JUDGE GARLAND: Thank you, Mr. President. This is the greatest honor of my life — other than Lynn agreeing to marry me 28 years ago. It’s also the greatest gift I’ve ever received except — and there’s another caveat — the birth of our daughters, Jessie and Becky.
As my parents taught me by both words and deeds, a life of public service is as much a gift to the person who serves as it is to those he is serving. And for me, there could be no higher public service than serving as a member of the United States Supreme Court.
My family deserves much of the credit for the path that led me here. My grandparents left the Pale of Settlement at the border of Western Russian and Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, fleeing anti-Semitism, and hoping to make a better life for their children in America. They settled in the Midwest, eventually making their way to Chicago.
There, my father, who ran the smallest of small businesses from a room in our basement, took me with him as he made the rounds to his customers, always impressing upon me the importance of hard work and fair dealing. There, my mother headed the local PTA and school board and directed a volunteer services agency, all the while instilling in my sister and me the understanding that service to the community is a responsibility above all others. Even now, my sisters honor that example by serving the children of their communities.
I know that my mother is watching this on television and crying her eyes out. So are my sisters, who have supported me in every step I have ever taken. I only wish that my father were here to see this today. I also wish that we hadn’t taught my older daughter to be so adventurous that she would be hiking in the mountains, out of cell service range when the President called.
It was the sense of responsibility to serve a community, instilled by my parents, that led me to leave my law firm to become a line prosecutor in 1989. There, one of my first assignments was to assist in the prosecution of a violent gang that had come down to the District from New York, took over a public housing project and terrorized the residents. The hardest job we faced was persuading mothers and grandmothers that if they testified, we would be able to keep them safe and convict the gang members. We succeeded only by convincing witnesses and victims that they could trust that the rule of law would prevail.
Years later, when I went to Oklahoma City to investigate the bombing of the Federal Building, I saw up close the devastation that can happen when someone abandons the justice system as a way of resolving grievances, and instead takes matters into his own hands. Once again, I saw the importance of assuring victims and families that the justice system could work. We promised that we would find the perpetrators, that we would bring them to justice, and that we would do it in a way that honored the Constitution. The people of Oklahoma City gave us their trust, and we did everything we could to live up to it.
Trust that justice will be done in our courts without prejudice or partisanship is what, in a large part, distinguishes this country from others. People must be confident that a judge’s decisions are determined by the law, and only the law. For a judge to be worthy of such trust, he or she must be faithful to the Constitution and to the statutes passed by the Congress. He or she must put aside his personal views or preferences, and follow the law — not make it.
Fidelity to the Constitution and the law has been the cornerstone of my professional life, and it’s the hallmark of the kind of judge I have tried to be for the past 18 years. If the Senate sees fit to confirm me to the position for which I have been nominated today, I promise to continue on that course.
Mr. President, it’s a great privilege to be nominated by a fellow Chicagoan. I am grateful beyond words for the honor you have bestowed upon me.