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Honoring Chief Justice William Rehnquist

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, today I speak in honor of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. The Chief Justice served this Nation's highest court with distinction and honor for more than three decades, and his career in public service started years earlier. Even as he battled cancer over the past year, he continued to be an example of personal strength, dignity, and fortitude. I join my colleagues in mourning his passing and offering my prayers to his family.

The Chief Justice was a staunch defender of the Supreme Court and an active, independent judiciary. He was admired as a warm and helpful colleague, a thoughtful mentor, and an extremely effective administrator of the federal court system. The courts were well cared for under his distinguished leadership.

Justice Rehnquist also engaged directly with many of the toughest constitutional controversies of the twentieth century. Although I often disagreed with his decisions, Justice Rehnquist's opinions have been the source of important scholarship and litigation. Like the Chief Justice he followed, the late Earl Warren, Justice Rehnquist will be remembered as an important historical figure whose legacy will impact generations of Americans.

I knew the Chief Justice only at a distance. As a lawyer and a constitutional law instructor, I was required to wrestle intellectually with his ideas and arguments, and to press my students to divine his judicial instincts and motivations. My regret is that I never got to know him personally, or even to join one of his legendary walks around the Capitol or monthly poker games. I know that his warmth and humor have touched many of my colleagues, and he will be missed.

Of course, the strength of our constitutional structure--is that it is greater than any individual. Each of us plays but a small role in designing or building or repairing that structure it is greater and more important than any of us. We mourn the passing of Justice Rehnquist and now look to the future and the important work to be done.

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