A different perspective on Hope and Change

Recently Juan Williams called Clarence Thomas "America's Most Influential Thinker on Race" in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.  In a comment to this article, I learned that while Williams is a registered Democrat, both his sons identify as Republicans.

The oldest, Anthonio (Tony), was an intern for the late senator Strom Thurmond and a staff person for former senator Norm Coleman, worked for the RNC, and unsuccessfully ran for the City Council of Washington, D.C. as a Republican.  He is currently director of government affairs for Comcast.  Raphael (Raffi), a decade younger, served as communications director for Congressman Dan Benishek's campaign and is currently a deputy press secretary at the RNC.  I have noted over the last few years that the grip the Democratic Party has on black men, particularly young black men, may be slipping.  That these two products of the elite Washington, D.C. media culture chose to become Republican is most interesting. 

Williams notes of Justice Thomas in his article:

His only current rival in the race debate is President Obama. At moments of racial controversy the nation’s first black president has used his national pulpit to give voice to black fear that racial stereotyping led to tragedy. But that is as far as he is willing to go. His attorney general, Eric Holder , has gone further by calling Americans “cowards” when it comes to discussing race. And some critics have chastised him even for that.

Justice Thomas, meanwhile, is reshaping the law and government policy on race by virtue of the power of his opinions from the bench. Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American on the Supreme Court, stood up as a voice insisting on rights for black people. Justice Thomas, the second black man on the court, takes a different tack. He stands up for individual rights as a sure blanket of legal protection for everyone, including minorities.

And:

The principal point Justice Thomas has made in a variety of cases is that black people deserve to be treated as independent, competent, self-sufficient citizens. He rejects the idea that 21st-century government and the courts should continue to view blacks as victims of a history of slavery and racism.

Instead, in an era with a rising number of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and immigrants, he cheers personal responsibility as the basis of equal rights.

Not only do independence and competency have their own rewards, but much of the current difference between the political right and the political left comes down to the difference between being competent and being credentialed – and well-connected.  As the list of interest groups whose members all demand a place in leadership by virtue of selling a grievance narrative grows ever longer, and as our institutions all fail to function as promised, competency, independence, and personal responsibility all become selling points to the generation who will be cleaning up this mess. 

In his article, Williams does not mention the personal impact Justice Thomas makes on these issues.  Justice Thomas is said to go out of his way to meet with the school tours that visit the Supreme Court, and many of his infrequent public appearances are at educational institutions.  He often talks about his own roots at such events and about the importance of rising to meet life's challenges.  A 1992 winner of the Horatio Alger Award, given to Americans who exemplify dedication, purpose, and perseverance in their personal and professional lives, Justice Thomas actively supports that organization.  In recent years he has hosted receptions at the Supreme Court for new recipients of an award that personifies the type of individual achievement the "you didn't build that" crowd seek to constantly downplay in favor of collectivism, credentials, and cronyism.  Justice Thomas also participates in the Horatio Alger Association's conference for recipients of the scholarships they award.

This story about the personal impact Justice Thomas made on one attendee at those conferences is a bookend to Williams's article on the impact of Thomas's jurisprudence.  In September 2013, Justice Thomas made a rare public appearance in the West to speak at the University of Portland.  It was in return for a favor from the university president.  In 2011, high school senior Dakota Garza had attended the Horatio Alger Association conference in Washington, D.C. after having won one of their $20,000 scholarships.  Garza had represented herself in court at age 16 to become emancipated from her homeless mother and was then supporting herself working at Old Navy.  On a dare from others at the table during a conference lunch, Garza invited Justice Thomas to join them.  To everyone's surprise, he agreed.  When lunch was over, Justice Thomas gave Garza his contact information and told her to stay in touch. 

Garza is hesitant to talk publicly about Thomas, whom she describes as a very private person, but said she emailed him soon after the conference to report that she'd decided to attend the University of Portland because it had the area's best nursing school. Garza wants to help people and is pragmatic enough to seek a career that promised steady work.

The Rev. E. William Beauchamp, the university president, was working in his office that summer when his assistant knocked on the door and asked if he'd take a phone call from Clarence Thomas.

Supreme Court justices don't often call the small Catholic school. "Yes," Beauchamp said. "I think I will absolutely take that call."

The justice asked about Garza's financial situation. She'd won a handful of scholarships, but not enough to cover $37,000 a year in tuition plus room and board. Thomas asked Beauchamp if the school and the Alger Association could make up the difference.

They worked out a deal to cover Garza's tuition for all four years. Thomas also introduced Garza to a family for whom she nannies to pay for other expenses.

On the Horatio Alger Association website, Justice Thomas has this to say.

"You know what I see in those little kids who come here?" he asks. "I see myself. I see myself looking for hope, for a way to be a productive member of society -- not necessarily to go out to make riches or anything like that, but to do the best I can."

Recently Juan Williams called Clarence Thomas "America's Most Influential Thinker on Race" in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.  In a comment to this article, I learned that while Williams is a registered Democrat, both his sons identify as Republicans.

The oldest, Anthonio (Tony), was an intern for the late senator Strom Thurmond and a staff person for former senator Norm Coleman, worked for the RNC, and unsuccessfully ran for the City Council of Washington, D.C. as a Republican.  He is currently director of government affairs for Comcast.  Raphael (Raffi), a decade younger, served as communications director for Congressman Dan Benishek's campaign and is currently a deputy press secretary at the RNC.  I have noted over the last few years that the grip the Democratic Party has on black men, particularly young black men, may be slipping.  That these two products of the elite Washington, D.C. media culture chose to become Republican is most interesting. 

Williams notes of Justice Thomas in his article:

His only current rival in the race debate is President Obama. At moments of racial controversy the nation’s first black president has used his national pulpit to give voice to black fear that racial stereotyping led to tragedy. But that is as far as he is willing to go. His attorney general, Eric Holder , has gone further by calling Americans “cowards” when it comes to discussing race. And some critics have chastised him even for that.

Justice Thomas, meanwhile, is reshaping the law and government policy on race by virtue of the power of his opinions from the bench. Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American on the Supreme Court, stood up as a voice insisting on rights for black people. Justice Thomas, the second black man on the court, takes a different tack. He stands up for individual rights as a sure blanket of legal protection for everyone, including minorities.

And:

The principal point Justice Thomas has made in a variety of cases is that black people deserve to be treated as independent, competent, self-sufficient citizens. He rejects the idea that 21st-century government and the courts should continue to view blacks as victims of a history of slavery and racism.

Instead, in an era with a rising number of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and immigrants, he cheers personal responsibility as the basis of equal rights.

Not only do independence and competency have their own rewards, but much of the current difference between the political right and the political left comes down to the difference between being competent and being credentialed – and well-connected.  As the list of interest groups whose members all demand a place in leadership by virtue of selling a grievance narrative grows ever longer, and as our institutions all fail to function as promised, competency, independence, and personal responsibility all become selling points to the generation who will be cleaning up this mess. 

In his article, Williams does not mention the personal impact Justice Thomas makes on these issues.  Justice Thomas is said to go out of his way to meet with the school tours that visit the Supreme Court, and many of his infrequent public appearances are at educational institutions.  He often talks about his own roots at such events and about the importance of rising to meet life's challenges.  A 1992 winner of the Horatio Alger Award, given to Americans who exemplify dedication, purpose, and perseverance in their personal and professional lives, Justice Thomas actively supports that organization.  In recent years he has hosted receptions at the Supreme Court for new recipients of an award that personifies the type of individual achievement the "you didn't build that" crowd seek to constantly downplay in favor of collectivism, credentials, and cronyism.  Justice Thomas also participates in the Horatio Alger Association's conference for recipients of the scholarships they award.

This story about the personal impact Justice Thomas made on one attendee at those conferences is a bookend to Williams's article on the impact of Thomas's jurisprudence.  In September 2013, Justice Thomas made a rare public appearance in the West to speak at the University of Portland.  It was in return for a favor from the university president.  In 2011, high school senior Dakota Garza had attended the Horatio Alger Association conference in Washington, D.C. after having won one of their $20,000 scholarships.  Garza had represented herself in court at age 16 to become emancipated from her homeless mother and was then supporting herself working at Old Navy.  On a dare from others at the table during a conference lunch, Garza invited Justice Thomas to join them.  To everyone's surprise, he agreed.  When lunch was over, Justice Thomas gave Garza his contact information and told her to stay in touch. 

Garza is hesitant to talk publicly about Thomas, whom she describes as a very private person, but said she emailed him soon after the conference to report that she'd decided to attend the University of Portland because it had the area's best nursing school. Garza wants to help people and is pragmatic enough to seek a career that promised steady work.

The Rev. E. William Beauchamp, the university president, was working in his office that summer when his assistant knocked on the door and asked if he'd take a phone call from Clarence Thomas.

Supreme Court justices don't often call the small Catholic school. "Yes," Beauchamp said. "I think I will absolutely take that call."

The justice asked about Garza's financial situation. She'd won a handful of scholarships, but not enough to cover $37,000 a year in tuition plus room and board. Thomas asked Beauchamp if the school and the Alger Association could make up the difference.

They worked out a deal to cover Garza's tuition for all four years. Thomas also introduced Garza to a family for whom she nannies to pay for other expenses.

On the Horatio Alger Association website, Justice Thomas has this to say.

"You know what I see in those little kids who come here?" he asks. "I see myself. I see myself looking for hope, for a way to be a productive member of society -- not necessarily to go out to make riches or anything like that, but to do the best I can."