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tv   Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Commencement Address at Christendom...  CSPAN  May 30, 2018 12:35am-1:02am EDT

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[applause] justiceme court clarence thomas spoke about his catholic upbringing when he delivered the commencement address at christendom college. this is 25 minutes. [applause] justice thomas: thank you.
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thank you all. thank you. oh, that makes you want to quit while you are ahead. [laughter] they have already given me a medal and a warm welcome. thank you all for being here. i would like to first think emma wind for the outstanding welcome. we introverts have to stick together. [laughter] justice thomas: i always say introverts of the world unite, but i'm not going to the meeting. [laughter] that would mean i have to leave home. first, let me thank president o'donnell for his wonderful elcome and for his
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patience in inviting me here. i would like to thank chairman ethel for her kind mints -- her kindness and warmth. and the members of the board and faculty, families -- all of you for being here. i would like to thank father scully him. i see friends of mine out here. all, it is an honor to be with these students. what a wonderful group. i look around and i saw the pictures oficons, the blessed verse -- with the virgin mary and i realized i was in a catholic school. atencouraged me to put jmj the top of my speech.
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again, it is truly an honor to be invited to be a part of these commencement ceremonies. i am deeply humbled to receive the award, but i think of feast we celebrate today and the fallen soldiers and warriors across the world. i cannot claim to merit this wonderful award. they gave the last full measure for god and country. my contributions pale next to their ultimate sacrifices. nevertheless, i am deeply, deeply honored and i will treasure it. and i love reading here with my bride, virginia, who is a gift from god and my total best friend in the whole world. [applause]
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justice thomas: i find commencements up with ink. -- uplifting. a time to celebrate a milestone in so many young lives. to paraphrase sir winston churchill, it is not the end or the beginning of the end, it is the end of the beginning of your education and your young lives. lives hopefully spent in the pursuit of truth and wisdom. this past week i asked my for law clerks, who spoke at their .espective college graduations they each had some vague recollections of the speaker, but could not recall what was said. illusions --r no [laughter]
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i am under no illusions whatsoever that either i or what i say here will be long remembered. but on their unanimous advice, i will be brief. [laughter] you to thomas: i ask indulge me for just a few minutes. in 1971, when i asked where you are, i was approaching my 23rd birth day. lemon narrowly, let me apologize for using i too many times. i was in the process of accumulating, while i sat as you sit, many regrets. such as, railing to return home to visit my grandparents often enough. too often eating influenced my contemporaries, who knew no more about life and i did.
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and the biggest, remaining outside the church from which i had fallen away. so to begin, i humbly ask each of you to take the time today, the peopleo thank who made it possible for you to make it this far. parents, guardians, teachers, your priest, the nuns, the coaches, you know who they are. thank all of those who made it possible for us to live in peace in this country. thank god that you live in this country and for his boundless love and grace that elevates us above our choices and our circumstances and ourselves. you know, at graduation ceremonies, many people will go out and tell you to conquer the world and climb mountains and do great things. the truth is, we are fortunate
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if we can conquer ourselves. i saw a saying some years ago that makes so much sense. if you want to know what is down the road, ask the person who is coming back. life, the person next to you now is a fellow traveler. those of us with gray hair and wrinkles are coming back. in a sense, we are meeting you on your way along a path of life that we long ago traveled. some of us more long ago that we would like to say. i was one of those headstrong youths. i was -- i am sure none of you are the way i was. none of you is headstrong. like most young people, i have had bad judgment from time to time.
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there is a story of a young man who, like me had bad judgment. at the request of his mother, he went to with it -- went to visit a wise older man who lived or by. the man was known to have outstandingly good judgment. the young man told him that he too wanted to have good judgment one day. he sought a wise man's advice. son, goodman said, " judgment comes from experience, and experience comes having had bad judgment." even as i have had a judgment, the bad judgment of youth, something kept me from going too far and helped me to learn from those experiences. life in25 years of my the wilderness, away from the
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the call ofyet, sunday church bells never went away. something restrained me. in those days of the 1960's and 70's, the inner restraint was hangup" or an inhibition. in fact, it was a conscious. a catholic conscience that had been formed in a world much like this wonderful, wonderful college. this is a decidedly catholic college. i am decidedly, and unapologetically catholic. [applause] justice thomas: it is this faith
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that has been the guiding the can during some difficult and seemingly hopeless times. even when i had turned my heart against it, and turned back on it. i have no doubt that this faith will do the same for each of you, if you let it. perhaps, even if you don't. it is not a tether, but rather is a guide. the way, the truth, and the light. my first encounter with a inholic institution was september 1955 when i entered second-grade at saint benedict remmert -- saint benedict grammar school. in those days we lined up in the schoolyard by great. after reciting the pledge of allegiance in unison, we dialed respective into our
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classrooms to buy two. the first subject was always religion. using the ultimate -- using the baltimore cataclysm. i can still remember the sister asking us as a class why did god create you? innocent, in the voices of seven-year-olds, we d created us to know, love, and serve him in this life and to be happy with him in the next." a lifetime has passed since those days of innocence and hopefulness, but as i near my 70th birth day, i think often of what the sister taught us that september. much has happened since those days. i have read much, learned much, and experienced a lifetime of
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ups and downs. i have studied the elegy, philosophy, history, and law. i have not come across a better statement of our purpose in life than what she taught us over six decades ago. this could well be the result of the many flaws and deficiencies of my abilities and my life. from time to time, i am asked why i came back to the church after a quarter of a century away. often, as a cynical if not at respond thatsually life happened and that i ran away as they can fused -- andused, 19-year-old crawled back as a middle-aged man humbled by the realities of life and better able to appreciate god's gift of race.
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it reminds me of my encounters with my grandfather, as the bitter young man. he was a devout catholic. a convert. he only had nine months of education. he and my grandmother raised my brother and he. i had been an altar boy and thought i had a vocation, hence my four years in the seminary. but much was happening in the world in the matter of race relations. i got swept up in it and away in the swirling cauldron of then current events and i was so certain that i was right about the end of the world as we knew it. about the impending revolution, seemingly, i was certain about everything. it is funny now, just how certain we think we are about so much when we have two decades of life under our belts.
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confrontationsur , that had to be exasperating to my wonderful grandfather, he would often simply say before walking away, "you just live long enough, you'll see." i wish he were here now so i could convince -- confessed to him that now it's 70 i now see what i did not the at 20 as he knew i would. and as you all will. in a sense, i am coming back to you as my grandfather, and the sister came to me. not to lecture you or exult myself, but rather as a pilgrim, who once nothing more then your pilgrimage to be more fruitful and more beneficial and more christ centered than mine was. my bride and i attended a judicial conference last week.
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among the topics were brain mapping and artificial intelligence. i could have used some of that. [laughter] justice thomas: each day one reads about cloning or some other science fiction endeavor. in a generation, we have gone from virtually no one with a today virtually no one without a cell phone. the world that you all will live in most certainly will have challenges that are unimaginable to those of us who grew up during a different era. that is perhaps much like what my grandparents or the sister with ink of today's world. unimaginable. in an increasingly secular and nihilistic world, you will be raced with -- faced with man-made issues. each generation pin balls and
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each -- for us, we have had immigration, quotas and and a solvingmandatory problems. were to be drugs mind expanding. we went from mobile cooling to global warming to climate change. i doubt that the world of your lives will be less cluttered with changes, conflicts, and manned made solutions. that it will be fraught with its share of confusions and competitions. , nor anyone in this room, knows exactly what will confront you or exactly what the world will look like for you all. but those who raised and nurtured us did.
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but those who raised and nurtured us did not and could not know that we would live in the world that we live in today. the world of self driving cars, robots, and remotely controlled drones. it was for them, and for us, a world of fantasy and cartoons, like the jetsons. a few months ago, my wife and i were talking with one of our favorite priest. things that has mystified me during my tenure on the court, which now approaches 30 years, was the fact that his father, justice scalia and i were from very different backgrounds, but we agreed on so much and trusted each other implicitly. .e saw so much the same way before i arrived at the court in 1991, i had ever met him.
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so we had no prior relationship. he was from new jersey and i from south georgia. he was from a household of educated parents and mine was almost functionally illiterate. we did not share the same race. thisd justice scalia about , father scalia about this, and he provided what should have been obvious all along. your catholic formation was your bond, he said. there is was. our mutual formation of world character- of moral or. the sooner to just did not know what we would confront, but they knew that we needed to learn the truth to deal with what we confronted. they passed on, among other things, our catholic faith.
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it seems that in this increasingly secular world, man sees himself as the master of the universe, there seems to be a notion that we put our minds to it, our we can do just about anything and solve just about any problem . with more research, the most challenging and awful diseases can be understood and secured. cure polioafter all tuberculosis. man is powerful enough to destroy the earth and change the climate. who needs god? who cares about the church? life without god and without faith? i have tasted the elixir of that life. i have stared into that abyss. some time ago, one of our parish priests gave the most interesting homily that gave the
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point better than i could hope to. he told a story that may well be apocryphal. i'm not sure. it still makes a point. many of you may have already heard it. a young student in france boarded a train, took a seat across from an elderly gentleman who appeared to be dozing. when the train lurched, arose a refill from the gentleman's hands. the young man treated and him did back to the gentleman. he couldn't resist asking the gentleman if he still believed in such things as praying the rosary. the gentleman admitted that, indeed he still leave -- he still believed. surprised, the young student the gentleman that his professors at the university did not believe in such superstition. he went on to enlighten the
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elderly gentleman of the more modern and sophisticated view of the world and explained that enlightened people did not believe in such nonsense as praying the rosary. as the older gentleman prepared to leave the part train at his stop, the young man offered to send him materials to further enlighten him. the older man kindly accepted the offer and gave the young man his business card as he departed. as the train pulled away, the unmanned red the card allowed to himself. pasteur, direct your of the scientific institute, paris. [applause] justice thomas: perhaps, through his life experience, he knew
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something the young man had yet to learn. it seems that often the more we , theand the more we learn more we doubt how much we really know or help well we know what we think we know. we realize what our human limitations are. in a sense, we realized just how miniscule we are in the scheme of things. especially without god. in the epilogue of his history of reality, paul johnson observes, "man is imperfect with god, without god, what is he? as francis bacon put it, they that denied god destroyed man's nobility. certainly man is akin to the beast by his body. if he be not kin to god by his spirit, he is a base and
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creature. we're less space and ignoble viper of divine example and by the desire for the form of apotheosis which christianity ."fers in everyday terms, since we are created in the image of god we are required to demand more of ourselves and our base in stinks. to know, love, and serve god requires that we obey his commandments and the laws of the church. this world will tug at you. divert you.o somehow, you must stay the course. god will provide a way. give you the strength and grace to endure and overcome your failures. i assure you, there are things to date that you think are important, that are critical, that are indispensable. many of these same things you will one day think are trivial
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and disposable. there will be those who will confidently tell you that there is a new, more modern, and fun filled, thrilling way to live life. without the constraints of conscience or face. they will suggest that the old-fashioned ways are passe in the era of smartphones, ipads, and icloud. they will say that we are smarter with the internet, and artificial intelligence, but these technological conveniences are not transcendent, not divine, and not god. when i met my wife in 1986, she asked me what helped to sustain me through the many battles i have fought in those days in washington. i showed her i folded copy of st. francis of the cc letter to rulers of the people. it read in part, keep -- i give
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you this advice. keep a clear eye toward life and. do not forget your purpose and destiny as god's creatures. what you are in god's sight is what you are and nothing more. remember that when you leave this earth, you will take with you nothing that you have received, but only what you have given. a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage. embrace the god of us all and god's word wherever it surfaces. in the early 1990's, shortly after i arrived at the court, i frequently drove past a small cinderblock church in northern virginia. it had a simple sign, inexpensive sign out front with a vote from second corinthians.
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for we walk by faith, not by sight. simple, yet profound. maps may get you from one place to another, but only god will show you the way to that peace which passes understanding. theresa, ite mother is not between you and the things of the world, it is always between you and god. i congratulate each of you on this milestone in your formation , your catholic formation. they god continue to bless and guide each of you throughout your lives and i pray that you know love and serve him in this life so that you can be happy with him in the next. god less you. you.d bless [applause]
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>> starbucks chief operating officer rosalind gates brewer delivered the commencement address at her alma mater spelman college in atlanta georgia. she spoke about her companies decision to have employees undergo why is training following the arrest of two black men at a philadelphia starbucks location.

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