President Barack Obama was careful to stay away from Sonia Sotomayor’s swearing-in at the Supreme Court on Saturday, to underscore the independence of the Court. Wednesday morning, though, Obama hosted a festive and emotional reception at the White House to celebrate her ascension to the high court. Savoring a happy event amid generally mixed news on health care reform and other fronts, Obama said Sotomayor’s presence on the Court represents “yet another step closer to the more perfect union we all seek.” He added, “This is a great day for America.”

With Sotomayor standing at his side in the East Room, Obama spoke at length of Sotomayor’s only-in-America story of growing up as a poor Latina girl in the Bronx, raised by a single mother, and achieving excellence in academia and in her professional life as a prosecutor, lawyer and judge.

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