Kavanaugh gets emotional, thanks friends, justices in first public speech since confirmation

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh received a warm reception inside the annual Federalist Society gala Thursday night in Washington, D.C. — but, outside, protesters shouted "Impeach Kavanaugh" with a large screen replaying accuser Christine Blasey Ford's congressional testimony.

The Roman Catholic justice mentioned the hymn "Be Not Afraid" as a source of strength during his heated confirmation hearing a year ago.

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"I never felt alone," he said.

"I signed up for what I knew would be an ugly process – maybe not that ugly – but my friends did not," he said to the assembled crowd of roughly 3,000 inside Union Station. "And yet in the midst of it all, they stood up, and they stood by me.”

Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, appointed by President Donald Trump, sits with fellow Supreme Court justices for a group portrait at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, appointed by President Donald Trump, sits with fellow Supreme Court justices for a group portrait at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Kavanaugh thanked fellow Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, who were in attendance along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who introduced him. He mentioned each of the justices by name and called Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg an "inspiration."

But, for the lighthearted night, he did get emotional, thanking his family and reflecting upon his daughter's prayers during his confirmation process. Composing himself, he joked, "Matt Damon would have made it through this," referencing a "Saturday Night Live" skit the actor performed mimicking Kavanaugh.

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The junior justice also joked about his "service" on the SCOTUS cafeteria committee, saying he doesn't mind if his legacy is bringing pizza to the highest court of the land.

Without mentioning President Trump once, Kavanaugh added that he is “optimistic about the future of America and our independent judiciary."

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Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society and White House adviser on judicial appointments, said he thought Kavanaugh was teaching the audience a lesson about persistence in the face of adversity.

“In today’s culture, when you stand for certain principles you’re going to be attacked, and you need to have the courage to see it through,” he said, according to USA Today.

Fox News' Brie Stimson contributed to this report.