"For the first time in a long time," said one "Hispanic" man in the street interviewed on cable television, "I feel really proud." Others in the "Hispanic community" rejoiced as Sonia Sotomayor became the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in her statement at the beginning of Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, said: "Your nomination I view with a great sense of personal pride. You are indeed a very special woman. You have overcome adversity and disadvantages (emphasis added)." Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said, "Judge Sotomayor, you have overcome many obstacles (emphasis added) in your life that have given you an understanding of the daily realities and struggles faced by everyday people."
Let's talk about the obstacles, adversity and disadvantages of another Hispanic nominee, one whom many thought -- pre-Sotomayor -- worthy of future consideration as the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.
Born in Honduras -- the child of a broken home -- this nominee immigrated to the United States at 17 years of age, arriving with a limited command of the English language. The nominee's mother spoke no English. But four years later, the nominee graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor's degree from Columbia University. The nominee went on to Harvard Law School, served as editor of the Harvard Law Review and received a Juris Doctor degree magna cum laude.
The nominee served as a clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, practiced law in New York, and then served as an assistant U.S. attorney, later joining the Justice Department as an assistant to the solicitor general for the Clinton administration.
Overcoming personal adversity? The nominee's spouse died from an accidental overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills, after the couple had suffered through a miscarriage.
The American Bar Association -- whose evaluation was once hailed as "the gold standard by which judicial candidates are judged," by Senate Judiciary Committee member (and current chairman) Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. -- unanimously gave the nominee its top "well-qualified" rating. Yet the nominee -- despite an admirable record of overcoming personal and professional "obstacles" and "adversity" -- met with a hailstorm of opposition, including a filibuster to prevent an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.