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Public Papers - 1991 - September

Address to the Nation on the Supreme Court Nomination of Clarence Thomas

1991-09-06

My fellow Americans:

I would like to talk today about opportunity in America. Our land, unique among all nations, grew out of high ideals, the most precious of which is that every man and woman deserves a chance to go as far as their abilities and hard work will take them, that all deserve to live free from the bonds of prejudice and arbitrary limitation.

For more than two centuries our national soul, the U.S. Constitution, has given life to the values of equality before the law. While people try from time to time to bury that spirit beneath an avalanche of lawsuits, technicalities and decrees, every American knows that profound notions of fairness, justice, equality, and civility define us and bind us.

Not every American can recite the Constitution. But most of us can feel it. We feel it because Americans, through their daily deeds, give real-life to American principles.

Next week, the Senate will begin hearings about a man whose life is a story of opportunity: Judge Clarence Thomas, my nominee to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Most of you have heard his story, how Clarence Thomas was raised in Pinpoint, Georgia, by stern and loving grandparents, educated in parochial schools, graduated from Holy Cross and the Yale Law School.

He grew up deprived of material wealth, but blessed with the important treasures: a loving family, sturdy values, and a chance. His family, friends, and teachers did not define equal opportunity in terms of regulations or statistics, and neither did he. Clarence defined opportunity through education, dedication, and just plain hard work.

When you hear or see coverage of those hearings, think of your sons, your daughters, your loved ones, and their voyage into a tough world. Then think of this extraordinary man who conquered deprivation without self-pity or complaint. And think of what it means to appoint to our highest Court a man who appreciates the real glories of our form of Government and understands the real difficulties our Nation faces.

When a President selects a Justice to the Supreme Court, he must pick someone who appreciates our Constitution's timeless majesty, who understands the importance of the rule of law in our society. But the nominee also must cherish the values that make our land great, that make our chins quiver in pride and gratitude when troops return home bearing the flag, or when Americans through hard work, determination, and dedication expand the frontiers of possibility.

Clarence Thomas has preserved the fabric of our Constitution as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals. And he will continue to do so on the Supreme Court.

Senate hearings start next week. I know the Senate will maintain standards of dignity and appropriate scrutiny when it comes to Judge Thomas. And I urge all Americans to do the same. I know that the American public, when it gets a chance to see Clarence Thomas in action, will feel as I do: proud that we have entrusted this son of America with the task of keeping our heart healthy and whole, and proud of this man who embodies the promise of equality and opportunity in America.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

Note: This address was recorded for radio broadcast at 2:05 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. This address was not received in time for publication in the appropriate issue.

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