Futurist John Naisbitt, in his most recent book, talks about trends and leadership.
He notes the price that genuine leaders often pay, evoking envy and resentment, because they refuse to be defined by "prevailing values, rules, and expectations" in their pursuit of higher goals.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is a case study of the phenomenon. He is a far too humble man to describe himself in these terms. But this is the case.
Sixteen years after being sworn in to the nation's highest court, Thomas shares his story in a new autobiography, "My Grandfather's Son." It is a highly readable and quintessentially American story of persistence, idealism, suffering, faith, and success.
Regarding the dangers and pitfalls of being too far ahead of the rest, Naisbitt quotes former New York governor and failed presidential candidate Al Smith: "Don't get so far ahead of the parade that people don't know you're in it."
This has been the challenge for black conservatives. It is a lonely business to get blacks to appreciate that the values and principles of individual liberty, which have made this country so great, are as relevant and applicable to them as to everyone else.
Moreover, and perhaps tragically ironic, it is a lonely business to convince blacks that they are equally capable of living by and benefiting from these great principles. That indeed, for every black American to realize his or her potential, they must.
Clarence Thomas believes these things, and as result he has paid a price. All black conservatives have been out ahead of the parade. But Thomas is a particularly high profile one, with an important job. So he has paid a particularly high price.
The personal story that Thomas tells in his book shows that he is everything that his enemies would have us believe he is not.
First and foremost, it is clear that the plight of blacks in America has been his central, driving lifetime concern. Liberals, black and white, don't like his answers. So they would like us to believe that because his answers are not theirs, it means he really doesn't care. The book shows the opposite.
Second, liberals would have us believe that he is a crude opportunist. In fact, his life has been defined by a persistent idealism. This is not a story like that of Bill Clinton, who decided he wanted to be president of the United States when he was still having cookies and milk at his mother's kitchen table.