A letter to Judge Roberts
BY Paris Barclay
August 29 2005 12:00 AM ET
Dear John, When I
first met you in August 1970, I could never have
imagined that you would become George W. Bush’s
nominee to the highest court in the land. I’m
frightened. Should I be?
You were a
sophomore at the La Lumiere School for Boys (as it was
called then) and I was a freshman. Along with my
brother and one other student, I was a grand
experiment. We were the first African-American students at
what had been an all-white, all-Catholic, all-boarding
school in northern Indiana. On the football team, I
remember you as a fierce competitor of limited
ability—just like me. I remember the same sideways
grin that has now graced the front pages of newspapers
and magazines across the country. I do not remember a
trace of prejudice. Still, I’m worried. Should
You were the
smartest kid in that sophomore class by far, but with a
modesty that set you apart from many of your arrogant (and
occasionally racist) classmates. With only 100
students in all four high school classes, you were
close enough for me to study you. You didn’t have the
best clothes, which made me comfortable with you—I
thought you weren’t a genuine
“preppy,” just a brainiac blessed (or cursed)
with an inner, unstoppable drive. I didn’t
think much about what you thought of me. I
didn’t identify as gay yet, so that wasn’t
even an issue.
In three years,
we spent a good deal of time together—on the football
team (which you eventually cocaptained), on the newspaper
(which you coedited), in the now-infamous all-male
drama club (where you were quite a good Patty in
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, though no match for
my Snoopy.) I went on to become a virtual mirror image
of you: first in my class, cocaptain of the football
team, wrestler(!), editor of student publications.
I’m concerned. Do I have reason?
I even followed
you to Harvard, where we separated into worlds that
rarely connected. The last time I recall seeing you on
campus was when I came to visit before I was accepted,
and you hosted me in your dorm room. You stayed in to
study. I went out drinking with your roommates.
today. Inundated by calls to comment on your character
and our school days together, I’ve spoken to precious
few. Even when our yearbook pictures were splattered
around national headlines, I’ve stayed pretty
cagey. Here’s why: None of us has any idea who you
are today, John, and what the crucible of the Supreme
Court will make of you. We have reporters and
advocates scouring everything you’ve
touched—discouraged by your antichoice arguments and
encouraged by your pro bono work on a Supreme Court
ruling that to this day helps protect gay people from
Will you be as
conservative as the Bushes and the Roves and the Dobsons
hope (the most likely scenario, as we’ve seen in the
past six years that they rarely make mistakes where it
counts)? Or will the modest, fiercely intelligent,
apparently unprejudiced young man in you turn his back on
political pressure, embrace the true freedom of a lifetime
appointment, and decide the cases before you with a
deep sense of the equality of all people that our
Constitution uses as its touchstone?
and praying that will be the case, John.
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