In front of a law-school crowd in 2015, Brett M. Kavanaugh mentioned the success of a younger attorney who worked as his deputy in the White House and became the general counsel of Facebook in 2008. Kavanaugh, who was a federal appeals judge at the time, had never heard of the company.

“That turned out to be a really good move,” Kavanaugh said, chuckling. “And I am committed to public service, as I said, but I do spend some time reading Robert Frost, ‘The Road Not Taken.’ ”

That path was the pursuit of riches in the private sector. In 2001, he left a private firm to join the White House, a move that slashed his salary by more than half but set him on a path toward the judiciary branch — and now, to the peak of his profession as a nominee for the Supreme Court.

He has in many ways stayed true to his intent, following the Jesuit mantra of service above self instilled in him by the elite Catholic high school he attended in suburban Washington — volunteering his time by feeding the homeless and coaching girls basketball.