My Beloved World – Bonus Post

This blogger skimmed the ebook “My Beloved World” by Sonia Sotomayor, published in 2013.  This is the autobiography of Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor. Born in 1954, she grew up in a low-income neighborhood in the Bronx, in a close-knit family of Spanish-speaking origin.

Sotomayor’s mother’s philosophy was that whatever one is doing, one should do it well. Sotomayor internalized her advice. She became an overachiever in high school. As a Puerto Rican, she benefited from the growing popularity of “Affirmative Action” policies of the early 1970’s. She attended an Ivy League college. “The Daily Princetonian routinely published letters to the editor lamenting the presence on campus of ‘affirmative action students,’ each one of whom had presumably displaced a far more deserving affluent white male…”

In the United States, Affirmative Action, aka “diversity” is still a very controversial practice in education and employment in which the people in power, some say, out of “white liberal guilt,” are trying to salve their consciences for past discrimination of “minorities”– people who are not of white European origin. Ironically, this can result in reverse discrimination in specific sectors of society– favoring of non-white over white candidates. On the other hand, some ethnic groups comprising the minorities are statistically no longer in the minority of the entire population of candidates; they are now the majority.

Even so, people are becoming more tolerant of the growing popularity of multi-ethnic situations. Sotomayor remains very close with her younger brother, who married, had a daughter and adopted twins, “…Korean boys with Irish names, a Polish (adoptive) mother and a Puerto Rican (adoptive) father– the perfect American family.”

In college, Sotomayor had a lot of catching up to do, linguistically and culturally because she had grown up in a sheltered, limited environment. She writes, “I was enough of a realist not to fret about having missed summer camp, or travel abroad, or a casual familiarity with the language of wealth.” She had had trouble learning to write an essay because syntactically, her writing reflected her first language– Spanish, making for awkward phrasing in English. It was only as an undergraduate that she realized she needed to use the same thesis-oriented communication style she used on her high school debating team, but commit it to paper.

When she was planning her wedding, Sotomayor became a bargain-hunter, but “The prices horrified me, each piece of the fairy tale seeming a bigger rip-off than the last.” She attended Yale Law School and became an Assistant District Attorney to get litigation experience. Her dream was to become a judge. Even at Yale, there had been no program that equipped students with the specific skills and experience for becoming a judge.

When she told her mother about her appointment to her first judgeship, she had to explain that various aspects of the job would be less than exciting. There was no world travel involved. She would get to meet “interesting people,” just not the kinds she would be able to make friends with, as she had in her previous position. On top of that, she would be earning very little money, compared to what she could earn at a big-name law firm.

Read the book to learn the details of Sotomayor’s life triumphs and tragedies, and her opinions on various issues.

Sum It Up

The Book of the Week is “Sum It Up” by Pat Summitt with Sally Jenkins, published in 2012. This ebook is the autobiography of a long-time coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of Tennessee; Olympian, Olympic coach, daughter, wife, mother, etc., etc.

Summitt’s childhood consisted of doing hard labor on her family’s Tennessee farm, drag racing and playing aggressive basketball with her three older brothers. Her father was a gruff, hard worker who refrained completely from showing affection toward his family. Nevertheless, he had a passion for basketball. Therefore, in the mid 1960’s, he had the family move to a fixer-upper residence so that his daughter could play high school basketball on a very good team.

Unfortunately, the team was part of a pathetic interscholastic program that existed for girls at the time. There were many inequalities between male and female sports programs in Summitt’s generation. For one, she had to pay full college tuition, because “…athletic scholarships for women simply didn’t exist in 1970.”

At 22 years old in 1974, even when she was named head coach of the women’s basketball team at her alma mater, she was given a budget that was a fraction of the men’s team’s budget. Also, unlike a male coach, she had to play many roles in addition to coaching, such as serving as driver, laundress, ankle-taper, gym-floor cleaner, and bench assembler. Her office was at the top of five flights of stairs in a hot attic with no elevator and no air conditioning. At the same time, she was taking four master’s degree classes and was required to teach undergraduate classes.

Finally, in 1975, Title IX– which was supposed to “even the playing field” for male and female athletes– was signed into law by President Gerald Ford (according to the book). Summitt started to benefit from progress, but even in the late 1970’s, the men’s sports teams still had bigger marketing budgets and staffs than the women’s teams; plus the men traveled by airplane while the women had to drive hours and hours.

Summitt also discusses basketball as a metaphor for other aspects of life. She writes, “The point guard position in basketball is one of the great tutorials on leadership… they only follow you if they find you consistently credible… If there is a single ingredient in leadership, it’s emotional maturity.”

Read the book to learn about the coaching-career teams, victories, setbacks, comebacks and defeats; and family, health and retirement issues in the life of this overachiever.

Personal History

The Book of the Week is “Personal History” by Katharine Graham, published in 1997.

The autobiographer was born in June 1917. She grew up in a large, wealthy family, in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Mount Kisco (upstate New York). She attended private schools. At high school dances, “Of course, no boys were allowed so all the girls put on evening dresses and corsages and danced with each other.”

The autobiographer’s father, Eugene Meyer, a business tycoon, purchased the Washington Post in 1932. In 1942, she wed Phil Graham, and took his name. Over the next ten years or so, they had four children (a daughter and three sons) who survived to adulthood. In 1946, her husband was named publisher of the Post. In 1963, she experienced serious personal problems that led to her taking over the paper.

Two of the Post‘s journalists, the infamous Woodward and Bernstein, were the first to seize upon the story of the break-in at the Watergate Hotel (the 1972 campaign headquarters of the Democratic party) by Republican party operatives. Over the next few years, the paper proceeded to reveal the corruption present in the Nixon administration with regard to the president’s reelection and the start of the Vietnam War. The story was extremely complex. The paper was at once courageous and foolish for casting aspersions on the Federal government. For, the Washington Post Company owned television and radio stations, in addition to print publications. These media holdings found themselves the victims of retaliatory action when it came time for the FCC to renew their broadcast licenses.

Lawsuits were launched in connection with the scandals over whether news articles published by the Post, were revealing State secrets that would compromise the national security of the United States. Many people thought the government was simply trying cover up its own embarrassing conduct. As is now evident, the post-Nixon decades saw history repeat itself many times over both in terms of similar scandals and overzealous classification of documents.

There occurred a mid-1970’s debilitating four and a half month strike of the many unions on which the Post had become too dependent through lax management. Before disgruntled workers walked out, some sabotaged the printing presses and thereafter waged a campaign of telephone threats and physical violence on picket-line crossers. Graham got right down in the trenches, moonlighting alongside non-union executives to get the paper out. She also achieved several female “firsts” and provided various examples of how being female subjected her to treatment males would not have experienced.

The Post had its ups and downs through the years.  In early 1991, Graham handed down leadership of the Washington Post Company to one of her sons.

Leg the Spread

The Book of the Week is “Leg the Spread” by Cari Lynn, published in 2004.  The author interviewed several current and former commodities-futures traders, providing detailed descriptions of their days at the market in Chicago.

Some traders, employees of a broker-dealer, actually stood on the trading floor, yelling and waving paper from the time the market opened at 8am until mid-afternoon.  Others traded online.  They had good days and bad days.

One female who formerly made a large amount of money on the trading floor before becoming burnt out, had many bad days, both because the job itself was stressful, and because the vast majority of people around her– practically all men– were sexist.  In many cases, the way for a female to get ahead besides having super luck, quick math skills and keen intuition about human behavior, was to sleep with one’s (male) boss.

Read the book to get a comprehensive, entertaining picture of the American commodities-futures market in the mid-single-digit 2000’s.