08/13/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

More Than Just a Show: History, the Sotomayor Hearings and the Future

Sitting in the Senate hearing room this morning, I couldn't disagree more with those who dismiss the Sotomayor hearing as a show, with little meaning or purpose.

These hearings convey the sense of history being made in our country that is palpable, moving and very personal. The packed room, the massive presence of the press and TV cameras and each of the 19 Senators giving their prepared statements have become a ritual of sorts, underscoring the power and authority every Supreme Court Justice has over the lives of all of us for decades to come.

But as one who has attended such hearings for well over 20 years, this one has special poignancy for me. As Senator Graham told Judge Sotomayor, to laughter in the audience, "Unless you have a complete meltdown, you're going to get confirmed."

It's impossible to be complacent about the prospect of a woman being confirmed to the Court -- let alone this woman. After all, when Justice Sandra Day O'Connor stepped down, two male nominees followed, and we've been down to only one woman on the Court ever since.

And this woman shines. Judge Sotomayor's extraordinary intelligence, personal fortitude and integrity, all of which have brought her to this day, underscore what a terrible loss the nation suffers when it fails to take advantage of the talents and skills of women and people of color. As my colleague Neena Chaudhry noted last week, "Given the mix of people in our country and the range of problems that we bring before our courts, it seems only logical and fair to have a variety of judges to decide cases."

And what a soaring pride I share with so many others to contemplate that Judge Sotomayor will likely be invested with the power and authority that a Supreme Court Justice wields. For to get to a wise result, we need wise old (and not-so-old) women and men working and reasoning together. And that, after all, is the best hope for the future.

For more from the National Women's Law Center on the Sotomayor hearings, visit our blog.