By Kate Stringer |
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas covered a wide array of topics at a townhall-style discussion in the Chiles Center Thursday, including the complexities of Supreme Court cases, his challenging life journey and Cornhusker jokes.
Yet Thomas always directed the conversation towards the students.
Political science professors Gary Malecha and William Curtis, along with five students, asked Thomas questions in front of an audience of 1200 people, according to UP Marketing.
“I can’t tell you I had some plan because I had no plan,” Thomas said, when describing his career path. “The road from Georgia to here was long, hard and lonely. There are times when you are left alone with just your dreams.”
From his start in Pin Point Ga., Thomas said he was gifted with the truth of equality he learned from Irish nuns at his elementary school.
“’The whole premise of neutralizing segregation was from the nuns: ‘You were created inherently equal by God,’” Thomas said.
Thomas translated this positive message he learned from the nuns to a message of hope for students.
“We should say to young people to ingest positive things. We have an obligation… to have some glimmer of hope,” Thomas said. “Don’t poison (students) with contaminated attitudes. We don’t have a right to spread that to kids.”
These words did not go unheard by the hopeful college students in Chiles. Junior Emma Englund, one of the students who asked Thomas a question, found Thomas’ advice to hope inspiring for her goal of going to law school.
“I liked when he talked about law clerks, he was very into having smart hardworking people,” Englund said. “People get so into, like he was saying, the glitzy positions: going to the best law school, being all flashy and outspoken, all those characteristics that don’t really matter if you don’t have the underlying (characteristics of) smart and hardworking.”
Thomas shared that his life was far from glitzy. His previous jobs ranged from “busting suds” to cutting grass, yet Thomas said he “never had a job that didn’t teach me something.”
Co-director of the Garaventa center Karen Eifler was most inspired by Thomas’ message of hard work and hope.
“The implications of hope that’s grounded in working hard, finding out facts, deep reading, listening,” Eifler said. “How important it is to be open to surprises.”
The discussion was followed by the annual Red Mass, a Catholic tradition that prays for all professionals who work with law and administering justice, in the Chapel of Christ the Teacher.
Thomas attended a dinner with the law community after the Mass.
Listen to an audio of the event here.