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January 22nd, 2013
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Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor: The best thing you can do with your life is...

She rose to the Supreme Court after a tough life growing up in the projects in the Bronx. In her new book, Sonia Sotomayor talks about the path and the people who helped her become the woman she is today. She writes about it in her new book, called "My Beloved World."

Today, part two of Soledad's sitdown interview with Justice Sotomayor reveals her thoughts on motherhood and parenting.

Transcript available after the jump.


O'BRIEN: On page 233 you wrote this, and it made me stop when I read it. You're talking about working mothers. "But as for the possibility of having it all, career and family, with no sacrifice to either, that is the myth we would do well to abandon, together with the pernicious notion that a woman who chooses one or the other is somehow deficient."

The having-it-all debate is often a loud, vicious, hostile debate and you've just weighed it and said the possibility of having it all, that's a myth we do well to abandon.

SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: The thought that at every moment of your day you could feel equally fulfilled, I think, is what the word I used there, pernicious. It's ridiculous. What you can do is find balance in your life, and satisfy that balance in light of what your personal desires are, what your personal needs are, and what the needs of those that you love are. I made different choices than some women. I chose not to have children.

O'BRIEN: You love children. I've seen so many photos of you mentoring children.

SOTOMAYOR: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: Why do you have no children?

SOTOMAYOR: Well, I explained it fully in my book, there was a fear at the time when I was of an age-bearing age where I could have kids where I thought that it could compromise my juvenile diabetes. That's less true today because there have been so many advances in the care of juvenile diabetes. Many women have children without ill effects. But the point is that I made a different choice in part because of diabetes, and in part not because of my career but because of the joy it gave me.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you about your mother. You're tough on her in this book. She's read it I assume.

SOTOMAYOR: Oh, she has.

O'BRIEN: Was she hurt?

SOTOMAYOR: Was she hurt? I don't think so. O'BRIEN: You use the words "abandoned, neglect". Those are almost legal terms in parenting that you're a judge, you know, are terrible, for a mother.

SOTOMAYOR: But Mom and I have talked about this, and I've told her how I felt. Now, I mention in the book that for me to use those words were uses about the feelings I had, but they certainly were never the reality. My mother was always present, meaning she worked, she worked to support us, to give us a home, to educate us, and obviously that's not neglect or abandonment in the legal way that you're talking about. But she and I worked through my feelings.

O'BRIEN: You write about everything. That's interesting, there are details on virtually everything, and when you reference the peace you made with your mother but really don't walk us through.

SOTOMAYOR: Because everybody thinks it happened in a moment, that one day, some sort of light bulb went off and we had this one conversation that summarized the repair. It wasn't like that. Most people would like a magic pill that will fix every problem there is. It doesn't work that way.

O'BRIEN: You say you wrote this book so you could remember who you are.

SOTOMAYOR: I wanted to hold onto what I thought was the best in me, and if you ask me the next question, logical question, which is what is that?

O'BRIEN: What is that?

SOTOMAYOR: I would tell you it is Sonia who cares about family and friends, the Sonia who loves the law, who believes in its nobility, and the passionate Sonia who believes that the best thing you can do with your life is to give to other people. If that comes across in this book, it's because that's the Sonia I was trying to hold onto, so that if I ever have a doubt about it a year, five, 10, or 20, I'll go back and read my own book.

O'BRIEN: Part of Justice Sotomayor's book is a brutally honest dissection of her family life, including her father, a bright and loving man, but also an alcoholic who drank himself to death at age 42 when Sonia was nine-years-old.

SOTOMAYOR: I'm encouraging people now, every time I speak to groups about my book, if you have living parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, go back and really listen to their stories. Think about what assumptions you're making about those stories, and ask them why. Don't assume the why. It's a rich, rich process. I wish I had done that earlier.

Now I wish when I was growing up that I had learned to say "I love you" more freely. Today, I wish my dad were alive so I could say to him, "Yes, I knew that you were flawed, and, yes, nevertheless, I really do love you." I never got a chance to do that.

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