tv President Biden on Justice Breyer Retirement CSPAN January 27, 2022 8:31pm-8:49pm EST
eastern on c-span's q&a. you can listen to q&a and our podcast on our new c-span now app. ♪ announcer: earlier today, the supreme court justice, stephen breyer, officially announced his retirement. in a letter to president biden, justice breyer wrote "i have found the work challenging and meaningful. my relations with each of my colleagues have been warm and friendly. i have been aware of the great honor of participating as a judge in the effort to maintain our constitution and the rule of law." justice breyer made the announcement alongside president biden in the white house roosevelt room. the remarks are about 15 minutes.
long way. all the way back to the mid-1970's, when he first came on the judiciary committee. but that's another story. i am here today to express the nation's gratitude to justice stephen breyer for his remarkable career in public service and his clear eyed commitment to making our country's laws work for its people. and our gratitude extends to his family, for being partners in his decades of public service, and particularly his wife, who is here today and has stood by him for nearly six decades with her fierce intellect, good humor, and enormous heart. i thank you. the country owes you, as well. and stephen breyer's public service started early. he served in the u.s. army as a teenager, and in all three branches of the federal government before he turned 40. the good old days. warrant they?
-- warrant they -- weren't they? a clerk to supreme court justice goldberg, a prosecutor in the department of justice, a member of the watergate prosecution team. i first met stephen breyer as a senator on the judiciary committee. he started off taking care of one of the subcommittees for teddy. then he became chief counsel during his tenure, as ted's chairmanship of the judiciary committee. beyond his intellect and hard work and legal insight, he was famous for biking across washington virtually every day, for face-to-face meetings with the republican chief counsel, the ranking republican counsel. over breakfast, they discussed what they would do for the country together. in those days, we tried to do things together. that spirit stuck with me, when i took over the judiciary committee, as chair, after senator kennedy's tenure. it was my honor to vote to confirm justice breyer to serve in the u.s. supreme court --
the court of appeals first in 1980. and then 14 years later, 1994, i got to preside as chairman of the senate judiciary committee over the supreme court confirmation hearings. we were joking with another, did he ever think he would serve decades on the court and i would be president of the united states on the day he came in to retire? and he looked at it. i will tell you what he said. i'm joking. i'm proud and grateful to be there at the start of his distinguished career, supreme court. and i'm very proud to be here today on his announcement of his retirement. during his confirmation hearings, back in 1994, stephen breyer said, "the law must work for the people." he explained our complex legal system has a single purpose, tell people who make up our country. it was a different time.
but his brilliance, values, scholarship our way -- are why he became justice breyer by overwhelming bipartisan vote at the time. today, justice breyer announces his intention to step down from active service after four decades -- four decades on the federal bench and 28 years on the united states supreme court. his legacy includes his work as a leading scholar and jurist and administrative law, bringing his brilliance to bear to make government run efficiently and effectively. it includes his stature as a beacon of wisdom on our constitution and what it means. and through it all, justice breyer has worked tirelessly to give fate to the notion that a law exists to help the people. everyone knows stephen breyer's has been an exemplary justice. fair to the party before him, courteous to colleagues, careful in his reasoning. he's written landmark decisions to laws protecting our
environment and laws that protect religious practices. his opinions are practical, sensible, and nuanced. he reflects his belief the job of a judge is not to lay down a rule, but to get it right. to get it right. justice breyer's law clerks and his colleagues described him and his work ethic. his desire to learn more. his kindness to those around him, and his optimism for the promise of our country. he has patiently sought common ground, seeking to bring the court together. and build consensus. i think he is a model public servant in a time of great division in this country. justice breyer has been everything his country could have asked of him. he appeared before the judiciary committee almost three decades ago. we all had high hopes for the mark he would leave on history, law and the constitution. he has exceeded those hopes in every possible way. today is his day. our day to commend his life of service and life on the court.
let me say a few words about his -- about the critically important work of choosing his successor. choosing someone for the supreme court, i believe, is one of the most serious constitutional responsibilities a president has. our process is going to be rigorous. i will select a nominee worthy of justice breyer's legacy of excellence and decency. while i have been studying backgrounds and writings, i have made no decision except one. the person i will nominate will be someone of extraordinary qualifications, character, experience, and integrity. and that person will be the first black woman ever nominated to the united states supreme court. it is long overdue, in my view. i made that commitment during the campaign for president, and i will keep that commitment. i will fully do what i said i'd do.
i will fulfill my duty to select a justice, not only with the senate's consent, but with its advice. you heard me say another nomination process that the constitution is to seek the advice and consent. i will invite senators from both parties to offer ideas and points of view. i will consult with leading scholars and lawyers. and i am fortunate to have advising me in the selection process vice president kamala harris. she's an exceptional lawyer, former attorney general of the state of california and former member of the senate judiciary committee. i've listened carefully to the advice i'm given. and i will study the records and former cases carefully. i will meet with the potential nominees. it is my intention to announce my decision before the end of february. i have made no choices at this point. once i select a nominee, i will ask the senate to move promptly on my choice. in the end, i will nominate a historic candidate, someone
worthy of justice breyer's legacy, and someone who will provide incredible service on the united states supreme court like justice breyer. justice breyer, on behalf of all the american people, i want to thank you and your family for your tremendous service to our nation. i will yield the floor to you, mr. justice. justice breyer: thank you, thank you, mr. president. that is terribly nice. believe me, it's wonderful. i thought about what i might say to you. and something i enjoy is talking to high school students, grammar school students, college students. even law school students. and they will come around and ask me, what is it you find particularly meaningful about your job? what sort of gives you a thrill?
and that is not such a tough question for me to answer. it's the same thing. day one, almost. up to today, i don't know how many. what i say is, i sit there on the bench. and after we hear lots of cases, after a while, the impression -- it takes a while. i have to admit. but the impression you get, as you all know, this is a complicated country. there are more than 330 million people. my mother used say, it is every race, every religion, and she would empathize this. and it is every point of view possible. and it is a kind of miracle, when you sit and see all those people in front of you. people that are so different in what they think. and yet, they have decided to help solve their major differences under law.
and when the students get too cynical, i say, go look at what happens in countries that don't do that. people have come to accept this constitution and accept the importance of the rule of law. and i want to make another point to them. i want to say, look. of course, people don't agree. but we have a country that is based on human rights, democracy, and so forth. but i will tell you what lincoln thought and what washington thought, and what people today still think. it's an experiment. it's an experiment. that's what they said. and joanna paid our children a certain amount of money to memorize the gettysburg address. the reason -- the reason -- what i want the students to pick up, if i can remember the first two lines, is that fourscore and seven years ago, our forefathers brought upon -- created a new
country. a country that was dedicated to liberty and the proposition that all men are created equal. conceived in liberty. those were his words. and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. he met women, too -- he meant women, too. and we are now engaged in a great civil war. to determine whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. see, those are the words i want to see. an experiment. and that is what he saw. it's an experiment. and i found some letters that george washington wrote where he said the same thing. it's an experiment. that experiment existed then because even the liberals in europe -- they were looking over here and saying it's a great idea in principle, but it will never work. we will show them it does.
that is what washington and that is what lincoln thought. and that is what people still think today. i want you, and i'm talking to the students now. i want you to pick this up. it's an experiment that still is going on. i will tell you something. you know who we will see if the experiment works? it is you, my friend. it is you, mr. high school student. it is you, mr. college student, mr. law school student. it is us, but it is you. it is that next generation. and the one after that. my grandchildren and their children. they will determine whether the experiment still works, and of course, i am an optimist, and i'm pretty sure it will. does it surprise you that is the thought that comes into my mind today? i don't know. but thank you. pres. biden: doctor, i don't know if you have been to the white house and the lincoln
bedroom, but i invite you both to come and stay. the lincoln bedroom has, against the wall between the windows, looking out, a handwritten copy of the gettysburg address written by lincoln. in that bedroom -- sitting room. you have to come and see it. and bring your grandchildren, so they can see it, as well. thank you all for being here. i am not going to take any questions, because it's inappropriate to take questions with the justice here. he is still sitting on the bench. but you will have plenty of opportunity to get me later today and the rest of the week. next week, too. so thank you very much. thank you.
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the 114th annual winter meeting in washington, d.c. coverage starts at 10:00 a.m. eastern with an opening news conference and discussions on infrastructure, education, cybersecurity, and the importance of bipartisan leadership. then the first plenary session with this year's nga president on his k-12 computer science education initiative. followed by a discussion led by the commerce secretary, with ceos from major companies. later transportation secretary pete buttigieg speaks to governors about the recently passed infrastructure bill. that's life at 1:45 p.m. eastern. all beginning at 10:00 a.m. saturday on c-span, online at c-span.org, or you can watch full coverage on our new video app, c-span now. ♪ announcer: book tv, every sunday on c-span2. featuring leading authors discussing their latest
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