90 Minutes with Clarence Thomas

Whenever I watch or read Justice Thomas, I always come away liking him even more. He is authentic, down-to-earth and credible and human. I almost never watch longer online videos because I have such a deplorable attention span, but this Q&A between him and a bunch of law students was worth watching, all 90 minutes of it.

Thomas has a lot of really good things to say about the self-destructive nature of cynicism (about an hour and 6 minutes in), the Constitution, how he chooses his clerks (I love the fact that he acknowledges how big America is, and how many brilliant, worthy people do not happen to grace the Ivy League schools) and more. He is passionate, humble and inspiring and when he talks about his feelings about the founding documents -or about what the future holds for the students before him- he is mesmerizing. Low key, but still mesmerizing. Watch him about 48 minutes into it, after declaring (in a completely heartfelt way) how he loves spending time with his clerks and with students -how they energize him- Thomas really gets into why he would rather spend time talking to students than hang out with the DC social scene.

“I’m not a member of any country club; this is what I like; it may have something to do with the fact that I wanted to be a priest, and this is a part of it. . . when I was a student I remember dignitaries coming to the school and bypassing the students; they were too important. They would talk at us, and leave. And I remember as a student, saying “I will never do that; I will go to the kids first.”

Then he and a student have a good laugh.

Just excellent! Do yourself a favor, brew a pot of coffee (or pour a glass of wine) and do yourself the favor of watching this!

Some excerpts in text
, here (H/T Althouse)

Also, check out this very interesting clip.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Comparing three of the Catholics on the Court –

    It’s been a while since I read Justice Thomas’ writings, but I remember that he believed that there was a place in jurisprudence for natural law, the idea that there is a higher law that transcends mere human law, e.g. the Declaration of Independence.

    Then there is his fellow so-called “conservative” on the Court, Justice Scalia (whose son is a priest), who definitely would be considered to be a “traditional” Catholic, but who nevertheless has embraced positivism as a guiding legal jurisprudence, having an almost slavish dedication to the written law due to a distrust of judges determining what the natural law is.

    And then we come to Justice Kennedy, defender of Roe, and advocate of all sorts of loony ideas, whose concept of natural law is that we can all choose for ourselves what that law is (such relativism meaning, of course, that it is no law at all). He is a scandal to the Catholic faith.

    As fun as Justice Scalia is to read, I suppose I’m more aligned with Justice Thomas most times.

  • Rand Careaga

    Your encomium to Justice Thomas reminds me that you and I dwell under different skies.

    [Oh, indeed, Rand. Indeed. -admin]

  • DeLynn

    Wouldn’t it be amusing to listen to a discussion about the Constitution between President Obama and Justice Thomas?

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  • http://stubbornfacts.us Simon

    Bender, I’m certain that Justice Scalia believes that there is a natural law, and that positive law should be conformed to it. The question is who gets to decide. Under our constitution, Scalia maintains, it is given to the legislature to do so consistent with the views of the people, not the courts to impose. His position strikes me as being less distrusting the ability of judges to discern the natural law than the legal process notion of institutional settlement. He has a keen appreciation for what his job is, even when the job means going against his personal preferences. In this regard, he is somewhat different to Judge Bork, who worried that for the court to enforce its notion of fundamental rights, it must conclude that there it knows how to identify them without guidance from any written law,” a position “indistinguishable from a power to say what the natural law is….” The Tempting of America 66 (1990).

    Nevertheless, I think Scalia agrees with Bork’s following observation that to do so requires courts “to assume the power to enforce the judge’s version of that natural law against the people’s elected representatives. I am far from denying that there is a natural law, but I do deny both that we have given judges the authority to enforce it and that judges have any greater access to that law than do the rest of us.” As he said dissenting in Troxel v. Granville, there are arguments that he would entirely agree with were they presented to a legislature that he is bound to reject as a judge because “the power which the Constitution confers upon me as a judge [does not] entitle[] me to deny legal effect to laws that (in my view) infringe upon what is (in my view) [an] unenumerated right.”

  • Marie

    I look forward to watching this video.

    Approx. 7 years ago, Clarence Thomas and his wife sat in the pew behind us at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Minnesota. The Thomas’ must have been on vacation, or traveling through town.

    We didn’t notice who they were until we turned around to shake their hands at the sign-of-peace. After Mass, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas chatted briefly and told us we had a lovely family and well-disciplined children. (We had 6 kids under the age of 12.) They were very humble and did not tell us who they were, but I recognized them immediately.

    I don’t know why, but of all the important people I’ve met, (entertainers, politicians, etc.) the Thomas’ have left the biggest impact with their humble, quiet way.

  • Susan K.

    My fantasy is to come upon Justice Thomas and his wife stopped in a WalMart parking lot or elsewhere, invite them to dinner, and have my sons and other young people we would invite listen and discuss life with the Thomases around the table. They were in the Adirondack area last summer, but, though I kept my eye out, I didn’t see them over where we live. I don’t have many fantasies, but that is one big one!

  • Tominellay

    Clarence Thomas is one of my heroes. Thanks for this blog and links!

  • Carl Eppig

    I’ve been a fan of Justice Thomas ever since his confirmation hearing. That was quite a spectacle. It was fun to watch the whole cast of characters. During the discussion about alleged womanizing, Senator Kennedy looked like an elephant trying to hide behind a telephone poll (not my original comment)! Justice Thomas, in his own quiet way, blew them all away.

  • http://www.burnsbestfarm.com MrsBurns

    When Justice Thomas’s autobiography was released in the fall of ’07, the Heritage Foundation hosted a Q&A in Atlanta to promote the book. My family considers the Justice to be our favorite native Georgian ever to achieve national fame, so my dad and I took my then-8yo son to the event to hear him speak. In a hotel ballroom jam-packed with adults, my son was one of maybe 3 children. When Justice Thomas saw us (far back) in the very long line to get our book signed, he told the Heritage folks to bring us to the head of the line so he could chat with my son. The Justice was interested in my son’s schooling, his attitude, and he encouraged him to study hard and obey his parents (!)

    In the crowd was a woman whose son had clerked for Justice Thomas several years back. She could not say enough nice things to me about her son’s experience working for Thomas. He definitely takes an interest in helping shape the student.

  • http://maggiesnotebook.blogspot.com Maggie M. Thornton

    Anchoress, thanks for much the link.

  • Kathleen

    Since Justice Thomas is a divorced, remarried, apostate Catholic (he was in fairness only Catholic in his teens, when his Catholic grandfather was paying for his education(, and belongs to the Episcopalian world of Bishop Eugene Robinson, I treat him warily.

    [My understanding is that in the past ten years or so Justice Thomas and his wife have received annulments and been married in the church, and received into full communion. I believe Fr. John McCloskey was involved. I could be wrong. But you know what? I never worry about whether someone else is a good enough Catholic, in my own eyes. I have enough trouble keeping track of my own soul. -admin]

  • Karen

    Thank you for the link to this video. It renewed my faith in our justice system and in the idea that the Constitution and Declaration stand for something in places where it matters like the Supreme Court.
    It stunned me as I hope it stunned those students when he told them the odds for them being President were greater than him being a supreme court justice – imagine the hope and confidence that instills in them.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    You are correct Anchoress. Clarence Thomas has returned home.

    Kathleen — let us celebrate and rejoice. Your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.

  • Jeff

    He is so much more articulate than Obama. He can speak in full paragraphs extemporaneously, and does not need a teleprompter.

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  • Andre

    “But you know what? I never worry about whether someone else is a good enough Catholic, in my own eyes. I have enough trouble keeping track of my own soul. -admin]”

    That’s a bunch of bull! How hypocritical is that? You are in everyone else business. Get a life or a job!

    [I have a life and a job, thanks. You are welcome to peruse my archives and cite where you find me deciding who are good enough or "bad" Catholics in my eyes, though. You might be surprised. -admin]


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