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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke at the University of Notre Dame on Thursday, focusing on two resounding topics: progress against racism and the role of judges in today’s tumultuous political climate.

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr declared decades ago that ‘the magnificent words of Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir’,” Thomas said.

Thomas said touched on how America, especially the south, was a much different place back in the ’50s and ’60s than it is today. Thomas grew up in Georgia.

“Neither slavery nor Jim Crow defeated us,” Thomas added.

Having grown up knowing he was “a child of God,” Thomas said, there is “no force on this Earth that can make me any less than a man of equal dignity and equal worth.”

But Thomas hit hard on the topic of the state of the political climate throughout the country. He said that it’s starting to happen much too often that judges and other members of the bench are flirting too closely with the line between the legislative and judiciary.

“When we begin to venture into the legislative or executive branch lanes, those of us, particularly in the federal judiciary with lifetime appointments, are asking for trouble,” said Thomas. “We have lost the capacity (as leaders) to not allow others to manipulate our institutions when we don’t get the outcomes that we like.”

Thomas is the longest-serving member of the United States Supreme Court. It was Thomas who swore in Justice Amy Coney Barrett a year ago. Barrett is from South Bend and is a former law professor at Notre Dame.