Earlier this summer, I traveled to my home state of Georgia to help train nearly 200 women to run for office. I was met with the customary excitement and energy that imbues our Go Run trainings – dozens of diverse women who are eager to learn from and with each other to make a positive impact in their communities and world. What was unusual, however, was the high number of women who intended to run for judiciary positions. Our trainees usually have their sights set on the city council and state senate, county commissions and school boards. Yet many of these women were vying for judgeships across Georgia. Was this high interest at all related, I wondered, to the historic nomination of Sonia Sotomayor?
Marian Wright Edelman once said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” With Sotomayor’s confirmation today to the highest court in the nation, a whole new world of possibility has been opened for women and girls who strive to lead and succeed. As a Supreme Court Justice, Sotomayor will bring balance, integrity, and a deep well of judicial experience to the bench. Yet she will also motivate girls and young women who are equally passionate and dedicated to the law to reach as far as their dreams desire.
I am certain that countless lawyers and judges of the future will count today as one of the turning points in their own careers. Melisa Lopez Franzen, an alumna of this year’s Minnesota Go Run, comes to mind as one of the many women who have undoubtedly been touched by Sotomayor. A young lawyer and President of the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association, Melisa reflected earlier today, “Sotomayor is going to be a Justice for all – not just Hispanic Americans or women – and it is inspiring to see someone who shares my heritage be acknowledged for these merits and record of commitment to the law.”
Undeniably, Melisa’s own leadership in the field is inspiring other women and girls to follow in her footsteps. As is Tangela Barrie, a Georgia Go Run alumna who won her seat on the Superior Court in 2008, and the scores of other women leading from the bench across the U.S.
With today’s historic addition to our nation’s highest court, we should celebrate not only the achievements of Justice Sotomayor, but what her visibility will mean in the coming years to a whole new generation of women and girls, their aspirations, and their contributions to building a more representative and just America.