September 24, 1981

Well, Nancy and I are honored to welcome you all to the White House today -- you who have met the exacting standards of integrity, fairness and intellect required for Federal judgeship. You provide reassurance for all of us that our ideals of liberty and justice are alive and well in the United States of America.

Wisdom is the quality we look for most in our judges. In an age of mounting judicial workloads and increasing technicality, we demand of our judges a wisdom that knows no time, has no prejudice, and wants no other reward. The challenge seems impossible, and yet you've dedicated your lives to it.

Every time I talk about wisdom, I think of the old legend of the three wise men on an island that was threatened with being flooded as the result of a hurricane. One of them decided that he would do all the things that he had never been able to do in his life in the limited time that was left. And the second one decided that he would just devote himself to further study. And I think the third one was a good pattern for everyone -- he retreated with his closest advisers to the highest point on the island and set out to find out if they could live under water. [Laughter]

We've entrusted you with our ideals and our freedom, and our future depends on the way you define it today. It's a sacred trust whose burden can only be carried by the highest quality of men and women. Your determined commitment to the preservation of our rights is a commitment that often requires the lonely courage of a patriot. On behalf of all Americans, I want to express our often-neglected thanks. I assure you, your commitment is returned. I pledge to do everything in my power to enhance the prestige and quality of the Federal Bench.

In a society founded on law, we must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the best among us accept the call to serve and are able to serve for life. Our heritage of individual liberty is dependent on the rule of law. As the inscription over the door of the Department of Justice says, just a few blocks from here, it reminds us, ``Law alone can give us freedom.'' You who interpret it, who administer it, are the guardians of freedom for generations yet unborn. It's a privilege to welcome you here today.

And that was the concluding line, except that now I ask again, "Why is it that they always fly out of National [Airport] just when we're doing something like this?'' [Laughter] Well, thank you again for being here and I know we shall all see each other in a few moments. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:55 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.