WASHINGTON (CN) – Newly-confirmed Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan promised during a White House reception Friday that she will “work my hardest and try my best” to uphold her obligations as the next associate justice to the nation’s highest court.
“This is a good day,” President Obama said to a group gathered in the East Room.
“This appointment is not just an honor,” Kagan said. “Much more importantly, it is an obligation – an obligation to protect and preserve the rule of law in this country; an obligation to uphold the rights and liberties afforded by our remarkable Constitution; and an obligation to provide what the inscription on the Supreme Court building promises: equal justice under law.
Kagan will be sworn in on Saturday as the 112th justice of the Supreme Court. She will take two oaths – a constitutional and a judicial oath. In the constitutional oath, she will promise to support and defend the Constitution, and in the judicial oath, she will promise to administer equal justice.
Kagan was confirmed by a 63-37 vote in the Senate Thursday. Five Republicans voted in support of Kagan’s confirmation, while one Democrat voted against it.
Before Kagan’s address, Obama congratulated Kagan for her bipartisan backing. “I don’t know too many folks whose fans include President Clinton, Judge Abner Mikva, and Justice Ginsburg, as well as Ken Starr, Miguel Estrada, and Justice Scalia,” Obama said.
Obama said he was struck by Kagan’s “formidable intellect and path-breaking career.”
Kagan was the first woman to serve as solicitor general and as dean of Harvard Law School.
Throughout her career, Kagan served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1988, associate counsel and policy advisor to President Clinton from 1995 to 1999, a law professor at Harvard and University of Chicago Law Schools, dean of Harvard Law School from 2003 to 2009, and solicitor general from 2009 to 2010.
Kagan thanked the administration staff that aided her in the confirmation process, the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as family and friends.
Kagan drew special attention to her former colleagues from the solicitor general’s office, calling it the “best law office in the country.”
“Now, once I put on that robe,” she added, “I’m only going to vote with them when they have the better of the argument, which, let’s be frank, is not in every case,” Kagan said, to laughter. “But I will always appreciate their integrity and professionalism and dedication.”
Kagan peppered her comments with her characteristic lively humor. Speaking of the 12-week confirmation process, she said, “I also very much enjoyed meeting with 83 senators — but really who’s counting?”
Once sworn in, Kagan will become the fourth woman to ever sit on the Supreme Court and the third to serve on the current court, joining Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor on the bench.
“It is, as Justice Ginsburg recently put it,” Obama said, “– a sign of progress that I relish not just as a father who wants limitless possibilities for my daughters, but as an American proud that our Supreme Court will be a little more inclusive, a little more representative, more reflective of us as a people than ever before.”
After she finished her remarks, Kagan rushed off the stage, but Obama called her back, saying to the audience, “I told Elena to go ahead and soak it in because I’m not sure they’re allowed to clap in the Supreme Court,” prompting laughter in the room.