Toast From Justice Breyer
“This exchange has been a great success. Why? What accounts for our ability so well to understand, and to learn from each other?
It helps that we have long shared certain highly general, somewhat personal, understandings about the nature of our judicial work:
We hope to transmit to the future, the history, learning and traditions of the past, in a form that helps them remain relevant and helpful to the resolution of problems presented by our ever-changing world.
We remain committed to the kind of clear, critical thought that will at the least help us separate sense from nonsense.
We interpret and apply principles of human liberty, including the rule of law, that from the time of the great charter at Runneymede have so profoundly influenced our free societies.
Our professional work calls for thought but not thought alone. It is thought in the service of principle - principle that calls for the use of both head and heart.
We are engaged in public service, putting our talents and abilities to work, we hope, for the benefit of others who live in our society.
Taken together these characteristics, these goals, imply a seriousness of purpose that informs and inspires our shared judicial lives.
Sharing these values, we have in the past few days had a conversation -- of the kind that Michael Oakeshott described. He said that in the context of the "pursuit of learning" a "conversation" is not an argument; its "tone is neither tyrannous nor plangent;" it has "no predetermined course;" we do not "judge its excellence by its conclusion" for "it has no conclusion;" its interest "springs from the quality of the voices which speak, and its value lies in the relics it leaves behind in the minds of those who participate.”
This is the kind of conversation we have had, and in the course of that conversation we have become friends.
So, I toast with thanks the American College of Trial Lawyers for its sponsorship of this Exchange. I thank the judges and lawyers for their participation. I thank the staff for their excellent work. And, I thank the Ambassador and Embassy for this dinner and for much else besides.”