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event • Radcliffe Day

Radcliffe Day 2024

Photo of Sonia Sotomayor
Courtesy of the Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

On Radcliffe Day 2024—Friday, May 24—we will award the Radcliffe Medal to Sonia Sotomayor.

Each year, during Harvard University’s commencement week, the Institute awards the Radcliffe Medal to an individual who embodies its commitment to excellence, inclusion, and social impact. First awarded to Lena Horne in 1987, recent honorees include Ophelia Dahl, Sherrilyn Ifill, Melinda French Gates, Dolores Huerta, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

2024 Medalist

Sonia Sotomayor, an associate justice of the US Supreme Court, was born in Bronx, New York, on June 25, 1954. She earned a BA in 1976 from Princeton University, graduating summa cum laude and a member of Phi Beta Kappa and receiving the Pyne Prize, the highest academic honor Princeton awards to an undergraduate. In 1979, she earned a JD from Yale Law School, where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. She served as assistant district attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office from 1979 to 1984. She then litigated international commercial matters in New York City at Pavia & Harcourt, where she served as an associate and then partner from 1984 to 1992. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the US District Court, Southern District of New York, and she served in that role from 1992 to 1998. In 1997, she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, where she served from 1998 to 2009. President Barack Obama nominated her as an associate justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and she assumed this role on August 8, 2009.

Program

Panel | The Long Arc of Equality and Justice in America

The promise of equality remains central to America’s identity, even at moments when political discord, cultural differences, and polarized debates seem to divide the country. As public opinion, laws, and judicial rulings evolve and, at times, retrench, it is useful to recall the quotation, famously referenced by Martin Luther King Jr., “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” On Radcliffe Day, Melissa Murray will moderate a multigenerational panel of activists, scholars, and attorneys who will discuss where we are today in the context of this long arc and explore how to work together toward a future that advances equal rights for all.

Testimonial and Radcliffe Medal Ceremony

Our afternoon program will include a testimonial by Rita Moreno, a conversation between 2024 Radcliffe Medalist Sonia Sotomayor and Martha Minow, and the formal award presentation by Tomiko Brown-Nagin.

#radday24
@RadInstitute

Schedule

10 AM
Welcome: Tomiko Brown-Nagin

Panel: “The Long Arc of Equality and Justice in America” moderated by Melissa Murray

11:45 AM
Break and Lunch Service

NOON
Remarks: Tomiko Brown-Nagin

Testimonial: Rita Moreno

Conversation: Sonia Sotomayor and Martha Minow

Presentation of the Radcliffe Medal

1:30 PM
Program Concludes

Speakers

Mary Bonauto is the senior director of civil rights and legal strategies at GLAD, where her litigation extends to helping enact and enforce some of the earliest antidiscrimination laws covering sexual orientation as well as litigating coverage and enforcement of state and federal statutes. In 2003, with a GLAD team, she argued Goodridge v. Department of Public Health as Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry. In 2015, Bonauto successfully argued before the US Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges on the right-to-marry question as part of a Michigan team representing April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, which established the freedom to marry for same-sex couples nationwide. She also coled, with Gary Buseck, GLAD’s federal court challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), leading to the first federal court rulings against DOMA. Bonauto currently serves on the Maine Justice for Children Task Force, and her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the 2014 MacArthur Fellowship and an honorary degree from Harvard University in 2016. Bonauto graduated from Hamilton College and Northeastern University School of Law and regularly writes and speaks on legal topics.

Portrait of Mary Bonauto

Jerome Foster II is an activist, social entrepreneur, impact consultant, and speaker. He is the youngest White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council member in US history and the founder of Waic Up, an international media organization for social impact. He is currently a curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art and the executive director of the Waic Up initiative, a community outreach and communication nonprofit.

Photo of Jerome Foster II

Adam Liptak covers the Supreme Court for the New York Times. A graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School, he practiced law for 14 years before joining the Times’ news staff in 2002. In 2007, he began writing “Sidebar,” a column on legal affairs. In 2008, he became the paper’s Supreme Court correspondent. Liptak was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting in 2009, and he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has taught courses on the Supreme Court and the First Amendment at the University of Chicago Law School, New York University School of Law, the University of Chicago Law School, and Yale Law School.

Portrait of Adam Liptak

Martha Minow EdM ’76, RI ’18 is the 300th Anniversary University Professor and a former dean of Harvard Law School. She is the author, most recently, of Saving the News: Why the Constitution Calls for Government Action to Preserve Freedom of Speech (Oxford University Press, 2021). Minow’s other books include When Should Law Forgive? (W. W. Norton, 2019), In Brown’s Wake: Legacies of America’s Constitutional Landmark (Oxford University Press, 2010), and Just Schools: Pursuing Equality in Societies of Difference (Russell Sage Foundation, 2008). She currently serves as board chair of the MacArthur Foundation and as cochair of the Access to Justice project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Minow received her AB from the University of Michigan, EdM from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and JD from Yale University. Her honors include the 2024 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Law Schools Section on Women in Legal Education; a 2023 Freedom of the Press Career Achievement Award from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the 2016 Robert Sargent Shriver Jr. Award for Equal Justice; and nine honorary degrees.

Photo of Martha Minow

In more than 80 years in show business, Rita Moreno has won all four of its most prestigious awards: an Oscar, a Tony, two Emmys, and a Grammy. Her credits include countless productions on Broadway and London’s West End, feature films, television shows, and regional theater performances, including her one-woman show, Life without Makeup. Moreno recently starred in the comedy-horror The Prank; the Netflix film Family Switch; the blockbusters Fast X and 80 for Brady; and Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, for which she also served as executive producer. Her documentary, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, debuted at Sundance Film Festival, and she appeared in the Latine reimagining of One Day at a Time. In 2015, Moreno released her first all-Spanish album, Una Vez Más. Her first book, Rita Moreno: A Memoir (Celebra, 2013), was a New York Times bestseller. A recipient of the 2018 Peabody Career Achievement Award and a 2015 Kennedy Center Honor, she was also recognized by her peers with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. Moreno was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush and the National Medal of Arts by Barack Obama. 

Photo of Rita Moreno

Melissa Murray is the Frederick I. and Grace Stokes Professor of Law at NYU School of Law, where she teaches constitutional law, family law, criminal law, and reproductive rights and justice. Murray’s writing has appeared in such legal and lay publications as the Atlantic, the Harvard Law Review, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Yale Law Journal. She is a legal analyst for MSNBC and a cohost of Strict Scrutiny, a Crooked Media podcast about the Supreme Court and legal culture. Murray is a graduate of Yale Law School and the University of Virginia. Following law school, she served as a judicial clerk to Sonia Sotomayor, then a judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and Stefan Underhill of the US District Court for the District of Connecticut.

Photo of Melissa Murray

Nina Perales is vice president of litigation for MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where she supervises the legal staff and litigation in offices across the United States. Perales is best known for her work in voting rights: She tried and argued successfully before the US Supreme Court a challenge to Texas redistricting that resulted in that court’s first ruling of Latino vote dilution under the Voting Rights Act. She also secured favorable US Supreme Court rulings in challenges to an Arizona voter registration law in 2013 and Texas redistricting in 2018. Perales has presented more than 10 oral arguments to the US Courts of Appeals. She has testified numerous times before US Congress and state legislatures on voting rights and currently serves as an adjunct professor at Harvard Law School, where she teaches a course called Current Topics in Latino Civil Rights. Perales earned her undergraduate degree from Brown University and law degree from Columbia University School of Law.

Photo of Nina Perales

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