Sotomayor Tells Oprah How The President Selected Her

February 4th, 2013

It’s a surprisingly good interview.

O: What did you think when you heard President Obama was considering you for the Supreme Court?

SS: I thought he was crazy. No, seriously—I am not a betting woman, but I kept telling my friends, “He’s never gonna pick me.” Not in a million years. I’m very rational, and I’m another New Yorker—at the time there were a few others—and I’d had a very contentious nomination to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. I couldn’t figure out why he’d elect to go into a battle over me. And so I was in total disbelief when I was called that day.

O: Was it something you’d aspired to, the Supreme Court, or ever thought about?

SS: The minute I began to understand the importance of the Supreme Court, which really wasn’t until law school, I also understood how unlikely it was to become a justice. It’s said that you have to be struck by lightning. So it’s not something you can live your life aspiring to. In the deep, deep recesses of your fantasies, you think, “Wouldn’t that be cool?” But really, it’s just a fantasy.

O: So when he called you…

SS: I was at home. I’d had an interview with him earlier that day—it was the first time we’d met—and he told me that he’d call to tell me his decision.

O: That he would personally call you.

SS: Yes. His staff had sent me home to New York to pack, just in case he picked me. I was standing in my dining room, the phone rang, and the first thing I heard was, “This is the White House switchboard operator; please wait, the president’s coming on the line.”

O: Oooooooh!

SS: He got on the phone and said, “Judge, I have decided to make you my nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.” Now, I don’t cry. But the tears just started to come down. My heart was beating so hard that I actually thought he could hear it. I realized I’d put my right hand to my heart to try to quiet it. It was the most electrifying moment of my life. The next day I was walking to the East Room at the White House, where the press statement of my nomination was about to happen, flanked by the president and vice president. They have longer legs than me, so I whispered, “Please wait.” And they turned around and smiled and waited for me to catch up. In that moment, I had an out-of-body experience. I was so overcome with emotion; I knew that if I stayed within my body I couldn’t deal with what I had to do. So it was like all of that energy came out of my body and started watching me from up here [motions to the sky].

O: You had to let some of it go, because it wouldn’t have been good to start crying in that moment.

H/T DC Dicta