It's been a bumpy road up until now, but on Wednesday morning, President Obama finally announced his Supreme Court pick, sending a message to congressional members to put a stop to the partisan bickering that has otherwise stalled the process. The president's pick, centrist appellate court judge Merrick Garland, addressed a small crowd in the Rose Garden following Obama's remarks on Wednesday, reinforcing the importance of a well-oiled justice system and recalling several of his own experiences. A transcript of Garland's Supreme Court nomination speech showed just how poignant and touching some of those moments had been.
"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," Garland said, speaking before the small audience of family members, White House staff, and activists, according to The New York Times. "... I saw the importance of assuring victims and families that the justice system could work."
Garland first served as a special assistant to former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti in the late 1970s and early '80s before eventually being appointed as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia in the late '80s. In 1993, Garland was brought on to work in the Clinton administration as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division, before eventually being tapped for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1995.
On Wednesday, Obama justified the pick and stressed the importance of Congress' consideration going forward. "To suggest that someone as qualified and respected as Merrick Garland doesn't even deserve a hearing, let alone an up or down vote, to join an institution as important as our Supreme Court, when two- thirds of Americans believe otherwise, that would be unprecedented," the president scolded. "My earnest hope is that senators take that time to reflect on the importance of this process to our democracy ... [Garland] is the right man for the job. He deserves to be confirmed. I could not be prouder of the work that he has already done on behalf of the American people."
Garland's own commentary, too, was supremely touching and lightly humorous, with the SCOTUS pick adding in his own witticisms to keep the mood light. A full transcript of his speech, as reported by The Washington Post, can be found below:
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 have 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, the 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 Russia and Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, fleeing anti-Semitism and hoping to make a better life for their children in America.
There, my mother headed the local PTA and school board and directed a volunteer services agency, all the while instilling in my sisters 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. [Laughter]
It was a sense of responsibility to serve the 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] is 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.
President Obama's pick will now move on to Congress, where Republicans and Democrats will be forced to weigh Garland's nomination on their end or, if the GOP has its way, continue the stalemate until the general election in November.