Sonia Sotomayor a Role Model for Kids With Diabetes

Judge Sotomayor could be a powerful voice on diabetes, bigger than Jonas, Berry, or Moore.

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Yesterday, my friends in politics were E-mailing me about the president's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor hours before the announcement. But minutes after his speech, I got another slew of E-mails from a different set of friends: fellow parents of kids with type 1 diabetes. Here's the part of President Obama's speech that was so important to them, no matter what their politics:

It's my understanding that Judge Sotomayor's interest in the law was sparked as a young girl by reading the Nancy Drew series. (LAUGHTER)

And that when she was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 8, she was informed that people with diabetes can't grow up to be police officers or private investigators like Nancy Drew. In essence she was told she'd have to scale back her dreams.

Well, Sonia, what you've shown in your life is that it doesn't matter where you come from, what you look like or what challenges life throws your way, no dream is beyond reach in the United States of America.

When I repeated this passage to my daughter after school—she was in class and didn't get to watch it live on television—she was skeptical. "Why would they tell her she couldn't be a police officer?" she asked. "Are you sure that story's true?" They don't tell kids with diabetes nonsense like that anymore. With the exception of being an astronaut—which I'm sure will change someday, too—they can be anything they want to be.

I'm sure the president's story was true, because Judge Sotomayor is 54 years old, which means that when she was diagnosed at age 8, it was 1963. That was before there were blood glucose meters or insulin pumps. I don't know for sure, but I bet she and her mother boiled the glass syringes and sharpened the reusable needles to give herself injections of insulin, because that's what they did in the 1960s. And I'd bet that had something to do with why her brother decided to become a doctor.

So far the two most famous female role models for girls like my daughter are Halle Berry and Mary Tyler Moore, both of whom have type 1 diabetes. But girls that age don't watch movies or shows that either one of them would have starred in. (They've never heard of Rhoda or Mr. Grant.) Kids identify more with Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers, who wears an insulin pump and wrote a song about being diagnosed.

But most teenagers know what the Supreme Court is, and we occasionally see some of the justices around town. If she gets confirmed and stays in Washington, I hope Judge Sotomayor becomes involved with diabetes organizations here in the city and spends some time with young people who have been diagnosed. The girls with diabetes, especially, could benefit from seeing someone like her rise to the top.

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