The first Latino Supreme Court justice was introduced Wednesday by the first African American president of the United States at a White House that has seen so many firsts in the last few months that historians may someday marvel at the speed of change.
Both of them teared up.
At a reception in the East Room honoring Sonia Sotomayor, the newest Supreme Court justice, President Obama said, "We're here not just to celebrate our extraordinary new Supreme Court justice. We're here to celebrate an extraordinary moment for our nation. . . . We celebrate the greatness of a nation in which such a story is possible."
With officials and relatives looking on -- including New York Gov. David Paterson, New York Dist. Atty. Robert M. Morgenthau and Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens -- Obama talked about how Sotomayor had already influenced Americans.
"It's not just about her," Obama said. "It's about every child who will grow up thinking to his or herself, 'If Sonia Sotomayor can make it, then maybe I can too.' "
But it was the court's 111th justice who stole the show.
No longer in the brightly colored jackets of her confirmation hearings but dressed in black, Sotomayor said that "no words can adequately express what I am feeling." Thanking her family and colleagues, the president and the Senate, she said, "I am so grateful to all of you for this extraordinary opportunity."
But she gave most of the credit to America. Saying she was "struck by the wonder of my life," Sotomayor added: "I am most grateful to this country. . . . This would never have been possible without the opportunities presented to me by this country."
And then she brought the crowd to its feet when she added, "It is this nation's faith in a more perfect union that allows a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx to stand here now."