Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland told entering Harvard Law School students on Friday that they shouldn't expect a predictable career path because life can take surprising turns.
Garland recounted his own varied career, which saw him leave private practice to become a federal prosecutor. He later became a federal appeals court judge before he was picked to fill a vacancy on the nation's high court.
"You never have any idea of what's going to come," he said.
It was a rare public appearance for Garland, whose nomination has been pending for more than five months. Senate Republicans have vowed not to hold a hearing or a vote on a high court nominee until a new president takes office.
Garland took questions from the school's dean during an orientation event for new students. He offered no comment about his nomination or the heated presidential race in which the Supreme Court has emerged as a key issue.
A 1977 graduate of the law school, Garland spent much of his talk discussing his role overseeing investigations into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the case of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. He choked up as he recalled seeing the massive crater where the front of the federal building in Oklahoma had been blown off.
"We made a promise that we would find the people who did this," he said.
Garland has mostly avoided speaking in public since he was picked to fill the vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia's death. He gave the commencement address at his Illinois high school in May and spoke at a graduation ceremony for fifth-graders in June at a Washington, D.C., elementary school where he has been tutoring students for years.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has suggested he will use procedural maneuvers to try and force a vote on Garland when the Senate returns next month from a seven-week break. Democrats accuse Senate Republicans of obstruction for refusing to even hold a hearing on Garland's nomination.