President Joe Biden joined Justice Stephen Breyer for a joint announcement about the justice’s imminent retirement, and Breyer offered a statement denoting his faith that the “American experiment” would continue to succeed under the next generation.
Biden first announced his plan to follow through on his campaign promise to nominate the first black woman to a seat on the highest court, adding that he hoped to have a name in the coming weeks.
Immediately afterward, he introduced Breyer, praising his record on the bench.
“Thank you, Mr. President. That is terribly nice. Believe me, I hold it right here here,” Breyer began, placing his hand over his heart. “It’s wonderful.”
“I thought about what I might say to you and something I enjoy is talking to a high school students and grammar school students, college students and even law school students. They will come around and ask me, what does is it that you find particularly meaningful about your job and what gives you a thrill? That’s not such a tough question for me to answer,” Breyer continued, noting that after hearing so many cases, the one thing that was always clear was that the United States of America is a “complicated country.”
“And it’s every race, every religion and she would emphasize this, and it’s every point of view possible. It’s a kind of miracle when you sort of see all those people in front of you and yet they have decided to help solve their major differences under law,” Breyer continued, pulling out a pocket Constitution. “The people that have come to accept this Constitution, they come to accept the importance of the rule of law.”
Breyer went on to say that the important thing to remember about the rule of law in America is that it has always been an experiment — a point that was carefully detailed in Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which Breyer said his wife had paid their grandchildren to memorize.
“The reason, what we wanted them to pick up there, ‘Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought upon — created upon this — a country, a new country that was dedicated to liberty and the proposition that all men are created equal, conceived in liberty, those were his words,” Breyer continued. “And dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, he meant women too. We are now engaged in a great civil war to determine that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.”
Breyer noted that the Europeans looked across the Atlantic Ocean and said that it was “a great idea in principle, but it will never work.” But men like George Washington and Lincoln pressed forward because they believed that it would work. “And that’s what people still think today.”
“They say I want you, and I’m talking to the students now. And I say I want you to pick just this up. And I will tell you something, you know who will see whether that experiment works? It’s you, my friend. It’s you, Mr. high school student. It’s you Mr. college student, it’s us, but it’s you. It’s the next generation, and the one after that. My grandchildren and their children. They will determine whether the experiment still works. Of course I’m an optimist and I’m pretty sure it will. Does it surprise you that that’s the thought that comes into my mind today? I’ll never know. But thank you.”
Breyer on whether the American experiment of self-governance will ultimately work: “I’m an optimist, and I’m pretty sure it will.” pic.twitter.com/j8GPiTsxSS
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 27, 2022