Asso­ciate Justice of the Supreme Court
Clarence Thomas Spoke at Hillsdale College
on Sat­urday | Courtesy External Affairs 

Asso­ciate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas told the Hillsdale College Class of 2016 that to save America, grad­u­ating seniors need to do their civic duty, fulfill their respon­si­bil­ities, and act as American patriots, describing patri­otism and religion as “out­liers” when he spoke at the college’s 164th com­mencement cer­emony Sat­urday.

“Do not hide your faith under a bushel basket,” Thomas said. “This has been a most dif­ficult term for the court. Things that were once con­sti­tu­tionally firm have long since lost their vitality. Patri­otism and religion feel like out­liers.”

Thomas said he felt “woe­fully out of place” at a com­mencement since he stands for con­ser­v­ative values in a nation that no longer con­siders such values to be important or sig­nif­icant. He began with a tribute to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whom he described as “the first man I could instinc­tively trust on the court” and “a man of his word” before warning his audience that they will not be able to keep their freedom if they do not live rightly or respon­sibly.

“Some of you will be called to do very hard things, but all of you will be called to do your duties and oblig­a­tions,” Thomas said. “The greatest lecture or sermon you’ll ever give is your example.”

American cit­izens possess inherent natural rights, Thomas said, but if they don’t fulfill their respon­si­bil­ities, they cannot be free. Growing up on a farm taught Thomas that ben­efits only come when you accept respon­si­bility — if you don’t dili­gently care for crops, you don’t eat. In the same way, if cit­izens do not do the right thing and live respon­sibly, they can not pre­serve a free gov­ernment.

“Even though this liberty is inherent, it is neither guar­anteed nor assured,” Thomas said. “To pre­serve our gov­ernment, I think more and more it requires good cit­izens who do their duty and respon­si­bility.”

Pres­ident Larry P. Arnn intro­duced Thomas as “the greatest public servant I know,” and told the Col­legian that Hillsdale College is “pro­foundly grateful to him.”

“Not many people have the knowledge and char­acter to speak so well on that occasion,” Arnn told the Col­legian. “Justice Thomas has them to the highest degree, and he demon­strated them beau­ti­fully.”

Class of 2015 graduate Casey McKee attended the cer­emony and described Thomas as earnest and impressive.

“I was impressed with how real his story was and how living well is an indi­vidual as well as a com­munal respon­si­bility,” McKee said. “I was impressed how he used examples from his own per­sonal life to illus­trate — they were very moving and pro­found. He made good con­nec­tions to grad­u­ating seniors for living well.”

Thomas called himself “unapolo­get­i­cally Catholic, unapolo­get­i­cally a patriot, and unapolo­get­i­cally a Con­sti­tu­tion­alist” and urged grad­uates not to be afraid to live according to their con­vic­tions.

“Do not hide your faith under a bushel basket, espe­cially in this world that has seemed to have gone mad with political cor­rectness,” he said. “This is Hillsdale College, a shining city on a hill. If you don’t lead by example, then who will?”