"I am honored and I am humbled by this nomination and by the confidence you have shown in me," Kagan told the president in the East Room of the White House. She said the honor was deepened by the fact that she was replacing Stevens, who had long played a "distinguished and exemplary role" on the high court.
Kagan, who is 50, said that her experience as solicitor general - the nation's top lawyer, who argues the United States' positions before the Supreme Court - had given her an "ever deeper and richer" appreciation of the value of that "extraordinary institution."
Arguing a case before the Supreme Court is "the most thrilling and the most humbling task a lawyer can perform," she said, adding that she had been "blessed" to have that opportunity.
"My professional life has been marked by great good fortune," Kagan said, noting that she had clerked for Thurgood Marshall, served under "two remarkable presidents," and led "one of the world's great law schools." (The presidents are Clinton and Obama; the law school Harvard.)
Of her time as dean of Harvard Law, where she is known for welcoming conservative voices, Kagan said she had worked to "bring people together," a trait Mr. Obama also pointed to in his remarks. She said she had worked to maximize the contribution to the public good from those affiliated with the school and went on to discuss the "simple joy of teaching."
Teaching, she said, is about "trying to communicate to students why I so love the law." She said the law matters because it keeps Americans safe, protects fundamental rights and freedoms, and serves as a foundation for democracy.
Kagan said her only sadness came from the fact that her parents could not be with her to share in the honor. Her two brothers, both teachers, did attend the ceremony.More Coverage of Kagan's Nomination: