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Sotomayor Lauded as Step Toward U.S. Ideals at Reception

President Barack Obama says Justice Sonia Sotomayor's achievement in becoming the first Hispanic member of the U.S. Supreme Court is an inspiration for young and old alike. Video by AP
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 12, 2009; 12:43 PM

President Obama celebrated the newest member of the Supreme Court at a White House reception on Wednesday, saying that Justice Sonia Sotomayor will inspire future generations and bring the country closer to realizing its ideals.

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"Justice Sotomayor brings to the court both a mastery of the letter of the law and an understanding of how the law actually unfolds in our daily lives," Obama said in the East Room, where a group of friends and dignitaries gathered.

Sotomayor, who declared herself "most grateful to this country," expressed gratitude to the president and the nation for giving her the opportunity to serve on the highest court.

"I am struck again today by the wonder of my own life, and the life we in America are so privileged to lead," she said. "In reflecting on my life experiences, I am thinking also today of the judicial oath of office that I first took almost two decades ago and that I reiterated this past weekend -- to judge without respect to what a person looks like, where they come from, or whether they are rich or poor, and to treat all persons as equal under the law. That is what our system of justice requires, and it is the foundation of the American people's faith in the rule of law, and it is why I am so passionate about the law."

Sotomayor, formerly a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, won Senate confirmation Thursday and was sworn in Saturday, becoming the third woman and the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court. Obama did not attend the swearing-in, instead holding the ceremony in her honor to accommodate her many friends -- and to signal again to the Hispanic community his pride in the choice.

Two of her new colleagues, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens, also attended the late morning event.

The court is scheduled to convene early next month for arguments in a campaign finance case, before beginning its traditional term Oct. 5.

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