How is her experience more rich than yours?

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President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court said in a speech in 2001 the following:

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Hasn’t lived what life?

Do you have to be female and Hispanic in 2009 in order to be authentic? Does that mean that male and black no longer works? Certainly a significant contingent in America believes that male and white is no good.

Do we now really intend to judge our prospective leaders on the quality of their victimhood?

I would love to be celebrating Sonia Sotomayor’s life story. She is without pedigree and from a family without influence. Her mother worked hard and saw to it that she was able to go to school. Despite her humble background, she was educated at the most elite schools in the country and today she is one step away from becoming an associate justice on the highest court of law in the land.

How on earth is she a victim?

I’m tired of the whining. Everyone who has ever succeeded has overcome something on the road to that success. The great thing about America is the fact that you get to try. As Ms. Sotomayor’s story illustrates, it is not necessary for you to come from the right family. You do not have to be born to opportunity and success. Opportunity and success are available if you are willing to work hard and persevere.

And as I said in this space a few weeks ago, in America you are also free to fail. In fact, it’s almost required. Among my very successful friends and associates, I don’t know of one who did not at some point along the way have to pick himself up, dust himself off, and start all over again.

How is Ms. Sotomayor’s story any more valid than the story of her would-be colleague Chief Justice John Roberts. I realize that Chief Justice Roberts is white. But no one handed him his education. No one did the work for him. If he had not applied himself in high school, college, law school and in his career, he would not be on the Supreme Court. His whiteness and his maleness would have availed him nothing absent the willingness to seize the opportunity that America provides.

Why must we, with respect to America’s ethnic minorities, make it a race to the bottom? The story of Sonia Sotomayor that compels is not that she suffered as a result of being a female Hispanic. The story is that she availed herself of America’s unique willingness to reward hard work and perseverance. Ms. Sotomayor, by making statements singling out her minority status, blows past the narrative that kids from less affluent circumstances really need to hear, the one that says work hard and get an education, and instead continues to promulgate the idea that if you are an ethnic minority, you are somehow a victim.

Night before last at the Scholastic All Stars banquet that was hosted by our own David Smoak, we awarded a scholarship to a young woman who overcame living with a mother who prostituted herself in the next room in order to feed a crack cocaine habit. Yet this young woman graduated at the top of her class and is on her way to what will no doubt be a stellar college career.

Which narrative is this young woman following? She certainly could claim victimhood. After all, what say did she have in her mother’s addiction and prostitution?

Yet somehow, she is able to follow the narrative of opportunity and perseverance.

Ms. Sotomayor’s statement is cancerous. Left unchallenged, such thinking eats away at what has made America unique in all of history.

Anyone, irrespective of race or ethnicity, who has grabbed the opportunity that America offers even the least of its citizens and made the most of his or her God-given talents and gifts, has the richness of experience, as Ms. Sotomayor characterizes it, to hold a leadership role in our society.

Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of Gleiser Communications, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The Team FM & KYZS in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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1 Response

  1. Suzanne says:

    I wish Mr. Gleiser’s comment today could be read in congress! Hit the mark perfectly. I’m anxious to download it so I can re-read it. In fact, your comments are always well thought out. Thank you even if we are alone.. seems “Texas gets it right”.

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