U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas delivered this address at the 2007 Annual National Lawyers Convention on Thursday, November 15. Introductions by Hon. Lee Liberman Otis, Faculty Division Director and Senior Vice President of the Federalist Society, and Hon. C. Boyden Gray, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.
C. Boyden Gray
C. Boyden Gray, of the District of Columbia, was sworn in as the Representative of the United States of America to the European Union, with the Rank and Status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on January 20, 2006.
Prior to his appointment as Ambassador in Brussels, Mr. Gray was a partner in the Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr law firm in Washington, where he worked from 1969 to 1981 and 1993 to 2005. He was White House Counsel in the administration of President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) and earlier served as Legal Counsel to Vice President Bush (1981-1989).
Ambassador Gray was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He earned his Bachelorâ€™s degree magna cum laude from Harvard University and his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the Law School of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was editor-in-chief of the Law Review. Following his graduation from university, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps. After law school, he clerked for Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court (1968-69).
At the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr, his practice focused on a range of regulatory matters, with emphasis on environment, energy, antitrust, public health, and information technology. Ambassador Gray served as counsel to the Presidential Task Force on Regulatory Relief during the Reagan Administration. While working as White House Counsel, he was one of the principal architects of the 1991 Clean Air Act Amendments. He served as chairman of the Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice of the American Bar Association 2000-2002.
Ambassador Gray has served on the boards of numerous charitable, educational, and professional organizations. For Harvard University, he has been a member of the Committee to Visit the College and of the Committee on University Development. He is the recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal and the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the University of North Carolina Law School.
Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice, was born in the Pin Point community of Georgia
near Savannah June 23, 1948. He married Virginia Lamp in 1987 and has one child, Jamal
Adeen, by a previous marriage. He attended Conception Seminary and received an A.B.,
cum laude, from Holy Cross College, and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1974. He was
admitted to law practice in Missouri in 1974, and served as an Assistant Attorney General
of Missouri from 1974-1977, an attorney with the Monsanto Company from 1977-1979, and
Legislative Assistant to Senator John Danforth from 1979-1981. From 1981-1982, he
served as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, and as
Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 1982-1990.
He became a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
in 1990. President Bush nominated him as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and
he took his seat October 23, 1991.
I am delighted to be here to call to order this session of our conference. I am Leela Bermenodiz, Iam one of the people who was involved in starting the Federal Society and I am now the SeniorVice-President and Director of our faculty division. I am going to introduce Boyden Gray who inturn is going to introduce, our guest. And I'm not going to spend a lot of time introducing BoydenGray probably because Leonard of course already introduced him this morning and probablybecause I'm sure that everybody is eager to hear from both him and Justice Thomas. I do want tomention that we do have overflow rooms somewhere in that general direction if there are peoplewho are looking for seats would be more comfortable there. I think it's the Chinese room andsomething else so you may wanna be aware of that.I do want to tell one story about Boyden Gray though. I worked for Boyden when he was counselto the President and as probably, those of you who heard him this morning know. Boyden issomething of an iconoclast. And one morning, when he was working on a Saturday. He was busilyworking in his office and he brought with him, his daughter and her pet to the office because hecould get some work done and also keep an eye on her. Now one person who nobody ever crossed atthe White House was a woman named Rose Samaria. You might ignore the directive of the Chiefof Staff. You might ignore the directive of the Counsels of the President but you would not ignoreRose Samaria, who had been with the President for many years and who basically was in charge ofseeing all the things that you couldn't do at the White House. So Rose had some piece of businessthat she wanted to conduct with Boyden and she was working on a Saturday as was not frequentlythe case with her either. And so she popped into Boyden's office. And there in Boyden's lightlyfurnished office was a gigantic Vietnamese pot bellied pig. And this is the only time that anyonecan remember Rose being at a complete loss for words. She looked at Boyden. She looked at thepig. She tried to utter some words. But none would come out. And she just threw up her hands andwalked out of the room. Ladies and gentleman, Boyden Gray.Well thank you Lee, thank you very much. You've already heard me speak and you don't want tohear me. What you want to do is hear Justice Thomas so, I am just gonna have get up here as soonas he can. The time is limited. I will say though that my Boss is constantly goes over these times ofhis confirmation and I think, well I know how his epitaphs is gonna be written. But I think he feelsit was the best thing he ever did, so for Justice Thomas...Thank you all. Thank you. Well, I feel like quitting while I'm ahead. Well thank you all verymuch. First of all for being out in such inclement weather and being part of such a wonderful eventand wonderful organization. I'd like to thank Boyden not only for introducing me but for hiskindness throughout the more than 25 years we've known each other and especially during theconfirmation where both he and the President were steadfast, firm and courageous, I think. And Ideeply, deeply appreciate that. I also like to thank Lee Lieberman who is not only is one of thefounders of the Federalist Society butwas also central in my confirmation processing who sort of, asLee's character would suggest very quietly behind the scene that some of the very, very effectivework and gave me some of the most important advise throughout that process. And this is anopportunity to thank her personally from the bottom of my heart, for all that she has done. Leethank you. [Clapping]And my wife, Virginia I feel badly sometimes, she is, she loves even when I'm not so loveable. Andthroughout this long riding process that was a lot of time, she has been tireless and tenaciousthroughout some years ago. More than 20 years ago, I was sitting by myelf and I said you know, ifI would ever be married, I'd like to be married with someone who understands the, or who loves meduring the difficult times and who is dedicated to being married during the worst times not just thebest times. And my wife has been steadfast and immovable and unshakeable through some of themost turbulent and difficult times in our lives. And she is my best friend in the whole world. And Ireally... [Clapping]And finally I like to thank Jean Myer and Leonard Leo for all the work they've done throughout.They travelled all over the country and co-sponsored some fantastic events and also like to thankthem through over the years. I appeared in this very room 15 years ago to speak at a federalistsociety and I like to thank them for giving me an opportunity to be involved in something very, very important.And I have been in the court now 16 years and it's kind of hard to say that. Just like what hashappened to my life? You almost want to say that, "you need to go get a life". But it has beeninteresting 16 years and I'm sure we will have an opportunity to chat about that dring the Q and A'sbut it has certainly move along more rapidly than I would liked. But someone asked and this is aquestion that I have been asked over the past few weeks, and that is, "why write the book now"?Well if anybody knows anything about book writing, I just didn't write it now. It didn't justsuddenly show up. But over the past few years it's taken, it has certainly taken quite sometime.One of the reasons I wrote this book is because so much has been written about me. And most of itis wrong. Even when people mean well, it's wrong. It seem to be it required, I owed to so manypeople, my grandparents, the people who were in my neighborhood, Miss Gertrude, Miss Beck,Miss Mariah, Miss Gladys, I think I owed it to them to give an accurate story of the way we've beenraised. Because they played such a critical role in all of that. I also thought it was important to somany people I've met over the years, people who have asked me about my life, and when theyfound out that I had so many similarities to their own. They said, "why don't you think of tellingthe story"? And it's almost as though you owed it to them to say, "look, here is my story and it'svery similar to yours". You know it's really hard to talk if there's this guy in front of me keepsmoving if maybe we can turn that out I'd really appreciate it but any rate that's me. So if you seeyourself moving around it's like...[Laughing] This guy keeps moving in front of me gosh! But inany rate let's stop looking at this guy in front of me. But sorry to look at you that because it was tomuch of a good thing, if you think well of yourself my goodness. But on the other hand, I have alsowanted to provide some hope to people who are still trying to hope. People who are going throughdifficult times, their education, their difficulties in their lives that sort of thing, in this score it hasbeen enormously rewarding to go across the country. Far more rewarding than I could possiblyhave hoped. I've met a Vietnamese lady in Atlanta and she came up to me in tears and said that,"your story is my story". And I looked at her and we're so different since she has broken english,she obviously dreamt of being in this country and prospering here. It was so wonderful to see sheunderstood implicitly what I was trying to say. There is so much in there about hope that isuniversal and about our lives is general and universal. There was a man who came up to me theother day who grew up in a rural town in Iowa. And he said, "we grew up the same way". There isso much the that's the same. Obviously he doesn't mean that were exactly the same but so much ofit is the same. And there isn't a single person in this room who haven't had some of the challengesthat I have tried to deal with in the book as honestly as I could.And finally I had recently looked this morning I was looking at a letter from a black gentleman whosaid that he sat in his car and wept upon reading the book. Because it told him that he had taken thesafe course by not expressing his own opinions, that he went along to get along. It is a safe course.And that just hearing from these people means that it's broken through the din. The din that we allhave known and watched in D.C. The monopoly of certain organizations, certain groups and mediatypes who for years would not allow this simple message to get through. So much of what, is inthat book is what we have said before. There's nothing new. There wouldn't have been no reasonfor the federalist society if the then predominant organizations had allowed open debate, opendiscussions did not take hard position, had not become so ideologically closed that you can't talkanymore. I don't know about you but when I was in law school, we go get beer in Thursday, adollar a pitcher where you could have a lot of good thoughts with that. [Laughter] But it was sowonderful to argue about things, to talk about them, to debate and that by the way my point and mydiscussion about John Bolton in the book. Here's a guy who has his book out now. On the samething, he may seen as an iconoclast but he is not. He is just a person who decides for himself andhas the courage of his convictions. And I think when people like that man who sat in his car andwept because he had not have the courage of his. When they see maybe they will stand up andexpress like the people like Lee etc. who founded this organization, Leonard and Jean, peoplerunning it and making it grow. That they have the courage of their convictions and still believe thatideas are worth putting out, having people debate them and discuss them, see them grow andstrengthen and heading to a certain direction. So in any case the rewards of having written thisbook I have already reaped. It 's far greater than anything I could hoped for. And you all each ofyou in this room are part of that. The reason why those ideas got out. The reason you are thepeople who gave us hope. You are the people, the fact that you would have us here, that you wouldsay that it's good to think that you're here. That you see numbers of people who say. "we're here notto be proselytized but to think for ourselves. And at bottom isn't that why we want, one of thereasons we loved a free society, that we got to think for ourselves, make our decisions based oncertain principles and to make it possible for others to do the same. So I thank you all. And I thankyou for having me here. And I look forward to answering as many of your questions as time allows[Clapping]