Justice Clarence Thomas addresses grads on life
By Linwood Outlaw III -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- More than four decades have passed since Clarence Thomas, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was a young high school student on the brink of entering the real world.
However, Thomas says there are some things about those days that you never forget.
"Graduation was my favorite day of school," Thomas joked as he addressed Randolph-Macon Academy's Class of 2009 at the military school's annual commencement at the Melton Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday morning. "I still believe that graduating from high school is a very special day."
Thomas, the ceremony's keynote speaker, told students that "life can be hard," and that "it will be up to you to make as many good decisions as possible." Thomas urged them to stay positive, and to always value the "three F's": faith, friends and family.
"Life is not easy. It's not easy for any of us. It will probably not be fair. And, it is certainly not all about you," said Thomas, 60, a member of the Supreme Court since 1991.
About 90 students received their high school diplomas from the 117-year old, co-ed boarding school on Saturday. Many of the graduates have been accepted to prestigious four-year universities, and others will continue their military studies at schools such as Virginia Military Institute and The Citadel. In all, the graduates earned more than $3 million in merit scholarships for post-secondary education, school officials said.
Tae Ho Lee, the senior class valedictorian, said he thinks of his peers at Randolph-Macon Academy as family.
"Let's keep in touch, and I wish you the best of luck in the future. Class of 2009, we're taking over," he told his peers.
Lee plans to attend the University of California at Berkeley.
Maj. Gen. Henry M. Hobgood, president of the academy, said he expects great things from this year's graduating class.
"I think they take [with them] the great academic background [of this school]. And probably more importantly, the thing that will stick with them the rest of their lives is preparation for life," Hobgood said. "Our school is all about character and all about good values. And that's what makes a person in the long run."
Randolph-Macon's Class of 2009 has many unique qualities, Hobgood said.
"Every graduating class is different. This one is unique because it's very diverse," he said. "They're very capable. [They have] a lot of academic success, a lot of athletic success. But mostly, they're just a class that has great character. And I think they're going to do well in life. I mean, it's a very unusual class in that regard. I'm very proud of each one of them."
Some of the students come from foreign countries such as Arabia, Korea, China and Spain.
The graduates were overcome with joy after the ceremony as they embraced their families and took pictures outside the gym.
Eliana Eitches, 17, an honors student who plans to attend Columbia University in New York, said she "definitely matured a lot" while attending Randolph-Macon Academy. "I sort of got serious about school, got serious about studying. And then I accomplished my goal, which was to go to Columbia," said Eitches, who received about $500,000 worth of scholarships.
Chase Beatty, 18, was a busy man during his three-year stay at the academy. He played on the varsity football team and ran track. Beatty was also a member of Cadre, the student leadership of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. Earlier this year, he successfully earned his private pilot certification.
Beatty said Randolph-Macon "was a tough experience," but that he takes away "a more grown sense of myself, a bigger sense of my character and what I want to do with my life."
"It's just helped me to take steps in the right direction. It's given me a solid foundation to build on," said Beatty, who plans to attend The Citadel in South Carolina in the fall.
"I consider this as step one. I've just got many more steps to go. It's a staircase."
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
From the Northern Virginia Daily:
This is a first: Dahlia Lithwick, the liberal Slate legal columnist who is usually seen distorting facts in order to mock conservatives, takes an opportunity to praise Thomas:
The temptation to smack back and argue that we deserve to seat Sotomayor because Thomas was a lousy affirmative-action pick who turned into a third-rate justice is hard to resist. But it's flat wrong. Liberals achieve nothing by suggesting that Thomas' elevation to the high court was preposterous on its face or that his tenure there has been a disgrace....
Claims that Thomas is too stupid to ask questions and in constant peril of embarrassing himself at the court are just not that different than claims that Sotomayor is mediocre. Nobody who has followed Thomas' 18-year career at the Supreme Court believes him to be a dunce or a Scalia clone. Whether you accept Jan Crawford Greenburg's claim that Thomas' constitutional theories are so forceful that they have shaped Scalia's or you believe the more common view that Thomas has a deeply reasoned and consistent judicial philosophy that differs dramatically from those of the court's other conservatives, accusations that he's been a dim bulb are just false. They also reveal that the name-calling that originates now, during the confirmation process, engenders a mythology that can never be erased.
From the Washington Examiner:
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke before several hundred graduating seniors on Monday and commended to them the same timeless values he said had led him to their podium.
“It is never wrong to do what is right,” he told Gaithersburg’s Quince Orchard High School class of 2009. “Hard, but never wrong.”
The rare public appearance began with a conversation on a flight from Omaha, Neb., to Washington, D.C.
Quince Orchard football star Terrence Stephens was returning from a recruiting trip at the University of Nebraska. Thomas, a die-hard Cornhusker fan, recognized him immediately. The young man had no idea who Thomas was.
“It was scary because this guy who I didn’t know was telling me all about myself,” Stephens said.
But he was polite and entertained Thomas’ uncommon obsession, which springs in part from his marriage to a Nebraskan. And that made all of the difference. In the months since, Thomas has become a mentor to Stephens. And it was the school’s top jock who invited the 17-year justice to speak before his graduating class.
Thomas urged the graduates to honor traditional values of humility, hard work and gratitude. “Always have good manners — they will open doors,” he told the graduates.
“Stay positive,” he said. “There will be many around you who are cynical or negative or know-it-alls or bitter. These attitudes are cancers of the spirit that do nothing worthwhile, and rob one of the spirit to prosper.”
He reminded them of their place, even as they felt on top of the world.
“Life is not easy for any of us. It will probably not be fair, and it certainly is not all about you,” he said. “The gray hairs and wrinkles you see on older people have been earned the hard way, by living and dealing with the challenges of life.”
And he brought laughter by confessing no familiarity with modern indulgences like text messaging or Twitter, or even Facebook.
Thomas asked them to be grateful. He told a story of his eighth-grade teacher whom he thanked many years later, and stayed in touch with until her death. Among her favorite possessions was a framed photo with Thomas.
His voice broke slightly as he recalled words she told him near her death: “This goes in my coffin with me.”
“Thank your parents and teachers and all who helped you,” Thomas said. “A simple thank you will do wonders.”
It’s a message he has already begun to instill in Stephens. “I’m so thankful — he has already offered me so much,” the young man said. “Now, he wants me to keep helping myself, so that he can keep helping me.”
From NBC Washington:
ustice Thomas -- who otherwise never misses court -- skipped a SCOTUS session to speak at the graduation of his travel companions.
High school seniors Terrence Stephens and Jason Ankrah, star football players at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, Md., were sitting on a plane returning from a recruitment session at the University of Nebraska when they struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to them.
Two Gaithersburg high school football players made friends with their travel companion on a recent flight back from Nebraska -- except they didn't know...
Their seat-mate just happened to be a major Cornhuskers fan.
When they started chatting, Stephens and Ankrah didn't have a clue they were holding court with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
"I was amazed this guy knew so much about us as football players and as people," said Stephens. "That was shocking. I felt honored to be known by someone of his caliber. He was just a regular old guy, sitting in coach, which really shocked me."
By the time the plane landed, the students had figured out who Thomas was, and they promptly told their principal they wanted to invite Thomas to give the keynote speech at their high school graduation. Of course, Principal Carole Working didn't exactly think Thomas would take them up on it. But he showed up at the high school on Monday.
"These young men had no idea who I was as I formed my first impression. I was just another stranger to them. They were wonderful ambassadors for your school and for their fellow students," said Thomas at the Quince Orchard graduation ceremony.
When Stephens and Ankrah arrived on-stage to receive their diplomas, they were both embraced by Justice Thomas.
Ankrah will be playing football for Nebraska next year, but Stephens will be attending Stanford. The justice said he doesn't have any hard feelings over that.