Elena Kagan will be sworn in Saturday as the third woman on the nine-member U.S. Supreme Court, the nation's highest court. President Barack Obama Friday celebrated the upcoming event.
At an East Room reception, President Obama said the appointment of the fourth woman Supreme Court justice in U.S. history, and the third on the current court, is a significant step forward. "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," he said.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Kagan as a justice on Thursday, despite heavy opposition from Republicans, who say she lacks experience because she has never been a judge.
The 50-year-old U.S. solicitor general is Mr. Obama's second successful nominee to the high court. His first, Sonia Sotomayor, was appointed last year.
On Friday, the president praised what he called Kagan's formidable intellect and path-breaking career. He also said she will carry out the ideals of the U.S. justice system. "While those founding truths about liberty and equality may have been self-evident, they were not self-perpetuating. And it is the members of our highest court who do the vital and constant work of ensuring that they endure," he said.
Kagan pledged to work her hardest to support and preserve the U.S. Constitution and dispense justice equally and fairly under the law. "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," she said.
U.S. justices are appointed for life. Kagan will succeed Justice John Paul Stevens, who recently retired at the age of 90.
Stevens was considered the most liberal member of the court, and Kagan is not expected to change its current ideological balance. The court has a five-member, conservative-leaning majority.
The Supreme Court's new session begins in October.