Sound Bites Versus Truth

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is by Tom Daly, editor of Vital Speeches of the Day.

I was recently made aware by way of an excellent speech in the June issue of Vital Speeches of the Day, that we are slowly but surely leaving the sound bite era. The speech was by former George H.W. Bush speechwriter, Joseph Duggan.  With social media networks like YouTube entire speeches are available online the moment they are given. This is especially true with speeches given by high profile people. However, what amazes me the most is that political pundits from either side of the aisle never miss the opportunity to pick apart a speech or writing to try and discredit someone to help their political agenda.

“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.”

This phrase in particular is being passed around by people like Hannity, Limbaugh and other right wing Republican supporters. It is being used as evidence to prove that President Obama’s appointee for the Supreme Court of the United State, Judge Sonia Sotomayor is too biased and maybe even too racist to make a fair justice. You might interpret that from this phrase alone. But, if you read the speech in its entirety all she was trying to say was that her Latino heritage and upbringing gives her a perspective that would not only help but maybe even enhance her ability to be a better judge. The main point of this speech and the conference it was presented to was to encourage other law professionals to use their personal backgrounds, to achieve more success for themselves as minorities in general.

Is that racist?

Just read this last quote from the same speech.

“Each day on the bench I learn something new about the judicial process and about being a professional Latina woman in a world that sometimes looks at me with suspicion. I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.”

There is absolutely no racist intent or prejudice in this conclusion. Whether you lean to the left or the right, with everything at our disposal, don’t we owe it to all citizens of this great country to learn and understand before we define them by one sentence.

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  • Brian

    Mr. Daly,

    You have, at best, demonstrated that Judge Sotomayor is a confused and inconsistant thinker. While the last quote you provide may demonstrate no “racist intent or prejudice”, there is no denying that her more famous quote is heavily prejudiced in terms of race and/or gender. How else would describe her comparing the richness of the experience of a Latina women to the presumably lacking experience of a old white male?

    Keep in mind that her statement was not a poor choice of words in an unprepared statement. It came in the midst of a lengthy speech and was intended to contradict Justice O'Connors famous line about the consistancy of a wise man and woman's decision. She knew exactly what she was saying, which is that the life experiences of some people are more valuable than those of others when it comes to being a judge. When the difference in life experience is simply race and gender, as it was in this case, there is no other way to defend her statement as not racist and/or sexist.

    “But, if you read the speech in its entirety all she was trying to say was that her Latino heritage and upbringing gives her a perspective that would not only help but maybe even enhance her ability to be a better judge.”

    This is incorrect Mr. Daly. What she is saying is that it makes her a better judge than individuals that do not have her perspective or life experience. I believe the quote you say is being taken out of context is a decent summary of her entire address.

  • Brian

    Mr. Daly,

    You have, at best, demonstrated that Judge Sotomayor is a confused and inconsistant thinker. While the last quote you provide may demonstrate no “racist intent or prejudice”, there is no denying that her more famous quote is heavily prejudiced in terms of race and/or gender. How else would describe her comparing the richness of the experience of a Latina women to the presumably lacking experience of a old white male?

    Keep in mind that her statement was not a poor choice of words in an unprepared statement. It came in the midst of a lengthy speech and was intended to contradict Justice O'Connors famous line about the consistancy of a wise man and woman's decision. She knew exactly what she was saying, which is that the life experiences of some people are more valuable than those of others when it comes to being a judge. When the difference in life experience is simply race and gender, as it was in this case, there is no other way to defend her statement as not racist and/or sexist.

    “But, if you read the speech in its entirety all she was trying to say was that her Latino heritage and upbringing gives her a perspective that would not only help but maybe even enhance her ability to be a better judge.”

    This is incorrect Mr. Daly. What she is saying is that it makes her a better judge than individuals that do not have her perspective or life experience. I believe the quote you say is being taken out of context is a decent summary of her entire address.