Most of us do not know why Oct. 15 is important. I’ll tell you. It’s important because 28 years ago on that day, the U.S. Senate confirmed Justice Clarence Thomas as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

At the time of his confirmation proceedings, some people were apprehensive of the man who was to become Justice Thomas. After all, he would be replacing a historic civil rights hero, Justice Thurgood Marshall, who earlier as a lawyer persuaded the high court in Brown v. Board of Education to end racially separate and unequal public schools.

The late Maya Angelou, a prominent teacher, poet, and novelist, was poignant and eloquent, but blunt in responding to that apprehension: “The black youngsters of today must ask black leaders: If you can’t make an effort to reach, reconstruct and save a black man who has graduated from Yale, how can you reach down here in this drug-filled, hate-filled cesspool where I live and save us?” She added, “Because Clarence Thomas has been poor, has been nearly suffocated by the acrid odor of racial discrimination, is intelligent, well-trained, black and young enough to be won over again, I support him.”

Every judicial, political, civic, academic, entertainment, news and religious leader in our nation should read Angelou’s words and ponder their meaning in the context of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and today’s balkanized nation.