Stephen Breyer says he’s ‘an optimist’ about the future of America while confirming retirement

After a maelstrom of media coverage on Wednesday, Justice Stephen Breyer on Thursday officially confirmed his retirement from the Supreme Court — in both a letter to President Biden and an address alongside him.

“I enormously appreciate the privilege of serving as part of the federal judicial system,” Breyer wrote in his letter dated Jan. 27. “I have found the work challenging and meaningful. My relations with each of my colleagues have been warm and friendly. Throughout, I have been aware of the great honor of participating as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and the rule of law.”

Breyer added that he intends his retirement to take effect around late June or early July, provided a successor “has been nominated and confirmed.”

During his Biden-adjacent remarks, Breyer, pocket Constitution in hand, used his time to speak thoughtfully about the great American experiment — even invoking the Gettysburg Address as he shared his thoughts on the future of the nation.

“It’s an experiment that’s still going on,” Breyer said. “You know who will see whether that experiment works? … It’s that next generation and the one after that.”

“My grandchildren and their children, they’ll determine whether the experiment still works,” Breyer continued. “I’m an optimist. I’m pretty sure it will. Does it surprise you that that’s the thought that comes into my mind today?”