Originally posted on social media on March 2, 2021
We will always treasure this letter from Justice Sotomayor. I’ve been privileged to meet more than a few inspiring leaders during my life, but none who left such a lasting impression. Despite her workload, she composed this letter just two days after Molly’s passing.
I took Molly and Nate to an event at Santa Monica High School where the Justice was talking about her children’s book, “Just Ask!” Molly was in fifth grade, Nate in third. At the time, Molly was thrilled to have a leading role in a school play about the Constitutional Convention. She brought a CD of the songs for Justice Sotomayor.
The large SM High auditorium was packed. I took someone’s advice to sit on the upper level so the kids would have a better view of Justice Sotomayor on stage. After the Justice spoke, everyone was invited to meet her while she signed their books. Being on the upper level meant that there many people ahead of us. There was no orderly line. Just chaotic crowding to get closer to the stage.
Justice Sotomayor spent time connecting with every person who came forward to meet her. Hours passed, and there were still dozens of people ahead of us. It grew late. I was amazed by the Justice’s stamina, never seeming to run out of energy, despite the fact that her internal clock was on East Coast time. The kids and I were tired and hungry. When it was after 9 pm and we still weren’t close, I suggested that we go home. Absolutely not! Molly and Nate refused to leave, plus Molly needed to give her the CD. So, we waited.
Justice Sotomayor eventually asked for only kids to come forward and adults to wait until after the kids had their turns. There were some adults who stayed in line and proceeded to meet the Justice. Molly started to cry. Hot, angry tears. It was not FAIR that they didn’t follow the rule. Justice Sotomayor said the kids need to get to bed, and ONLY kids should come forward. She is a Supreme Court Justice and people have to do what she says!
I continued to argue in favor of aborting mission. We heard the Justice speak. We got copies of her book in English and Spanish. Let’s just go, I said. The kids remained determined to wait for their turn.
It was after 10 pm (1 am for Justice Sotomayor) by the time we approached the stage. A large crowd was still behind us. As we ascended the stairs, next in line to meet the Justice, Molly started looking for an adult in charge. She stepped on the stage and veered right instead of left where Justice Sotomayor was sitting. She marched up to a woman with a clipboard and told her that adults were BREAKING THE RULE! They CUT in front of kids and, in fact, they were STILL in line although the kids hadn’t all had their turns. I put my arm around her shoulder and guided her to the Justice, who sat waiting for us.
Justice Sotomayor couldn’t have been more gracious. She happily accepted the CD and even signed a drawing of an ice cream cone that Molly made, which, to her, was a visual representation of the three branches of government. Although Molly was exhausted the next day, she was proud to take her drawing to school and show off the Justice’s autograph.
Molly was fascinated by government, and as Justice Sotomayor correctly observed in her letter, she had a true public servant’s heart. She would never be quiet when she saw injustice, including adults cutting the line in front of kids after they were told not to!
Thank you, Justice Sotomayor. We will never forget your kindness. We are all blessed that you are in the world and by your service.