As transcribed and released by the White House
East Room, The White House
October 8, 2018 at 7:03 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Members of Congress, members of the Cabinet, honored guests, and fellow Americans: It is my privilege to address you tonight from the East Room of the White House.
We are gathered together this evening for a truly momentous occasion. I have long been told that the most important decision a President can make is the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice. Well, in just a few moments, we will proudly swear in the newest member of the United States Supreme Court: Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (Applause.)
Joining us for tonight's ceremony is every sitting Supreme Court Justice. Chief Justice Roberts. Thank you. Justice Thomas. Thank you. Justice Ginsburg. Thank you. Justice Breyer. Thank you, Justice. Justice Alito. Thank you. Justice Sotomayor. Thank you. Justice Kagan. Thank you. And Justice Gorsuch. (Applause.)
I would also like to send our deep appreciation to Maureen Scalia, the wife of the late, great Antonin Scalia. And also to our White House Counsel, Don McGahn. Thank you, Don. Thank you. (Applause.)
We are thrilled to be joined this evening by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justice Kennedy, America owes you a profound debt of gratitude for a lifetime of noble service to our nation. And I want to thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
Very special and treasured guests tonight are Justice Kavanaugh's amazing wife, Ashley. Thank you, Ashley. (Applause.) And their two beautiful daughters, Margaret and Liza. Thank you. (Applause.) And we are also joined by Justice Kavanaugh's mom and dad, Martha and Ed. Thank you. (Applause.)
I would like to begin tonight's proceeding differently than perhaps any other event of such magnitude. On behalf of our nation, I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure.
Those who step forward to serve our country deserve a fair and dignified evaluation, not a campaign of political and personal destruction based on lies and deception. What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency, and due process.
Our country, a man or woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. (Applause.) And with that, I must state that you, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent. Thank you. (Applause.) You were. Thank you very much. (Inaudible.)
Margaret and Liza, your father is a great man. He is a man of decency, character, kindness, and courage who has devoted his life to serving his fellow citizens. And now, from the bench of our nation's highest court, your father will defend the eternal rights and freedoms of all Americans. You know that. (Applause.)
We are joined tonight by a leader who has never wavered in his support and devotion to the rule of law, and to Brett Kavanaugh's elevation. He worked very, very hard. And he truly has done just an incredible and wonderful job for the American people: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Thank you, Mitch. Please, stand up. (Applause.)
I think that's the biggest hand he's ever received. They just don't — (laughter) — they don't get it, Mitch. You're great. Thank you. Very much appreciate it.
I would like to thank another man whose principled leadership has earned widespread admiration: Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley. Thank you, Chuck. (Applause.)
We are grateful to all the senators on the Judiciary Committee who fought so hard for this confirmation: Senators Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, Orrin Hatch, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake, Mike Crapo, Thom Tillis, and John Kennedy. (Applause.) Thank you.
And thank you also to Rob Portman, who is sitting right here. Thank you, Rob, very much. (Applause.)
And finally, we are indebted to Senator Susan Collins for her brave and eloquent speech, and her declaration that "when passions are most inflamed...fairness is most in jeopardy." How true. How true. (Applause.) How true.
Brett Kavanaugh is a man of outstanding intellect, a brilliant scholar, and his credentials are unsurpassed. A graduate of both Yale College and Yale Law School, he has taught at Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown. When he's not working or with his family, he's giving back to his community.
He spent 26 years in public service and, just like Justice Gorsuch, he clerked for Justice Kennedy. For the last 12 years, Brett was a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, widely regarded as our nation's second-highest court. During his tenure, he authored over 300 opinions, distinguished by their masterful and impartial reasoning.
Known as a judge's judge, he is fair-minded, unbiased, and even-handed person. He understands that justice must be divorced from the passions of the day — tethered instead to the enduring foundation of our republic: the Constitution.
Justice Kavanaugh fills the place left by Anthony Kennedy. Soon, Justice Kennedy will administer the Judicial Oath to Brett Kavanaugh, just as he did last year for Justice Gorsuch. This will be the first time a Supreme Court Justice has ever sworn in a former clerk to take his seat — a beautiful moment which reminds us that freedom is a tradition passed down from generation to generation. And that's a big statement, and I want to thank you for that so much. That's so beautiful. So beautiful. (Applause.) So beautiful.
Margaret and Liza's presence tonight reminds us what this historic event — all about your father — is all about. It's about what kind of nation we're going to be and what kind of country our children will inherit.
It is up to each of us, and to all Americans watching tonight, to answer that question. It is up to us to reclaim our heritage of equal and impartial justice. It is up to us to re-dedicate ourselves to the traditions and wisdom of our Founders. And it is up to us to renew the bonds of love, loyalty, and affection that link us all together as one great American family. (Applause.)
Let us pray we are successful in this task. And let us pray that all of America's children will grow up in a country that is fair, and just, and safe, and strong, and free. And let us ask God to bless Justice Kavanaugh and his family as they embark on this incredible journey together.
I now invite Justice Brett Kavanaugh to come forward and to take the Judicial Oath. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
(The Judicial Oath is administered.) (Applause.)
JUSTICE KAVANAUGH: Mr. President, thank you for the great honor of appointing me to serve as a Justice of the Supreme Court. I've seen firsthand your deep appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary. I am grateful for your steadfast, unwavering support throughout this process. And I'm grateful to you and Mrs. Trump for the exceptional, overwhelming courtesy you have extended to my family and me.
Mr. President, thank you for everything. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
JUSTICE KAVANAUGH: I'm honored to serve on a Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice John Roberts. Chief Justice Roberts is a principled, independent, and inspiring leader for the American judiciary.
As a country, we are fortunate to have John Roberts as Chief Justice of the United States. I'm honored to serve alongside all of my new colleagues, each of whom I know, and each of whom I greatly admire and deeply respect.
All nine of us revere the Constitution. Article 3 of the Constitution provides that the judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is an institution of law. It is not a partisan or political institution. The Justices do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. We do not caucus in separate rooms. The Supreme Court is a team of nine, and I will always be a team player on the team of nine. (Applause.)
As a new Justice on the Supreme Court, I understand the responsibility that I bear. Some 30 years ago, standing here in the East Room with President Reagan, Anthony Kennedy took the oath to be a new Justice of the Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy became one of the most consequential Justices in American history.
I served as Justice Kennedy's law clerk in 1993. To me, Justice Kennedy is a mentor, a friend, and a hero. On the Supreme Court, he was a model of civility and collegiality. He fiercely defended the independence of the judiciary, and zealously guarded the individual liberties secured by the Constitution.
Justice Kennedy established a legacy of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. I will always be humbled and proud to sit in Justice Kennedy's seat on the Supreme Court. (Applause.)
I thank the members of the United States Senate: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his leadership and steady resolve. I thank Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley for his wisdom and fairness. And I give special gratitude to Senators Rob Portman, Susan Collins, Joe Manchin, John Kyl, and Lindsey Graham. They're a credit to the country and the Senate. I'll be forever grateful to each of them and to all the senators who carefully considered my nomination.
Presiding over the final vote in the Senate on Saturday was Vice President Pence. I'm grateful to the Vice President for his sound advice and faithful support. I thank Counsel to the President Don McGahn, who was a warrior for fairness and performed his critical duties in the finest traditions of our Constitution. (Applause.)
I thank all the outstanding people in the White House, the Department of Justice, and the Senate who worked day and night on this nomination.
One of a federal judge's most important responsibilities is to hire four new law clerks each year. The law clerks are recent law school graduates and they work in the judge's chambers for one year. They're among the best and brightest young lawyers in America, and they become the future leaders of the legal profession.
I thank my former law clerks who devoted so much time and energy to support me during the confirmation process. (Applause.)
Inspired by my mom, who as a trailblazer for women in the law, I've worked hard throughout my career to promote the advancement of women. Women still face many barriers in the American workplace, and all of us have a responsibility to address that problem.
During my 12 years on the D.C. Circuit, a majority of my law clerks were women, and almost all of them went on to clerk at the Supreme Court. A clerkship on the Supreme Court is one of the most coveted achievements and credentials in American law. I'm proud that all four of my newly hired law clerks at the Supreme Court are women — a first in the history of the Supreme Court. (Applause.)
Tonight I thank all my friends — so many amazing and fearless friends, from my high school days, college, law school, clerking, the Bush White House, including President George W. Bush. (Applause.) From the judiciary, teaching, coaching, playing sports. The vibrant, loyal, and tightknit Catholic community here in the D.C. area. And so many others.
Ashley and I are grateful for their prayers and for the prayers from the thousands and thousands of people we have heard from throughout America. When I give advice to young people or speak to students, I tell them: Cherish your friends, look out for your friends, lift up your friends, love your friends. I love all my friends. (Applause.)
I thank my family. My mom, Martha, and my dad, Ed, are here. I'm their only child. (Laughter.) My mom was one of Maryland's earliest women prosecutors and trial judges. My dad taught me his work ethic and love of sports. They've given me a lifetime of love, and I'm forever grateful to them. (Applause.)
My daughters, Margaret and Liza, are smart, strong, awesome girls. They're in the middle of fall lacrosse, looking forward to the upcoming basketball season. (Laughter.) I thank their teachers for giving them the day off tomorrow so that they can come watch two cases being argued at the Supreme Court. (Laughter and applause.)
My wife Ashley is a proud West Texan from Abilene, Texas. Graduate of Abilene Cooper Public High School, University of Texas in Austin. She's the dedicated town manager of our local community. She's got a deep faith. She's an awesome mom, a great wife. She is a rock. I thank God every day for Ashley and my family. (Applause.)
The Senate confirmation process was contentious and emotional. That process is over. My focus now is to be the best Justice I can be. I take this office with gratitude and no bitterness. On the Supreme Court, I will seek to be a force for stability and unity. My goal is to be a great Justice for all Americans and for all of America. I will work very hard to achieve that goal.
I was not appointed to serve one party or one interest, but to serve one nation. America's Constitution and laws protect every person of every belief and every backgrounds. Every litigant in the Supreme Court can be assured that I will listen to their arguments with respect and an open mind. Every American can be assured that I will be an independent and impartial Justice devoted to equal justice under law.
Although the Senate confirmation process tested me, as it has tested others, it did not change me. My approach to judging remains the same. A good judge must be an umpire, a neutral and impartial decider who favors no litigant or policy. A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.
In the wake of the Senate confirmation process, my approach to life also remains the same. I will continue to heed the message of Matthew 25. I will continue to volunteer to serve the least f