Thursday, November 15, 2007

Justice Thomas Meets the Bush Boys

It's not often that our children get to meet an honest-to-God hero, but today they met such a man, Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court of the United States, who spoke to the national convention of the Federalist Society.

In his remarks, Justice Thomas discussed his memoir, My Grandfather's Son, and the many Americans he has met as he travels around the country to sign the book. He then took questions from the audience. Granted, this group of conservative lawyers was a friendly crowd, so the standing ovation and applause came as no surprise. Justice Thomas, however, interspersed numerous one-liners with commentary on everything from the confirmation process to natural rights jurisprudence to his marriage.

"He's really funny," my ten-year old, Eric, observed. "I didn't expect him to make everyone laugh." Christian, my 12-year old, was struck by the Justice's "patience and persistence" in overcoming adversity.

Following the q & a, we asked Justice Thomas to sign our copies of his memoir. After he signed Eric's copy, Eric said, "Can I ask you a question?"

"Of course," Justice Thomas replied, ignoring the several hundred people in line to have their books signed.

"If you could change one part of the Constitution, what part would you change?" Eric asked.

Justice Thomas stopped signing books and reflected on the question. Then he said, "I don't think I'd change any of it. How about you -- what would you change?" he asked.

Eric considered that and said, "I don't think I'd change anything, either."

"Then we agree," Justice Thomas said, "that we have a pretty good Constitution just the way it is, right? And you know, it's shorter than the warranty for your watch."

Then Justice Thomas gave Eric an assignment: "I want you to go and look up the constitution for the European Union and see if it's longer than our Constitution. Then you write and tell me, OK?"

Eric agreed to do so, shook the Justice's hand and said good bye. As he was leaving, Justice Thomas stopped signing the next book and said to Eric, "You won't forget?"

His aide took me aside and said that the Justice was sincere about wanting to hear from Eric.

The whole exchange underscored a point that Justice Thomas had made in his remarks. He loves to talk to people of all ages and backgrounds, but he especially enjoys questions from children. "Some of their questions are so innocent, it just gets you thinking," he said.

As my kids observed, this powerful jurist is funny, patient and persistent. Despite all liberal smears to the contrary, he is exceedingly bright. Liberal reviews of his memoir describe him as a bitter, angry man, but we saw none of that. He demonstrated a cheerfulness and the peace that comes from knowing that even adversity cannot destroy hope.

The characteristic that has always struck me about Justice Thomas is his tremendous humility. Like him or not, he is one of the most important people in the country. And yet he listened to my little boy's question, really listened without any condescension -- nothing but kindness and courtesy.

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