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Remarks on the Swearing-In of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

August 10, 1993

The President. Please be seated. Welcome to the White House. It is my distinct honor to introduce the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

[At this point, Chief Justice William Rehnquist administered the oath of office, and Justice Ginsburg then made brief remarks.]

The President. Ladies and gentlemen, before we adjourn to the reception in honor of Justice Ginsburg, I'd like to acknowledge the presence here today of Senator Moynihan, who sponsored her so strongly in the Senate, Senator Larry Pressler of South Dakota, Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, my good friend Jack Brooks from Texas. It's good to see all of you here.

This was a very important appointment to me. In one of my former lives I had the great joy and responsibility of teaching the United States Constitution and the decisions of the Supreme Court under it to aspiring but not always interested law students. [Laughter] I have learned over the course of a lifetime of practical experience what I knew then: We breathe life into the values we espouse through our law. It gives to every American, including the most illiterate among us, the most totally unaware of how the legal system works, a fair measure of our ideals and some reality that comes into life from the speeches given by the rest of us. There is no one with a deeper appreciation of this fact than Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This is a moment, this historic moment, therefore, that all Americans can celebrate. For no one knows better than she that it is the law that provides the rules that permit us to live together and that permit us to overcome the infirmities, the bigotry, the prejudice, the limitations of our past and our present.

Her nearly unanimous confirmation by the United States Senate was the swiftest in nearly two decades. Much credit must go to her own brilliance and her thoughtful, balanced reasoning. But I thank Senators Moynihan and D'Amato for their sponsorship and assistance. I thank Chairman Biden and Senator Hatch for their contributions and all the other Senators, including those here present, who supported her.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg does not need a seat on the Supreme Court to earn a place in our history books. She has already secured that. As a brilliant young law school graduate she became an early victim of gender discrimination when as a woman and mother she sought nothing more than that which every one of us wants, a chance to do her work. She met this challenge with character and determination. She took on the complex challenges of winning what seems now to be such a terribly simple principle, equal treatment for women and men before the law. Virtually every significant case brought before the Supreme Court in the decade of the seventies on behalf of women bore her mark. Today, virtually no segment of our society has been untouched by her efforts.

In the 1980's, Ruth Bader Ginsburg ended her career as a scholar and advocate and began a new one as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals here in the District of Columbia. She has emerged as one of our country's finest judges, progressive in outlook, wise in judgment, balanced and fair in her opinions. She defied labels like "liberal" and "conservative," just as she did in her hearing before the Senate, to earn a reputation for something else altogether, excellence.

And through it all she has proved that you can have what most of us really want, a successful work life and a successful family life. That is due in no small measure to her husband of 39 years, himself a distinguished lawyer and now, I hasten to say, for all the rest of us fast becoming a national model of what a good husband ought to be. [Laughter] Marty Ginsburg, please stand up and take a bow.

Her children, Jane and James, are here. And she became a proud grandmother of Paul and Clara and in her announcement made them two of the most famous grandchildren in the entire United States.

Now Ruth Bader Ginsburg's greatest challenge lies ahead, a challenge to which she brings a powerful mind, a temperament for healing, a compassionate heart, a lifetime of experience. Her story already is a part of our history. Now her words and her judgments will help to shape our Nation today and well into the 21st century.

Most of us know that the inscription above the main entrance to the Supreme Court reads: Equal Justice Under Law. But carved into the marble above the Court's other entrance is another telling message: Justice, the Guardian of Liberty. In Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I believe the Nation is getting a Justice who will be a guardian of liberty for all Americans and an ensurer of equal justice under law. We are all the better for that.

Thank you for being here. We're adjourned to the reception in Justice Ginsburg's honor. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:43 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on the Swearing-In of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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