Clarence Thomas to Hillsdale Grads: Liberty Doesn’t Grow on Trees

“I admit to being unapologetically Catholic, unapologetically patriotic, and unapologetically a constitutionalist.”

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas gave the 164th commencement address at Hillsdale College on Saturday, blasted political correctness and entitled social justice warriors, while remembering recently passed Antonin Scalia, saying that serving in the Supreme Court in this present term is extremely difficult and challenging following his colleague’s sudden and tragic death, after serving together on the bench for nearly a quarter of a century.

Justice Thomas said that there was so much more to Antonin Scalia than just his noteworthy “intellect and legal prowess.” Thomas described Scalia as a trustworthy “man of his word” and a “man of character.”

“Over the almost 25 years that we were together, I think that we made the court a better place for each other. I certainly know that he made it a better place for me. He was kind to me when it mattered most, in those early days and will be sorely missed.” 

Clarence Thomas told the newly graduated Hillsdale students that he felt “woefully out of place” speaking to the students after having graduated nearly a half century ago and that the foundations and institutions of society have radically shifted.

“Much has changed since I left college in 1971,” Justice Thomas said. “Things that were once considered firm have long since lost their vitality. And much that seemed inconceivable is now firmly or universally established. Hallmarks of my youth such as patriotism and religion seem more like outliers, if not afterthoughts,” he observed.

“Words actually matter, not a current newspeak.”

“I admit to being unapologetically Catholic, unapologetically patriotic, and unapologetically a constitutionalist.”

On a lighter note, Clarence Thomas joked straight-faced that his growing up working as a youth on a farm had a lot to do with the way he turned out and developed his resolve to “never farm again,” which received a lot of laughs from the audience.

Thomas reflected on the values of his youth, growing up in the South on a farm, saying that he learned that “if there was to be independence, self-sufficiency, or freedom, then we had to first understand, accept, and then discharge our responsibilities — the latter were the necessary –but not always sufficient antecedents or precursors of the former. The only guarantee was that if you did not discharge your responsibilities, there could be no independence, no self-sufficiency, no freedom, no crops.”

“When we heard the words, ‘duty, honor, country,’ no more needed to be said,” Justice Thomas said in describing the values of his neighborhood growing up, with people all understanding these values were each person’s individual responsibility. “We obligated to be good neighbors so that the neighborhood would thrive,” he remembered.

“But that is a bygone era,” he sadly admitted. “Today, we rarely hear of our personal responsibilities in discussions of broad notions such as freedom or liberty. It is as though freedom and liberty exist wholly independent of anything we do. Seemingly, it is our version of predestination, or as my grandfather often warned us — or told us — money didn’t grow on trees. Perhaps we think liberty grows on trees.”

Clarence Thomas slammed the unAmerican social justice, i.e, socialist, communist notion, being promulgated in today’s colleges of equal outcomes regardless of talent or effort.

“Apparently, we all deserve the same reward, the same status, notwithstanding the differences in our efforts or our abilities. It is no wonder then, that we hear so often what is deserved or to what one is entitled.”

Thomas wondered if things were so unhinged as to suggest that the student who spent all year partying deserved the same success and grades as the diligent student who worked hard studying.

“Perhaps, we should redistribute the conscientious student’s grades to make the frolicking classmate his or her equal,” he said tongue in cheek. “I’m sure the top ten students would love that.”

“I resist what seems to be some formulaic or standard fare at commencement exercises, some broad complaint about societal injustice and at least one exhortation to the young graduates to go out and solve the stated problem or otherwise to change the world,” he said. “Having been where you all are, I think it is hard enough for you to solve your own problems, not to mention those problems that often seem to defy solution. In addressing your own obligations and responsibilities in the right way, you actually help to ensure our liberty and our form of government.”

In that last statement, Thomas was no doubt rejecting the leftist encouragement given by most commencement speeches which states that in order for youth to be successful, they must get a job in government where they can push Marxist ideals on the citizenry.

Clarence Thomas said that his grandfather taught him that America’s constitutional ideals were perfectible if “we worked to protect them, rather than to undermine them.”

Thomas opined that American society focuses much too often on “grievances” rather than encouraging good “personal conduct.”

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About the Author

Matthew K. Burke
Matthew K. Burke
A former Washington State U.S. Congressional candidate in 2010, Matthew attended the nation’s first modern day Tea Party in 2009 in Seattle, Washington. He also began writing and blogging that year. Matthew became a Certified Financial Planner in 1995 and was a Financial Advisor for 24 years in his previous life. Matthew was one of the three main writers leading a conservative news site to be one of the top 15 conservative news sites in the U.S. in a matter of months. He brings to PolitiStick a vast amount of knowledge about economics as well as a passion and commitment to the vision that our Founding Fathers had for our Republic.

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