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Thomas credits Holmes’ wisdom to Hendrix

The start of oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court is just a few days away. People who have seen oral arguments before the high court know that there are two things you can count on: (1) Justice Antonin Scalia speaking a lot (and probably saying something funny) and (2) Justice Clarence Thomas saying absolutely nothing.

Thomas was asked about his silence on the bench at a lecture earlier this month at Pepperdine University School of Law. After chiding other justices for talking far too much, Thomas used the example of a student who recently visited the Court to explain the virtue of silence. When Thomas asked the student why she was so quiet, she replied: “Well, wisdom listens and knowledge speaks.”

“I said, ‘Woo! That’s pretty good!” Thomas said, drawing laughs from the crowd. “So I scooted out and checked it out on the internet and found out it was Jimi Hendrix!”

Well, DC Dicta checked the internet as well, and discovered that Hendrix did indeed once say: “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”

But Hendrix took the sentiment from someone else: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. – father of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. The elder Holmes said: “It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.”

Here is video of the remarks – and a chance for you to hear what his voice sounds like.

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By the way, the questioner is Ken Starr, dean of the law school (perhaps better known as the author of the Starr Report).

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