In announcing his selection of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge to the highest court, Obama called Sotomayor "an inspiring woman who I think will make a great justice."
In addition to wanting someone with a "rigorous intellect" and a mastery of the law to replace retiring Justice David Souter, Obama said he wanted someone who recognized "the limits of the judicial role" and understands that a justice's job "is to interpret not make law" and respects precedent.
But the nominee needs something more, Obama told the packed East Room of the White House. The nominee must have life experiences that give the person "a common touch" and an understanding of "how ordinary people live."
Sotomayor, who grew up in New York in a South Bronx housing project, thanked Obama for the "most humbling honor of my life."
"I stand on the shoulders of countless people," she said in her acceptance remarks.
She said she believed the rule of law is the "foundation of all of our basic right" and has been inspired "by the achievements of (the country's) Founding Fathers (who) set forth principles that have endured for more than two centuries."
Sotomayor, who graduated from Princeton University and earned her law degree from Yale University, said it would be a "profound privilege to apply those principles to the questions and controversies we face today."
Judicial Confirmation Network, a conservative network, said in a statement Sotomayor is a liberal activist who will dictate policy from the bench.
"Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written," said Wendy Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network.