Tom Emerson: The Scholar as Hero

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Calabresi, Guido
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When I think of Tom Emerson—and I think of him a lot—there is one word that immediately comes to mind: courage. To be sure, Tom was many, many things, and each of them could more than justify calling him great. He was the preeminent First Amendment scholar of our time. He was the kind of teacher who inspired his students—not by flash or flare, but by depth of knowledge, intense affection, and utter probity of judgment that let them know that he would always support them, and at the same time never let them get away with careless or shoddy work. He was the committed reformer who, in and out of government, worked endlessly to make this world a better, more decent, and more caring place. Yet each of these sides of Tom, though a sufficient basis for all the honors he received and for the esteem and affection all felt for him, do not begin to capture Tom the person. Tom Emerson was the great teacher, scholar, and social activist who in his old age received the encomia of the establishment. But he was much, much more. It is that which makes Tom's memory burn in my heart and in my mind.