, encouraging her children to study hard and prepare for college.

In spite of not speaking English before she was nine years old, Sotomayor did just that. She graduated as her high school’s valedictorian, and won a scholarship to attend Princeton in 1972, before attending Yale Law School. Sotomayor worked as an District Attorney in New York and then in private practice.

In 1992, she was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. In 1998, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and she was confirmed on August 6 of that year. This made her the first Hispanic to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, and the third woman. She is still currently serving as an Associate Supreme Court Justice.


  • National Women’s Hall of Fame
  • Named one of the top 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century (Esquire Magazine)
  • Featured in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

Interesting Facts about Sonia Sotomayor for Kids

Sotomayor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was just seven years old. She had wanted to be a detective when she grew up, but her doctor said a different career would be best. While watching a television show, she was inspired to become a judge and says she knew she would study law from the age of 10.

Top 40 Sonia Sotomayor Quotes

10 Inspiring Sonia Sotomayor Quotes

1. “Ordinary people can accomplish great things. Even those of us who were not blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences. If you have been, than be grateful, but if you haven’t been, then just know you can create your own! Practice gratitude for whatever you do have!”

– Sonia Sotomayor

2. “But experience has taught me that you cannot value dreams according to the odds of their coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire. That will, wherever it finally leads, does at least move you forward. And after a time you may recognize that the proper measure of success is not how much you’ve closed the distance to some far-off goal but the quality of what you’ve done today.”

– Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World

3. “I do know one thing about me: I don’t measure myself by others’ expectations or let others define my worth.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

4 “If your child marches to a different beat, a different drummer, you might just have to go along with that music. Help them achieve what’s important to them.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

5. “So long as there is a child alive who met me or read one of my books and was inspired to do something because of that book, for me, that’s a greater legacy than a Supreme Court opinion.

– Sonia Sotomayor, The Chicago Tribune

6. “As you discover what strength you can draw from your community in this world from which it stands apart, look outward as well as inward. Build bridges instead of walls.”

 – Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World

7. “I realized that people had an unreal image of me, that somehow I was a god on Mount Olympus. I decided that if I were going to make use of my role as a Supreme Court Justice, it would be to inspire people to realize that, first, I was just like them and second, if I could do it, so could they.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

8. “In every position that I’ve been in, there have been naysayers who don’t believe I’m qualified or who don’t believe I can do the work. And I feel a special responsibility to prove them wrong.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

9. “A role model in the flesh provides more than inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt, saying, “Yes, someone like me can do this.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

10. “The world runs because of the everyday people who contribute to helping it go forward. … If we think about all the ways in which people make our world better by just being nice, to me, to each other, and to others, that’s real service in my mind.”

– Sonia Sotomayor, The Chicago Tribune

10 Sonia Sotomayor Quotes on Justice 

Here are quotes on the law and being on the Supreme Court. 

1. “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

2. “I firmly believe in the rule of law as the foundation for all of our basic rights.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

3. “Good people can do bad things, make bad choices. It doesn’t make them bad people.”

– Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World

4. “My judicial philosophy is fidelity to the law.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

5. I do believe that every person has an equal opportunity to be a good and wise judge regardless of their background or life experiences.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

6. “Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

7. “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

8. “I don’t prejudge issues. I come to every case with an open mind. Every case is new to me.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

9. “If you can’t in good conscience try the case, then don’t.”

– Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World

, 10. We educated, privileged lawyers, have a professional and moral duty to represent the underrepresented in our society, to ensure that justice exists for all, both legal and economic justice.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

10 Sonia Sotomayor Quotes on Overcoming Difficulty


1. “Don’t let fear stop you. Don’t give up because you are paralyzed by insecurity or overwhelmed by the odds, because in giving up, you give up hope. Understand that failure is a process in life, that only in trying can you enrich yourself and have the possibility of moving forward. The greatest obstacle in life is fear and giving up because of it.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

2. “I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

3, “There are uses to adversity, and they don’t reveal themselves until tested. Whether it’s a serious illness, financial hardship, or the simple constraint of parents who speak limited English, the difficulty can tap unexpected strengths.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

4. “Success is its own reward, but failure is a great teacher too, and not to be feared.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

5. “I’ve spent my whole life learning how to do things that were hard for me.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

6. “You know, failure hurts. Any kind of failure stings. If you live in the sting, you will – undoubtedly – fail. My way of getting past the sting is to say no, I’m just not going to let this get me down.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

7. “My diabetes is such a central part of my life… it did teach me discipline… it also taught me about moderation… I’ve trained myself to be super-vigilant… because I feel better when I am in control.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

8. “Although I grew up in very modest and challenging circumstances, I consider my life to be immeasurably rich.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

9. “There are uses to adversity, and they don’t reveal themselves until tested.”

– Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World

10. “An alcoholic father, poverty, my own juvenile diabetes, the limited English my parents spoke – although my mother has become completely bilingual since. All these things intrude on what most people think of as happiness.”

– Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World

10 More Sonia Sotomayor Quotes 

1. “I am a New Yorker, and 7:00 A.M. is a civilized hour to finish the day, not to start it.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

2. “Don’t mistake politeness for lack of strength.”

– Sonia Sotomayor, Interview with NPR

3. “I am a product of affirmative action. I am the perfect affirmative action baby. I am Puerto Rican, born and raised in the south Bronx. My test scores were not comparable to my colleagues at Princeton and Yale. Not so far off so that I wasn’t able to succeed at those institutions.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

4. “It is important for all of us to appreciate where we come from and how that history has really shaped us in ways that we might not understand.”

– Sonia Sotomayor

5. “Books are keys that unlock the wisdom of yesterday and open the door to tomorrow”

– Sonia Sotomayor, Turning Pages: My Life Story

6. “The truth is that since childhood I had cultivated an existential independence. It came from perceiving the adults around me as unreliable, and without it I felt I wouldn’t have survived. I cared deeply for everyone in my family, but in the end I depended on myself.” 

– Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World

7. “My Spanish was so deficient that I wasn’t even pronouncing my own name properly. She called me on it. “You have the most regal of Spanish names,” she said. “Don’t you ever let anybody mispronounce it. You are Sonia Sotomayor—Soh-toh-mah-yor—and anything less is disgraceful. Say it correctly, and wear it with pride.”

– Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World

8. “I have come to believe that in order to thrive, a child must have at least one adult in her life who shows her unconditional love, respect, and confidence.”

– Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World

9. “Although wisdom is built on life experiences, the mere accumulation of years guarantees nothing.”

– Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World

10. “It seems obvious now: the child who spends school days in a fog of semi-comprehension has no way to know her problem is not that she is slow-witted.”

– Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World

Resources for older students:

You also might be interested in my sets of biography slides and project templates for learning about Latinx and Spanish-Speaking leaders, plus a free guessing game.

Hispanic Heritage Month Game

Sonia Sotomayor Books

Sonia Sotomayor herself has authored several books, including several about her own life story. All are available in Spanish or English.

  1. My Beloved World / Mi mundo adorado by Sonia Sotomayor
    A #1 bestseller, Sotomayor wrote this memoir of her journey from the Bronx to the Supreme Court in 2013.
  2. The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor / El mundo adorado de Sonia Sotomayor by Sonia Sotomayor
    This is a version of My Beloved World, written for middle and high school students.
  3. Turning Pages by Sonia Sotomayor
    This book recounts Sotomayor’s life, and how books opened up the world for her. Young readers will be inspired by both her story of overcoming challenges and her love of reading.
  4. Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You / ¡Sólo pregunta!: Sé diferente, Sé valiente, Sé tú by Sonia Sotomayor
    Sotomayor uses the backdrop of children building a community garden together to show how children of differing abilities can work together to make the world more beautiful. She includes her own story of having diabetes as a child as well, and helps kids learn how to ask and talk to one another about their differences.

There are also some really good biographies for kids about Sotomayor’s life, including bilingual options and emerging readers.

  • The Curriculum Corner has lots of printables that go with the National Geographic biography.
  • Download questions to ask with the book Just Ask!

These links are affiliate links.

Videos About Sonia Sotomayor

Short biography in English (2min 56):

Sonia Sotomayor on Sesame Street (3min 39s) that explains to kids what judges do and what the supreme court is:

A short Sonia Sotomayor biografia in Spanish (2min 10s):

Quick animated bio in Spanish (55s):

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