Articles on the University of Georgia Graduation Speech, 2003:
Be Heroes Not Victims, Thomas Tells UGA Grads
By ANDREA JONES
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told University of Georgia Law School graduates to become heroes, not victims,
in a commencement speech Saturday that touched on his own challenges as a young lawyer.
Thomas, the first Supreme Court justice to speak at UGA in 30 years, said that after graduating from Yale Law School in
1974, he faced an uphill battle finding work in the South.
"I was rejected by every law firm in Atlanta. . . . I watched my dream of going back to Savannah evaporate," he told the
crowd gathered at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens. "It didn't seem to matter that I had tried so hard."
Thomas said he took the only job offered to him -- an assistant Missouri attorney general position in Jefferson City.
He urged the 230 graduates not to allow themselves to become victims -- despite the "trials and tribulations" they might
"Today as the fabric of society is saturated with complaint and protest, each of you has the opportunity to be a hero,"
he said. "Do what you know must be done."
While Thomas got a standing ovation inside the building, outside, a handful of students from the University of Michigan
held up red signs protesting Thomas' appearance. The students, part of a youth action group for civil rights, are traveling
around the country demonstrating at events where justices speak. The Supreme Court is still deliberating a decision in the
university's landmark affirmative action case.
"We want them to know that we are holding them accountable," said Neal Lyons, 22.
Nearby, about 20 UGA students and faculty gathered at the student center to hear law professor Donald Wilkes deliver a
counterspeech attacking Thomas' record on human rights, saying that his opinions on civil liberties and affirmative action
were too extreme to allow him the honor of speaking at graduation.
Wilkes also complained that faculty and students were not involved in the decision to bring Thomas to UGA.
Despite the small protests, UGA Law School Dean David Shipley said the graduation ceremony "went off without a hitch."
"We had a completely normal turnout," he said.
Thomas, known as a quiet justice who rarely speaks or asks a question on the bench, was "very much the opposite" in person,
"He was just as outgoing and gracious as could be," Shipley said. "He was a wonderful guest."
Law school graduate Rebecca Wasserman, 27, said while some of her classmates were not thrilled with Thomas' selection as
commencement speaker, she didn't have a problem with the choice.
"Whether or not you agree with his decisions, he is still a Supreme Court justice and this is an honor," the Decatur native
said. "We're lawyers; we should get used to hearing different points of view."
Clarence Thomas Urges Graduates to Persevere
ATHENS, Ga. - On the day he graduated from Yale Law School 29 years ago, Supreme
Court Justice Clarence Thomas remembers being so outwardly over-confident his grandfather thought he was a know-it-all.
But inside, Thomas told the University of Georgia Law School's graduating class
Saturday, he was crushed.
Despite all his hard work and accomplishments, he had been rejected by every law
firm in Atlanta. They didn't hire blacks. And his dream of working in the Savannah area, close to his home? It, too, had dissipated
into a haze of rejection letters.
"No biographer can peer into your soul and really know what you're feeling at
that moment," Thomas told the graduates. "No one can ever know the trials and tribulations, the loneliness, the swirl of emotions."
In a deeply personal speech delivered to a receptive, integrated audience, Thomas
recalled the stinging discrimination he suffered as a young graduate - and what he did to overcome it - to inspire Georgia's
future lawyers. He told them they should persevere through hardship and consider themselves "heroes" rather than "victims"
who have no options.
"Twenty-nine years ago, I didn't think like that," said Thomas, who is one of
the court's most conservative and controversial justices. "But 29 years from now, I implore you to be able to say you did
Thomas was the first sitting Supreme Court justice in 30 years to deliver Georgia
Law's commencement address, and the first Georgia-born justice to do it. Some law students and professors had objected to
his selection, and two small protests were held on campus while he spoke, one focused on his well-known opposition to affirmative
Thomas' speech avoided direct mention of hot-button issues, producing instead
a revealing look at the underpinnings for his views. Thomas said he took a job in the Missouri attorney general's office after
being universally rejected in Georgia, and that his boss at the time tried to encourage him. "There's plenty of room at the
top," Thomas recalled him saying.
"Easy for him to say," Thomas said. "He was white. I was black."
But Thomas used that opportunity as a stepping stone, rising to eventually become
a legislative aide to a Missouri senator, head of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal appeals court
judge and, finally, supreme court justice. He said he still has the pile of rejection letters from 1974.
Thomas said he takes his cues from his own heroes, the family and friends who
raised him in Pinpoint.
"They knew their responsibilities and obligations," Thomas said. "They accepted
life on its own terms" and refused to complain, he said.
Thomas said a small child asked him recently if he ever felt like giving up.
"A hundred times a day," he said. "There will be days when you believe you can't
take it anymore. But those days are just part of life."
Law School dean David E. Shipley said, "I was unaware until now of how difficult
it was for an African American lawyer to get a job in Georgia in 1974."
Shipley said integrating the University of Georgia and its law school also took
a long time; the first black graduated in 1966, the second not until 1970. The law school is now about 10 percent black, Shipley
said, about double the percentage at the entire university. But, "There's a long way to go," Shipley said.
Many of the students who heard Thomas' speech were impressed, whether or not they
agree with his views.
"It's good to reflect on things that are reality, as opposed to things that are
sugar-coated to try to motivate you," said Rasheda Cylar, one of the graduates. She said she's familiar with Thomas' opinions
and his politics, and the speech didn't do anything to change her mind about him. "But it's not the messenger that matters,
it's the message," she said.
Philadelphia Inquirer Interview, May 12, 2003
Clarence Thomas offers a glimpse
of his thoughts
He regrets the controversy over his confirmation hearings.
Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Even
now, after nearly a dozen years on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas still has a rebellious streak and a will to speak his
In a rare and wide-ranging interview, Thomas likened African Americans' overwhelming
support for the Democratic Party to the old era of segregation in the South.
"I remember when I was down in Georgia [as a youth], people were very comfortable
with the idea that we should be in certain parts of town, and now we have become very comfortable with the view that we should
only be thinking certain things," he said.
But Thomas maintains that political change, if it occurs, will come at a price.
"There would be many, many more [black Republicans] if the price weren't so high,"
Thomas said, discussing the isolation that some black conservatives feel in the face of overwhelming black support for the
Democratic Party. "The price right now is that so many people are quick to criticize.
"One day someone is going to look back and say, 'What were these people doing?'
I don't understand why it is so acceptable that there is some lockstep approach to these things."
Ever since his bruising and still-controversial Senate confirmation hearings in
1991, Thomas has been a mostly silent figure on the bench, communicating his thoughts through opinions and occasional speeches.
His interview with The Inquirer was for a profile of his old friend Larry D. Thompson,
the U.S. deputy attorney general and himself an African American conservative. But the conversation covered a number of other
subjects as well.
He struck a poignant note when he hinted that, despite having reached a professional
pinnacle with his appointment to the Supreme Court, he might never be a role model for young people because of the controversy
of his confirmation hearings. In those hearings, a former aide, Anita Hill, accused him of sexual harassment, although the
charges were never proved.
"They may have pounded me too much," Thomas said.
Black conservatives have long been at odds with African American leaders because
of the conservatives' allegiance to the Republican Party, which many black people view with suspicion. Rep. Elijah Cummings
(D., Md.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, says that is because many African Americans see the Republican Party
and conservative causes as hostile to policies - affecting taxes, health care and other issues - that would benefit them.
"He [Thomas] has to understand why there is this criticism" of black Republicans
and conservatives, Cummings said. "What Republicans do over and over again is cut away at the rights of middle-class people,
many of them African American people. If the Republican Party truly was about opening its doors to the masses of African American
people, not just a few," then the party might have more acceptance among black voters.
Thomas insisted in the interview that criticism had not fazed him. If anything,
the political hurly-burly that surrounds his right-of-center ideas seems to have strengthened his conviction that he's on
the correct course.
Thomas quickly established himself as one of the court's most conservative members
after taking office on Oct. 23, 1991. But far from becoming a mere acolyte of the forceful and persuasive Antonin Scalia,
the court's leading conservative, Thomas has found his own style, interpreting legal issues through the lens of historical
research and the writings of the drafters of the Constitution.
"Justice Thomas' career on the bench is sort of like the trajectory of President
Bush," said David J. Garrow, a professor at Emory University Law School. "You may not agree with them, but you have to acknowledge
that they are doing a whole lot better job than was predicted when they took office."
Added Garrow, Thomas "is not someone following Scalia like a pet poodle."
In the interview, Thomas steered clear of legal questions and cases before the
court, sticking to political and philosophical themes.
When asked whether the intense criticism of his legal views by liberal activists
was disturbing to him, Thomas quickly replied: "Not for me it isn't; I really don't care."
The Republican Party has long sought to make inroads in the black vote, and George
Bush's narrow Electoral College victory in 2000 provided ample evidence as to why. But according to David Bositis, an analyst
at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington think tank that focuses on issues affecting African Americans,
Republicans are hampered because the party's leadership is from the South, and because many black voters mistrust conservative
"It's not easy being a black conservative," Bositis says. "Most black conservatives
would like to be more accepted by the African American establishment and the African American community. It would make them
very, very happy. Much happier than being accepted by [House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay."
Thomas spent the early part of his career as a political independent in Missouri,
where he worked for a time with John Ashcroft, when both were lawyers in the state Attorney General's Office. It was in Missouri
that he became friendly with Thompson, when the two worked together on the legal staff at Monsanto Co., and with Alfonso Jackson,
now deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In 1980, Thomas and Thompson attended a conference in San Francisco that was to
become a central event in their lives and those of many other black conservatives. Organized by Thomas Sowell, a leading black
conservative thinker, dozens of African Americans with backgrounds in the law, government and higher education met to share
strategies for promoting black advancement with a conservative spin. Participants in the Fairmont Conference, as it came to
be known, roundly criticized school busing, welfare and the minimum wage.
Today, Thomas bristles at the idea, advanced by some, that black conservatives
are opportunists, throwing in their lot with Republicans for the prospect of quick career advancement.
Life as a black conservative, he suggested, can be too painful to make such a
calculating approach worthwhile.
"What does it mean to sell out?" Thomas asked. "It was difficult for me to go
to work for a Republican [in the Missouri Attorney General's Office]. I was born and raised a Democrat, but to go and do it
and be in the Attorney General's Office, that meant [to some people] keeping blacks in jail."
Throughout, he contended that the pressure he feels to conform will never change
"If the price to be treated better is to be dishonest, that is a Faustian bargain
to me," he said.
Neopolitique Interview, Part I
Neopolitique Interview, Part II
Neopolitique is a magazine from Regent University. Justice Thomas's interview
there, conducted by Kay Cole James, is just marvelous. It is probably the lengthiest and most insightful interview with
him available anywhere. Check it out.
Speech at Holy Cross, April 8, 2002
Thomas says faith makes him survivor
Tuesday, April 9, 2002
By Emilie Astell
Telegram & Gazette Staff
WORCESTER-- To enter public life is to step outside the comfortable
sphere of daily routine, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said last night, as he described the criticism he has
received for taking unpopular stands.
After more than a decade on the bench, Justice Thomas
said his guiding principles are a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and a certain amount of judicial restraint.
Constitution is written in broad terms, he said. There are no Cliffs Notes or glossary.
to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 800 at the College of the Holy Cross, Justice Thomas said that to fulfill their oath of office justices must be allowed
to call it as they see it and stand by their decisions.
In an address lasting more than 30
minutes, Justice Thomas touched on his years at Holy Cross, his controversial confirmation hearings and his time serving on
the country's highest court.
One of the more controversial decisions made by the court was
during the 2000 presidential election, when Justice Thomas was one of five justices who voted to stop the counting of Florida's
disputed presidential votes. The unsigned majority opinion said the immediacy of a looming deadline made it impossible to
come up with a way of counting the votes that could both meet minimal constitutional standards and be accomplished within
The decision guaranteed George W. Bush four years in the White House, leaving
Vice President Al Gore to return to private life.
Speaking of the criticisms he has received
over the years, Justice Thomas said the hardest part of making decisions is to have the courage of his convictions.
urged students to have courage and not to be afraid in the face of controversy.
criticism, say nothing, do nothing and be nothing, he said.
* * *
during a question and answer session last night how he managed to survive during confirmation hearings, Justice Thomas said
his deep faith saved the day.
Through faith I'm not a bitter person, he said. I'm not going
to ruin my life being bitter.
While at least a dozen people waited to use a microphone to
ask questions, Gordon Davis of Worcester, who was a student at Holy Cross when Justice Thomas was also there, was one of the
Mr. Davis exchanged greetings with Justice Thomas, then complained about
the justice's strict constructionist views. He also criticized Justice Thomas for his stance on the court's decisions concerning
school desegregation under Brown vs. the Board of Education, abortion choice under Roe vs. Wade, affirmative action and Miranda
rights for criminal suspects.
Mr. Davis told the justice that he is a token on the bench
just as the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, also an African-American, was a token. He also criticized Justice Thomas for the
conservative path he has taken, asking How can you do that without being a hypocrite?
Thomas countered that his only criticism of Brown v. the Board of Education was that the ruling was not strong enough. As
for Mr. Davis' other complaints, the justice said they were based on false premises and needed no response.
* * *
Omaha Chamber of Commerce Speech
Thomas Looks Back on Court
By Julia McCord
* * * It goes without saying that those 10 years have been tumultuous,
Thomas on Monday told the annual meeting of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.
Thomas said his arrival on the court in 1991 was noteworthy for
the "sheer brutality" of his confirmation hearings.
* * *
Thomas said he also has been subjected to a continuing and "quite
successful" campaign to alienate him from his race - "to what end, I have no clue."
Once on the court, however, he said, those controversies became
mere distractions. "There was too much work to be done," he said.
Adjusting to life on the nation's highest court wasn't easy. Thomas,
now 53, was warned that it would take him about five years.
"In retrospect," he said Monday, "that's about right."
The new justice had to get used to the court's intense workload
and living in the public eye. He also had to get used to the fact that "each undertaking at the court can change our country,"
* * *
"After 10 years, it's become a way of life," he said. "More accurately,
perhaps, it's become a vocation. I am blessed to have the opportunity to be there and the opportunity to do the job."
Thomas painted a picture of the inner workings of the Supreme Court
that is contrary to popular opinion. He said he wished people knew more about the court because "I think you would have more
confidence in your country."
The justices meet alone, in a room with no recording devices, to
consider the cases before them. All viewpoints are heard and debated, he said.
Thomas said he has yet to hear an unkind word from any of the justices.
Even if they become exasperated with one another, he said, they are always respectful.
"How many of you could debate the issues we have to debate ... and
never raise a voice or call a name?" he asked.
Since there are few limits on the justices' authority, he said,
they must exercise discipline and self-restraint in deciding the number and types of cases they consider.
"We are not gods," he said. "We have no authority to decide the
* * *
Justices must be impartial, Thomas continued. While it is praiseworthy
to argue one's case or fight for a position, he said, Supreme Court justices have an obligation not to be partisan or take
a preconceived position.
No one, he said, would accept the view that as a Catholic he should
be influenced by the pope or favor a Catholic over a Protestant or a Christian over a Jew.
Some people have assumed that Thomas' race should trump his oath
to be impartial, "but you must be colorblind," he said.
The tone of the criticism directed against him on this issue teaches
people "that there is a very high price to pay for thinking for yourself," he said.
"That, my friends, is not good, as we all know."
Thomas, who is married to the former Virginia Lamp of Omaha, spoke
to more than 1,100 people at the Holiday Convention Centre.
During a question-and-answer session after his speech, Thomas said
he had not seen the television sitcom "First Monday" about the Supreme Court. But he said he doesn't know how anyone could
do an accurate portrayal since no one is privy to the justices' deliberations. Even if they were, he said, "it would be more
exciting to watch paint dry."
When asked about the court's controversial decision that decided
the 2000 presidential election, he said there are constitutional provisions that must be met. He said had there been more
time, the opinion might have been different.
"But I will say this: The next time, solve your problems at the
Thomas said he, his wife and the 10-year-old great-grandnephew they
are rearing travel the nation's highways in a motor home when time permits. He likes the anonymity.
Thomas said, he gets out of his vehicle, hitches up his pants, kicks the tires and gets out his fuel gloves.
* * *
the crowd Monday that when he was on the road in southern Georgia shortly after the 2000 election and paying his bill at a
truck stop, a man said, "Anybody told you that you look like Clarence Thomas?"
When Thomas said yes, the man
replied: "I bet it happens all the time."
Madison Day Lecture at James Madison University
In this speech of March 15, 2001, Justice Thomas pays tribute to the political philosophy of James Madison. In one passage,
he argues that federalism "promotes the same purpose as that served by other broad structures of our federal constitution,
such as the enumeration of limited federal powers, the Bill of Rights and the separation of powers."
Question-and-Answer Session following Madison Day Lecture
Some standard questions about the Court's work, as well as some more off-the-wall questions. Such as:
"I've read that you were once a member of the Black Panther. How did you transition from that to your staunch Republican
Thomas's answer begins: "First of all, I grew up."
Question: "What is
the strangest case you ever heard?"
Answer: "If I answered that I'd get in trouble."
"What do you think of Gore's attorney, David Boies, wearing white tennis shoes to the Supreme Court?"
"Actually, I didn't see them. I was otherwise occupied, believe me. I'm one of these people who thinks, though, that
you try to attire yourself consistent with the environment, and I have a different view of the environment that would preclude
me from wearing tennis shoes in that kind of a circumstance."
Francis Boyer Lecture, American Enterprise Institute
In this Feb. 13, 2001 speech, Justice Thomas eloquently describes the vitriol that one can expect for being honorable and
true to one's beliefs:
"In my humble opinion, those who come to engage in debates of consequence, and who
challenge accepted wisdom, should expect to be treated badly. Nonetheless, they must stand undaunted. That is required. And,
that should be expected. For, it is bravery that is required to secure freedom. . . . What makes it all worthwhile? What makes
it worthwhile is something greater than all of us. There are those things that at one time we all accepted as more important
than our comfort or discomfort, if not our very lives: Duty, honor, country! There was a time when all was to be set aside
for these. The plow was left idle, the hearth without fire, the homestead, abandoned."
Justice Thomas closes
by describing the message of Pope John Paul II:
"Pope John Paul II has traveled the entire world challenging
tyrants and murderers of all sorts, speaking to millions of people, bringing them a single, simple message: 'Be Not Afraid.'
"He preached this message to people living under Communist tyranny in Poland, in Czechoslovakia, in Nicaragua
and in China -- 'Be not afraid.' He preached it to Africans facing death from marauding tribes and murderous disease -- 'Be
not afraid.' And he preached it to us, warning us how easy it is to be trapped in a 'culture of death' even in our comfortable
and luxurious country -- 'Be not afraid.'
"Listen to the truths that lie within your hearts, and be not
afraid to follow them wherever they may lead you. Those three little words hold the power to transform individuals and change
the world. They can supply the quiet resolve and unvoiced courage necessary to endure the inevitable intimidation."
Never Give In
This Sept. 9, 2000 speech was given at the installment of Larry Arnn (formerly head of the Claremont Institute) as president
of Hillsdale College. Thomas praises Arnn for his studies of Lincoln and Churchill:
"From Lincoln, Larry Arnn
learned that equality - the God-given equality of rights and opportunity that has animated Hillsdale College from its earliest
days - is the central moral principle of our nation, and the basis of individual freedom and limited government. And from
his study of Churchill he learned that freedom requires unflagging devotion and unflappable courage. In fighting for freedom
we must 'never give in, never give in, never, never, never, nevernever give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.
Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.'"
Indianapolis Economic Club, March 9, 2000
This is a brief report on a lecture given by Thomas. Not many details of his speech are included, but there are two photos
taken by a Victor Kubik, which I reproduce here:
Red Mass at Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica
The text of Justice Thomas's speech here is not available, but this page has a few photos and a brief description of Justice
Thomas's visit to the St. Vincent campus.
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs 2000 Annual Dinner
Justice Thomas's remarks on being presented with the 2000 Oklahoma Citizenship Award. In one poignant passage, he says:
"I was unfortunate enough in January to have to bury my baby brother, and I'm sure that I'm not the only person
in the room who's gone through something like that. But I look there at this once healthy young man, who'd never had a day
of illness in his life, who with one step in his Sunday morning jog, died. And I look at this spiritless body, and you begin
to evaluate that life. Was it important what kind of car he drove? How much money he made? Where he lived? No. What was
important was much bigger than that a good father, a good brother, a good man.
"So, too, it is about our
Constitution. It's more than about who writes the fanciest language or has the illusions to Greek mythology or has the most
wonderful Latin phrases or who turns the cutest phrases. I don't like that kind of analysis. It isn't about that. It's about
a document that holds us together, that governs us, and it is for that reason that I would do it again."
also a good question-and-answer session, including this amusing bit:
Question: I'm not going to name this politician,
but a politician says the Constitution is a living, changing document. Your thoughts please.
Justice Thomas: Well
let me see, you can see [holding up a copy of the Constitution] . . . his may be living and breathing, but mine's inanimate.
Goldwater Institute 1999 Annual Dinner
Thomas makes some brief and mostly personal remarks on being presented with the Goldwater Award.
The Virtue of Practical Wisdom -- delivered at the Claremont Institute's Lincoln Day Dinner
In this speech, Justice Thomas asks (and answers) the question whether the principles of the American Founding can be called
good, even though the Founders compromised on racial issues, most notably slavery. Following in the tradition of professors
Harry Jaffa and Tom West, Justice Thomas concludes that "the Founders made the political judgment that, given the circumstances
at the time, the best defense of the Declarations principles and, ironically, the most beneficial course for the slaves themselves
was to compromise with slavery while, at the same time, establishing a union that, at its root, was devoted to the principle
of human equality."
He also defends Lincoln's compromises on slavery, e.g., refusing to join the explicitly
abolitionist cause: "For Lincoln, as for the Founders, the moral course, the prudent course, the course most likely to
lead to the ultimate abolition of slavery was, in fact, not to join with the Abolitionists. Lincoln's lesson for us, however,
is even more profound: the realization that prudence is sometimes a compromise with principle, in order, ultimately, to vindicate
The Dwight D. Opperman Lecture in Constitutional Law, Drake Univ. Law School
Thomas addresses the question, "Why is the American Constitution different from other constitutions in the world?"
Answer: Equality, and restricted powers.
Speech at Ave Maria Law School
Here's a quote from Thomas's endorsement of Ave Maria Law School:
"Think of a speck of dust in this room. One
single speck. There is nothing in our jurisprudence that says the government can't regulate that one individual speck of dust
in Ann Arbor, Mich., in Crowne Plaza Hotel. Now explain to me, when you read the constitution, where the authority to regulate
that speck comes from? If the government can regulate that speck, tell me what it can't regulate from the national level.
"The mere fact that we don't even bother to be concerned by the absence of a limiting principle on the
national government is a huge threat.
"Where has large centralized government existed compatibly with individual
liberty? I ask this question and I wish somebody someday would give me a good answer."
Address at the 15th Annual Ashbrook Memorial Dinner
Justice Thomas discusses the work and role of the Supreme Court, and has a lengthy question-and-answer session with the audience.
National Bar Association Speech
This July 1998 speech was controversial among the largely-black National Bar Association as soon as Justice Thomas was invited
to speak. But Thomas did not pull any punches. He walked straight into the territory of his ideological enemies, and delivered
a magnificent speech. Consider the following lines:
"I, for one, have been singled out for particularly bilious
and venomous assaults. These criticisms, as near as I can tell, and I admit that it is rare that I take notice of this calumny,
have little to do with any particular opinion, though each opinion does provide one more occasion to criticize. Rather, the
principal problem seems to be a deeper antecedent offense: I have no right to think the way I do because I'm black."
Or this powerful passage, from the conclusion of the speech:
"It pains me deeply, or more deeply than
any of you can imagine, to be perceived by so many members of my race as doing them harm. All the sacrifice, all the long
hours of preparation were to help, not to hurt. But what hurts more, much more, is the amount of time and attention spent
on manufactured controversies and media sideshows when so many problems cry out for constructive attention.
have come here today not in anger or to anger, though my mere presence has been sufficient, obviously, to anger some. Nor
have I come to defend my views, but rather to assert my right to think for myself, to refuse to have my ideas assigned to
me as though I was an intellectual slave because I'm black.
"I come to state that I'm a man, free to think
for myself and do as I please."
Character: A lecture at the Heritage Foundation, February 1998
In this paean to the virtues of character, Thomas praises (as he so often does) his grandparents, and in particular his grandfather
Myers Anderson who raised him as a young boy. (In one particularly poignant line that surely refers to his father's desertion,
Thomas says, "The physical man made babies; the real man raised them.").
After describing his grandparents'
strong insistence on virtue in the children they raised, Thomas says this:
"Perhaps they understood implicitly
what Aristotle concluded: We acquire virtues in much the same way that we acquire other skillsby practicing the craft: '[S]o
also, then, we become just by doing just actions, temperate by doing temperate actions, brave by doing brave actions.' As
James Q. Wilson observes: 'A good character arises from the repetition of many small acts, and begins early in youth. That
habituation operates on a human nature innately prepared to respond to training.' In leading by example, they both showed
us how to live our lives and at the same time further perfected their own character by doing so."
A great speech.
Report on Lecture at Texas Southern University
This is an AP report on a lecture Thomas delivered at this historically black school. Excerpts:
Justice Clarence Thomas says decisions in cases have nothing to do with feelings.
'You have to think your way to
conclusions,' Thomas said Wednesday during a visit to Texas Southern University.
And the process at times can be
lonely, he said.
'Most of learning is lonely work, most of great work is lonely work. You are by yourself, so you
have to get used to it,' he said."
Graduation speech, Thomas G. Pullen School, 1996
Justice Thomas exhorts the virtues of academic study to a group of eighth graders headed for high school. In a poignant passage
recalling his own childhood, Thomas says:
"The librarians -- in a segregated black library in Savannah, Georgia
-- they taught me the love of learning, a love of books, a love of exploring the whole world, and they taught me how to be
quiet so that I'd have an opportunity to learn. They also brought me books at church on Sunday when I couldn't come to the
library during the week because we were on the farm. I'll never forget them as long as I'm alive."
also closes by referring to a poem that could be the theme of his life: Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken."
The Necessity of Moral Absolutes in a Free Society
In this May 1994 speech, Justice Thomas explains why freedom, to be properly exercised, requires morality. To the critics
of morality and values, Thomas asks rhetorically how those critics would have managed to raise children in the environment
that Thomas grew up in:
"How would we have learned the discipline of studying and working when there seemed
to be no apparent reason to do so? How would we have learned to try to be good if it had not been reinforced by our beliefs?
How would they have assured us of our inherent equality when all around seemed to deny it? How would they have kept us from
getting killed or going to jail? How would they have kept us from being destroyed by anger, hatred, and animosity? How would
we have learned personal responsibility without an overwhelming sense of ultimate responsibility for the whole of our lives?"
Q&A Session at Texas A&M
A session hosted by former President Bush. One interesting passage:
"Being a Supreme Court justice is sometimes
like seeing someone in raging water 40 feet below, and only having 20 feet of rope, he said. Having such an impact on people
can be humbling, he added.
'You wish you had the authority to establish policy, but we do not have that authority,'
Thomas said. 'We're here to render judgments, not to remedy all social ills.'"
Reason Magazine Interview
An interview conducted while Thomas was chairman of the EEOC in 1987. Thomas discusses his intellectual influences (focusing
on Thomas Sowell, Malcolm X, and Richard Wright) asks why anyone needs a Department of Agriculture or Labor or Commerce, and
denounces liberal policies on welfare, quotas, and public housing. A great interview, in part because Thomas tells the truth
as he sees it, with a bluntness that he now has to avoid as a Justice.