Monday, September 24, 2007

Drake University Speech, Sept. 24, 1999

An article:
Thomas addresses American Constitution

After visiting several countries in the last few years, Clarence Thomas, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, addressed the question, "Why is the American Constitution different from other constitutions in the world?" in his speech Friday, Sept 24.

Thomas spoke at the Knapp Center to an audience of approximately 1,000, including the chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, state and federal judicial members, Drake Law School faculty, Drake faculty and staff, and students, in the annual Dwight D. Opperman Constitutional Law Lecture. Thomas is the eighth justice to give the Opperman lecture.

"I've been left pondering what it is about our Constitution that has allowed this great nation to enjoy unprecedented political stability, and economic and social prosperity for more than two decades," Thomas said.

In his speech, Thomas discussed two main points. One, the principles on which the Constitution is based are universal. "A key consequence of this Fundamental Principle of Equality is that all human beings lay equal claim to unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but to be entitled to such rights does not necessarily mean that one is secure in those rights, the darker side of human nature being what it is," Thomas said.

The second main point Thomas discussed was that the founders made a significant advance scientifically in politics by creating a government strong enough to defend its liberties. Thomas said the federal Constitution was adopted because of an elevated process of popular lawmaking. This Constitution is admired throughout the world and aims to prevent government from being the destroyer of rights, he said.

"We have not found a better way to preserve freedom than by making the exercise of power subject to the careful, crafted restoration spelled out in the Constitution," Thomas said.

An issue Thomas referred to was federalism. He said it protects individual liberties and the private ordering of lives. Federalism provides a check on the national government when the separation of powers cannot. Thomas said these checks and balances are the genius of the U.S. system of government.

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