George W. Bush photo

Remarks at a Swearing-In Ceremony for John G. Roberts, Jr., as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

September 29, 2005

The President. Good afternoon and welcome to the White House. Laura and I are pleased that all of you could join us in witnessing a very meaningful event in the life of our Nation. It's a rare privilege to welcome seven current Justices of the Supreme Court. Thank you all for coming. We also welcome Mrs. Thurgood Marshall and Mrs. Potter Stewart.

It was 19 years ago, almost to the day, that Chief Justice William Rehnquist took the oath of office in this very room with President Ronald Reagan as a witness. Each gathering of this kind is an historic occasion for our country and gives eloquent testimony to the wisdom and continuity of the system created by the Framers.

In a few moments, John Roberts will take his place in a distinguished line that began in 1789, when President Washington appointed Chief Justice John Jay. This is a proud day for John Roberts's family. We extend a special welcome to his wife, Jane, their daughter, Josie, and son, Jack— [laughter]—a fellow who is comfortable with the cameras. [Laughter] Also with us are the Judge's mom and dad, Rosemary and Jack Roberts; two of his sisters, Peggy and Barbara, as well as other members of the Roberts family. We're so pleased you'd be with us today.

I appreciate the Vice President being here, Attorney General Al Gonzales. I thank Harriet Miers, Counsel to the President, and members of my administration who worked on the nomination and confirmation. I particularly want to thank former Senator Fred Thompson for his leadership. I thank the members of my Cabinet who are here.

I appreciate the Members of the United States Senate who are here, Majority Leader Bill Frist, Senate President Pro Tem Ted Stevens, and Majority Whip Mitch McConnell. Thank you all for coming. I thank the members of the Judiciary Committee who are here, starting with the chairman, Arlen Specter, ranking member Pat Leahy. Thank you all for coming. I appreciate Senators Grassley, Hatch, Brownback, Kyl, Sessions, Cornyn, and Graham. I also want to thank all the other Senators here with us. I really want to say something about Senator Dick Lugar from Indiana, who introduced the Chief to the Senate. I appreciate very much all of you taking time out of your day to witness this historic event.

Today we complete a process set forth in Article II of the Constitution, which provides that the President shall nominate and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate shall appoint the judges of the Supreme Court. The nomination power is one of the most serious responsibilities of a President. When a President chooses a Supreme Court Justice, he is placing in human hands the full authority and majesty of the law.

Each member of our highest court holds a position of extraordinary influence and respect, and can hold it for a lifetime. The office of Chief Justice has added responsibilities as leader of the Court and as presiding officer of the Judicial Conference of the United States. To carry out all these duties, I submitted to the Senate a nominee of integrity, deep humility, and uncommon talent.

During the confirmation hearings this month, Members of the Senate and American people saw far more than the intellectual gifts and broad experience of Judge John Roberts. They witnessed as well the character of the man, his reverence for the Constitution and laws of our country, his impartiality and devotion to justice, his modesty and great personal decency.

Across the Nation, Americans have grown in respect and admiration for this good man. From the day of Judge Roberts's nomination, the Judiciary Committee and Senators of both parties have received him with courtesy and fair mindedness. The civility of the confirmation process has served the interests of the Nation and reflected very well on the United States Senate.

And I appreciate the majority leader and the chairman and their colleagues for setting a tone of dignity and goodwill. The Senate has confirmed a man with an astute mind and kind heart. As a member of the Federal judiciary, John Roberts has carried out his duties with discernment and humanity and without fear or favor.

As Judge Roberts prepares to lead the judicial branch of Government, all Americans can be confident that the 17th Chief Justice of the United States will be prudent in exercising judicial power, firm in defending judicial independence, and above all, a faithful guardian of the Constitution.

With these qualities, the incoming Chief Justice will carry on in the tradition of his mentor and friend, the late William H. Rehnquist. I know that Chief Justice Rehnquist had hoped to welcome his former law clerk as a colleague. Although that was not meant to be, we are thinking of William Rehnquist today. The Nation honors his memory, and we remain grateful for his example of integrity and service.

In welcoming an exceptional new leader as Chief Justice, we also honor the Supreme Court itself, and we mark a day of renewal for one of the noblest institutions in our land. Judge Roberts, thank you for agreeing to serve our country and for accepting this new call to duty.

And now I ask Senior Associate Justice of the Court, Justice John Paul Stevens, to please step forward and administer the oath.

[At this point, Justice John Paul Stevens administered the oath of office.]

Chief Justice Roberts. Thank you very much. Let me begin by thanking Justice John Paul Stevens for being here today. In December, Justice Stevens will mark 30 years of service on the Court. It's a great honor to take the oath from him, and it will be a great privilege for me to sit next to him on the bench on Monday.

Thank you, Mr. President, for nominating me. There is no way to repay the confidence you have shown in me, other than to do the best job I possibly can do, and I will try to do that every day. And thank you for the remarkable team that you assembled to assist me throughout this process. I benefitted greatly from the wisdom, judgment, and plain hard work of Ed Gillespie, Senator Thompson, Harriet Miers, Bill Kelley, and everyone on the team. I am very grateful to each and every one of them.

Chairman Specter, Senator Leahy, all the members of the Judiciary Committee, with this nomination, the Committee faced a very special challenge. And yet, working together, we met that challenge. We found a way to get Jack into the Committee room—[laughter]—introduced to the Committee and back out again without any serious crisis. [Laughter] Thank you.

More seriously, thank you very much for the conduct of the hearings, conducting them in a civil and dignified manner as the President requested on the night of the nomination. I appreciate it very much.

Senator Frist, other Members of the Senate, I view the vote this morning as confirmation of what is for me a bedrock principle, that judging is different from politics. And I appreciate the vote very much.

The process we have just completed epitomizes the separation of powers that is enshrined in our Constitution. My nomination was announced some 10 weeks ago here in the White House, the home of the executive branch. This morning, further up Pennsylvania Avenue, it was approved in the Capitol, the home of the executive [legislative] * branch. And tomorrow, I will go into the Supreme Court building to join my colleagues, the home of the judicial branch, to undertake my duties. The executive and the legislature have carried out their constitutional responsibilities and ensured the succession of authority and responsibility in the judicial branch.

What Daniel Webster termed "the miracle of our Constitution" is not something that happens every generation. But every generation in its turn must accept the responsibility of supporting and defending the Constitution and bearing true faith and allegiance to it. That is the oath that I just took. I will try to ensure, in the discharge of my responsibilities, that with the help of my colleagues, I can pass on to my children's generation a charter of self-government as strong and as vibrant as the one that Chief Justice Rehnquist passed on to us.

Over the past 10 weeks, many people who I did not know came up to me and offered encouragement and support. Many of them told me that I and my family was in their prayers and in their hopes. I want to thank all of those people. I will need in the months and years ahead that encouragement and those prayers.

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Members of the Senate. And thank you, colleagues, for being here to share this special moment. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:54 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Cecilia Marshall, wife of former Justice Thurgood Marshall; Mary Ann Stewart, wife of former Justice Potter Stewart; John G. Roberts, Sr., and his wife, Rosemary Roberts, Chief Justice Roberts's parents; and Margaret "Peggy" Roberts and Barbara Burke, Chief Justice Roberts's sisters. Chief Justice Roberts referred to Edward W. Gillespie, founder and cochairman, Quinn Gillespie & Associates; and William Kelley, Deputy Counsel to the President.

* White House correction.

George W. Bush, Remarks at a Swearing-In Ceremony for John G. Roberts, Jr., as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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