–CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov and WBBM Newsradio’s Mariam Sobh reporting
CHICAGO (CBS) — Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland returned to his alma mater in Skokie on Sunday, to deliver some words of wisdom to the Class of 2016 at Niles West High School.
It was a sunny and warm afternoon, and dozens of bright-eyed soon-to-be graduates listened as Garland gave them advice about the future.
“We cannot anticipate the twists and turns that life will take, nor should we. Life would be pretty boring if you could plan it all out on graduation day,” he said.
Garland is no stranger to those twists and turns; nominated by President Barack Obama two months ago to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia, he has yet to receive any confirmation hearings from the Republican-led Senate. GOP leadership has said no hearings will be held on any nominee until after the next president takes office in 2017.
However, he stayed away from partisan politics in his speech. He encouraged graduates to do some good in the world, and had some advice for young adults in a world saturated by social media.
“Instead of taking a selfie, turn the camera around; you know, the way we used to take pictures? You’ll have a much more fulfilling life by turning your focus outward to helping others,” he said.
Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, said he initially planned to become a doctor after graduating from Niles West in 1970, but his college roommate told him his math was horrible, so he ended up switching his focus to the law.
Smiling and seemingly relaxed, Garland focused much of his commencement speech on what Niles West meant to him and the community, and why community is important – especially as life moves forward.
“The four years I spent at West formed the basis for the kind of career I’ve had, and for the kind of person I am today. I owe this place a lot,” he said.
He spoke for about 20 minutes at Sunday’s commencement for the Class of 2016, offering students insight into his own experience as a former Niles West student.
“It was a place where kids of very different interests – kids on the basketball team and the kids in the chorus; kids in the auto club and kids on the debate team – could find common ground,” he said.
Garland also told students to keep doing work that helps others.
“The most personally rewarding experiences of my career have not been the high-profile cases I’ve investigated, or the legal disputes I’ve resolved; they have been the 18 years I spent tutoring students in reading and math at an elementary school in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
To date, Garland has met with 60 senators, including 16 Republicans, but that is where things have stalled.
“To have him here to speak to this diverse community during this climate is really important; important for the graduates, and important for all of us,” said Gloria Iverson, whose son, Samuel, graduated Sunday and has enlisted in the Army.