Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Justice Thomas Speech at Washington and Lee

On March 16, 2009. Here is the audio.

And here are three accounts, one with a short video:
Justice Thomas: Americans Little Disposed to Sacrifice and Self-Denial

By Debra Cassens Weiss

Justice Clarence Thomas says Americans today are less willing to sacrifice during hard times, and he lays the blame on the “self indulgent, me generation” of the 1960s.

In a speech yesterday at Washington and Lee University, Thomas recalled the messages he heard over and again as a child, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. "Learn to do without," he was told. "Prepare for a rainy day," and "No one owes you a living."

"These days, there seems to be little emphasis on responsibility, sacrifice and self-denial," Thomas said, according to the Times-Dispatch account. "Rarely do we hear a message of sacrifice, unless it is used as a justification of taxation of others or a transfer of wealth to others."

Thomas recalled President John F. Kennedy’s famous speech and said the words no longer ring true. “Today the message seems to be, 'Ask not what you can do for yourselves and your country, but what your country can do for you.' "

Thomas thinks that needs to change, the Associated Press reports in its account of the speech. "Our country and our principles are more important than our individual wants," Thomas said.

Supreme Court Justice Thomas visits Washington & Lee

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas doesn't make a lot of public appearances but he did Monday night at Washington and Lee University.

This was a homecoming of sorts for Justice Thomas.

He spoke at Washington and Lee before he became a Supreme Court justice and his son attended VMI back in the 90's.

"I have nothing, but fond memories of the time I came and spent here at VMI and here in Lexington," says Justice Thomas.

Justice Thomas touched on a number of topics during his speech inside Lee Chapel.

He says while most Americans appreciate the constitution they don't exactly know what's in it.

"It is at least as easy to understand that great document as it is to understand a cell phone contract," says Thomas.

Justice Thomas also believes too many Americans expect too much from their government.

"The message today seems more like ask not what you can do for yourselves or your country, but what your country must do for you," says Thomas.

It's not everyday you get insight into the Supreme Court.

Thomas says justices base their decisions on what the original framers intended, not their personal opinions.

He criticizes judges who do.

"What restrains us from imposing our personal views and police preferences on our fellow citizens under the guise of constitutional interpretation," says Thomas.

During a question and answer period with the audience, Thomas was asked a lot of questions.

One dealt with whether the constitution allowed slavery.

"I don't think there was any question slavery was constitutional. Was it moral? No. Was it wrong? Yes, but it was there," says Thomas.

Thomas spoke to a crowd of nearly 300 people.

He received a number of standing ovations.

For now, the above story has a video report.

Americans not inclined toward sacrifice, Justice Clarence Thomas says

By Rex Bowman

Published: March 17, 2009

LEXINGTON -- Values eroding, Thomas says 'Little emphasis' on sacrifice, self-denial, justice says at W&L

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told a crowd at Washington and Lee University yesterday that today's Americans seem little disposed to sacrifice during hard times -- even if the government asked them to do it.

"These days, there seems to be little emphasis on responsibility, sacrifice and self-denial," Thomas told about 300 people gathered in the Lee Chapel on campus.

Thomas is not a frequent public speaker, but last week he spoke at Howard University, and he said he came to W&L yesterday at the request of Robin Wright, a senior from Little Rock, Ark. Wright's mother is a federal district judge in Arkansas.

During his speech, Thomas contrasted the values Americans learned during his boyhood with today's values, which he suggested are more selfish and lead people to look too much to the government for help.

Growing up, he said, he constantly heard, "Learn to do without," "Prepare for a rainy day" and "No one owes you a living."

"Those truths permeated our lives," he said, so President John F. Kennedy's call for service resonated with everyone. "It all made sense."

"Today we live in a far different environment," he said, laying the blame on the "self-indulgent 'Me' generation of the 1960s."

"Rarely do we hear a message of sacrifice, unless it is used as a justification of taxation of others or a transfer of wealth to others."

Though Thomas mentioned no particular federal policies or politician, his criticism comes as President Barack Obama's administration is wrestling with a deepening recession and spending hundreds of billions of dollars to put people to work. Conservatives have lambasted the Obama stimulus package as a step toward socialism.

"Today the message seems to be, 'Ask not what you can do for yourselves and your country, but what your country can do for you,'" Thomas said.

Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Liberal?

That's the Los Angeles Times headline:
Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court liberal?
In a decision last week against the drug company Wyeth, it was the court's most conservative justice who most harshly criticized a Bush administration legal policy.
By David G. Savage

March 8, 2009

Reporting from Washington — The Supreme Court opinion that drew the most praise last week from a proudly "progressive" constitutional law group was written by perhaps the court's staunchest conservative, Justice Clarence Thomas.

Thomas would have gone further than the court's liberals in a decision that allowed injured patients to sue drug makers. In a 24-page concurrence, he said the court should have declared that judges have no authority to void state consumer-protection laws based on "agency musings" from Washington.

In this instance, Thomas was referring to the musings of the George W. Bush administration and its drive to limit lawsuits against manufacturers.

"We think Justice Thomas got it exactly right," said Doug Kendall of the Constitutional Accountability Center. "A key part of our constitutional system is respect for the states in protecting the health and welfare of their citizens."

Thomas has never been shy about breaking with conventional wisdom -- even when it is the conservative consensus. Over the years, he has spelled out a distinctive approach in several areas of the law. And his views do not always yield predictably conservative results.

Four years ago, for example, the court, with Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy in the majority, upheld the power of federal agents to raid the homes of Californians who grow marijuana for their personal use -- legal under state law but not federal law. Thomas disagreed.

In earlier opinions, he disputed the broad reach of federal regulatory power, a view welcomed by some business groups. In the marijuana case, Thomas repeated the same view, but this time on the side of Angel Raich, an Oakland woman who challenged the federal raids.

"If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything," Thomas wrote in dissent. " . . . Our federalist system, properly understood, allows California and a growing number of other states to decide for themselves how to safeguard the health and welfare of their citizens."

Thomas is often alone on the current court as a steady advocate of limited federal power and respect for states' authority.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. are more inclined to side with federal authorities. Usually Thomas is squarely in the conservative camp with Roberts and Alito when a state's criminal laws are being challenged. He and Scalia rarely vote to limit a state's use of the death penalty.

But in some business cases, Thomas has split from his conservative colleagues.

The case decided last week, Wyeth vs. Levine, involved the recurring conflict between federal regulations and state liability law. Business groups -- and the Bush administration -- maintained that federal regulation of products should "preempt" or trump state laws.

Diana Levine won a $6.7-million Vermont jury verdict after part of her arm was amputated. She said drug maker Wyeth failed to fully warn the public about the danger of injecting the anti-nausea drug Phenergan. If it mixes with arterial blood, it can cause gangrene and lead to amputation.

The warning label said "extreme care" should be taken when injecting the drug. It did not warn against giving it by injection.

Wyeth appealed the verdict, arguing that jurors should not be permitted to "second-guess" the federal regulators who approved the drug and its warning label.

Roberts, Scalia and Alito agreed with Wyeth. Even if the Food and Drug Administration's decision was wrong, it should prevail, they said.

"After today's ruling, however, parochialism may prevail," Alito wrote for the dissenters.

The court's majority, led by Justice John Paul Stevens, said Congress did not intend to take away the right of injured patients to sue drug makers. Levine's jury verdict was affirmed.

Thomas went further and said the court should lay down a marker.

"I have become 'increasing[ly] reluctan[t] to expand federal statutes beyond their terms through doctrines of implied preemption,' " he wrote, quoting himself in an earlier Supreme Court case.

Unless Congress spells it out in the text of the law, Thomas said, the consumer's right to sue under state law should be protected.
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