Robert Bluey
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Ask Clarence Thomas what he enjoys doing and he’ll tell you about driving his RV across America or cheering for his beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers. That hardly sounds like the life of a U.S. Supreme Court justice, but in the case of Thomas, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

With his new memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son,” topping the New York Times best-seller list, Thomas has had the opportunity to connect with “real” Americans -- ordinary citizens who, he says, embody the true spirit of our great nation. His book tour has taken him from the East Coast to the Midwest and will reach Southern California next month.

Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to hear him speak twice -- once at a private dinner for bloggers and again last week at an event sponsored by The Heritage Foundation. I left both events feeling inspired and energized by Thomas’ positive attitude, sound advice and commitment to principles.

I wish every American had the opportunity to engage with Thomas in the same way. Hearing him speak about his remarkable life not only dispels the misperceptions painted by the media, but it also yields valuable insights about humanity and the state of our nation

My encounters with Thomas have produced some important lessons. The one that stood out last week came from his answer to a question about the level of political discourse in Washington -- something that has frustrated me since I arrived here six years ago. If anyone is qualified to answer this question, it’s Thomas, who called his confirmation hearing in 1991 a “high-tech lynching.”

Thomas chose to tell us about the importance of manners in society, particularly when raising children. For whatever reason, Washington politicians appear to lack those manners -- contributing to the coarse nature of politics.

“People in this town think it’s really cute to make little, nasty comments about people,” Thomas told the crowd last week. “That really makes you a big person because you just came up with some cute slur. That’s what gets over in this town for being genius.”

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Robert Bluey

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com