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Helping lead the fight for liberty

"Helping lead the fight for liberty" Continued...

But we should remain a nation that doesn’t just welcome but celebrates immigrants who come here and want to experience the American dream. I’ll tell you where a lot of Republicans go wrong on immigration. It’s not on the policy. It’s on the rhetoric. It’s on the language that some of us use to characterize it, which comes across as exclusionary and divisive. Why should we secure our borders? Because it’s the first thing any sovereign nation does. And in a post 9/11 world, it makes no sense that we don’t know who’s coming over our borders, what their criminal backgrounds are, their history. Republicans need to defend rule of law, the sovereignty of this country, without rhetoric that is divisive and doesn’t resonate with the Hispanic community.

I want to ask you a bit about your time as a lawyer and solicitor general. You’ve written at least 50 briefs for the Supreme Court and you’ve argued … It’s actually 80 briefs and nine cases.

When you argued before the Supreme Court, did you get nervous? Some. The first case I argued was almost 10 years ago. It was October 2003. I was 32 at the time, and I spent a great deal of time preparing. Hundreds and hundreds of hours pouring over the case law. I convinced myself that I was prepared and that I wasn’t nervous. The night before, I laid down to go to bed to sleep, and I didn’t sleep a wink. I stared at the ceiling all night. And I remember laughing to myself, “Maybe you’re not as confident as you think you are.” So my first argument, I went in without a wink of sleep.

You began your legal career at the Supreme Court. One of the great privileges of my life was to begin my career as a law clerk for Chief Justice William Reinquist. He was an incredible friend and mentor. He was a brilliant man and principled, conservative jurist who spent 34 years at the court fighting judicial activism and defending fidelity to the Constitution. Many years later I had the deep honor of serving as a pall bearer at his funeral.  

Does any story about being before the Supreme Court stand out for you? What I’m wearing now are my argument boots. [Points to his feet.] These particular boots I’ve worn in just about every oral argument I did as solicitor general of Texas except, I am embarrassed and ashamed to say, in front of the Supreme Court. The reason is this: My former boss, Chief Justice Reinquist, was a stickler for attire. He had more than once begun an argument by admonishing counsel, leaning forward and saying, “Counsel, that color suit is not proper attire for an oral argument in this court.” He did not think brown was an appropriate color for the court. And there was a non-zero chance that if I wore these boots in the court, the argument would not begin with the case, it would begin with the chief justice advising me that this footwear wasn’t the proper attire to wear in the court. So I pulled out of the dust of my closet wingtips and put them on and went to do the argument.

Halfway through my tenure as Solicitor General, Chief Justice Rehnquist passed away. Justice John Roberts became chief justice and I had known Justice Roberts for many years. He was also a Rehnquist clerk, so he and I were friends for a decade before he became chief justice. One day I saw him and said to him, “Tell me, chief, do you have any views on the appropriateness of boots at oral arguments for the Supreme Court?” And he said, “Ted, if you’re representing the state of Texas, they’re not only appropriate, they’re required.” And so ever since then, I’ve worn my special boots at the court, but it took a special dispensation from the chief justice to do so. 

Other than the advice to the solicitor general of Texas that it is OK to wear boots before the Supreme Court, do you have any other advice for people—especially young people—who want to put their faith and conservative values in action? Follow your passions. Life is too short to spend it doing things that you despise, that you don’t love. I say, when you wake up in the morning, what are you thinking about? What are you passionate about? What makes you feel alive? I think God gives us passions as a direction that he wants us to go. You will be happier and you’ll do a better job if you love what you’re doing.

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