(WASHINGTON) — Amid an international crisis demanding his attention, President Joe Biden still took time out Friday to introduce to the nation his first high court nominee — Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson — at the White House, officially following through on his campaign promise made two years ago to the day to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court of the United States.
“Today as we watch freedom and liberty under attack abroad, I’m here to fulfill my responsibilities under the Constitution to preserve freedom and liberty here in the United States of America,” Biden began. “And it is my honor to introduce to the country a daughter of former public school teachers, a proven consensus builder, an accomplished lawyer, a distinguished jurist.”
Jackson, 51, currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to which she was named by Biden and confirmed by the Senate last year with the support of three Republican senators — the third instance in which was confirmed by the Senate on a bipartisan basis.
Biden was flanked by Jackson and Vice President Kamala Harris — the highest-ranking Black woman in government — for the historic announcement.
“I’m pleased to nominate Judge Jackson, who will bring extraordinary qualifications, deep experience and intellect, and a rigorous traditional record to the court. Judge Jackson deserves to be confirmed,” he said.
“For too long our government, our courts haven’t looked like America. And I believe it is time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications. And that we inspire all young people to believe that they can one day serve their country at the highest level,” Biden continued.
A former clerk to retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, Jackson has more than eight years experience on the federal bench, following a path through the judiciary traveled by many nominees before her. If confirmed, she would be the first federal public defender to serve on the Supreme Court and the first justice since Thurgood Marshall to have criminal defense experience.
“During this process, I looked for someone who, like Justice Breyer, has a pragmatic understanding that the law must work for the American people,” Biden said. “I’ve admired these traits of pragmatism, historical perspective, wisdom, character in the jurists nominated by Republican presidents as well as Democratic presidents. And today, I’m pleased to introduce to the American people a candidate who continues in this great tradition.”
As the president pitched his nominee to the public for the first time, he also spoke to her personal side, saying Jackson’s parents grew up under segregation, “but never gave up hope that their children would enjoy the true promise of America.”
He said Jackson was a “star student” who fell in love with a law career while watching her own father going to law school at the University of Miami, often drawing on coloring books at the dining room table next to her father’s homework. Jackson went on to attend Harvard Law School herself, despite some cautioning her against setting her sights too high.
Biden said she doesn’t put “her thumb on the scale of justice one way or the another — but she understands the broader impact of the decisions, whether there’s cases addressing the rights of workers or government service, she cares about making sure that our democracy works for the American people.”
“She listens. She looks people in the eye, lawyers, defendants, victims and families. And she strives to ensure that everyone understands why she made a decision, what the law is and what it means to them,” he continued. “She strives to be fair, to get it right, to do justice.”
Jackson appeared at the White House with her husband, Patrick, a surgeon, and one of her daughters, Leila, for the formal announcement and her debut under the presidential spotlight.
“I am truly humbled by the extraordinary honor of this nomination,” Jackson said. “And I am especially grateful for the care that you have taken in discharging your constitutional duty in service of our democracy, with all that is going on in the world today.”
“My life has been blessed beyond measure and I do know that one can only come this far by faith. Among my many blessings, the very first is the fact that I was born in this great country. The United States of America is the greatest beacon of hope and democracy the world has ever known,” she continued.
Jackson also took the opportunity to give a special thanks to Breyer in her remarks, saying that he “not only gave me the greatest job that any young lawyer could ever hope to have, he exemplified every day in every way that Supreme Court Justice can perform at the highest level of skill and integrity, by also being guided by civility and pragmatism and generosity of spirit.”
“Justice Breyer, the members of the Senate will decide if I fill your seat. But please know that I could never fill your shoes,” she added.
She finished by turning to the glass ceiling she is shattering, giving thanks to those who paved the way for her, including Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman ever to be appointed as a federal judge.
“Today, I proudly stand on Judge Motley’s shoulders, sharing not only her birthday, but also her steadfast and courageous commitment to equal justice under law,” she said. “And if I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, I could only hope that my life and career, my love of this country and the Constitution and my commitment to upholding the rule of law and the sacred principles upon which this great nation was founded, will inspire future generations of Americans.”
ABC News’ Devin Dwyer, Sarah Kolinovsky and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.
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