Supreme Court Justice Thomas Tells Law School Graduates to Make Decisions by Principle

Black Issues in Higher Education, June 17, 2004 | Go to article overview

Supreme Court Justice Thomas Tells Law School Graduates to Make Decisions by Principle


YPSILANTI, MICH.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told students graduating from Ave Maria School of Law last month to make decisions by principle first and never to quit.

In a commencement speech for the conservative Catholic school, Thomas said his initial difficulty finding a job in his native Georgia after graduation from Yale Law School eventually put him on the path to the nation's highest court.

"I retained all those rejection letters in my basement," Thomas told a crowd of hundreds at Frederic H. Pease Auditorium at Eastern Michigan University. The spring commencement recognized the school's second class of graduates, a group of 56 students.

Thomas urged perseverance without complaint, crediting that work ethic to his grandparents, who helped raise him in Savannah, Ga., after his family home burned down when he was 6.

"They lived their lives without complaint," he said. "They accepted life on its own terms. ... Today we are awash with complaint and whining."

Thomas, a 1991 appointee of the first President Bush, said that when asked by grandchildren someday about how to act in a tough situation, he wants to be able to say: "I did my best. …

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