Monday, September 24, 2007

Q&A Session at Texas A&M University

This is from 1999, and the session was hosted by former President George Bush.

COLLEGE STATION - Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas predicted that vast legal issues will arise from breakthroughs in genetic manipulation and cloning.

"We're about to embark on something that is beyond our imagination," he said, discussing the breakthroughs in genetic manipulation and cloning. "It's going to make abortion look like a simple issue. Questions that were imponderable a few years ago will be the issues of the future. Our law will be shaped by much that will happen in the next 20 years."

Questions on abortion and cloning were raised during an informal question-and-answer session hosted by former President George Bush at the Presidential Conference Center at Texas A&M University.

Thomas said he sees no constitutional right for abortion. He added that today's affirmative action has serious constitutional problems, and a better approach would be to focus on people with true socioeconomic disadvantages.

"I think it takes a hard-hearted person to not want to help someone who's been harmed," he said. "But I disagree with the approach that has been taken."

When deciding cases, Thomas said his main job is to look for the framers' (of the constitution) original intent, which leaves little room for worrying about building a legacy.

"I decide cases thinking that any of them can have an enormous impact for a long time," he said. "I really do not give it (building a legacy) a lot of thought."

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."

When asked about his upbringing, Thomas said he owes a great deal to his grandparents. "I made a commitment to live my life as a memorial to my grandparents," he said. "They did not have to raise us. The day I went to live with my grandparents was the beginning of a defiance of the odds."

Thomas offered his own life as encouragement for others striving to beat the odds. "I did not come from money or sophistication," he said. "I grew up with a family that said you get up every morning, go with a purpose and work positively.

"You begin to defy the odds today. Stand up, think for yourself, and think positively when others try to drag you into a hole of negative thinking."

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