Saturday, May 15, 2010
To My Beloved Class of 2010:
To my beloved Class of 2010:
Our time together has been marked by sacrifice. The cost of our enlightenment has been significant, perhaps even severe, and each one of us has keenly felt the loss of money, sleep, confidence, and days that might have been spent in a million ways more pleasant. For three years frustration, anxiety, and tedium have been near-constant companions, while success and approbation have been fleeting, impossible to long savor. At times this disparity has seemed unjust, even cruel. Yet this inequity that has caused so much disgruntled murmuring and created so much nagging self-doubt, has provided the crucible that helped forge our minds and character.
Contrary to belief, trial by ordeal has not been eliminated from the justice system; it has merely been removed from defendants and applied to law students. Like millstones around our necks, teachers added one more book to the load, one more concept to our mind, one more review to the schedule. Through reserves of strength previously unknown, we refused to sink under the burden. We survived. And today we are assumed innocent, free from charges of inadequacy and ignorance.
There will undoubtedly be trials ahead; life will guarantee each of us many additional days of grief and worry. But today is sacred. Today is our day—the day we have worked and longed and struggled for. Today we must neither succumb to doubt nor let any untoward thought corrupt what we have earned. Today we are absolutely the wonderful, capable, strong, bright, and beautiful people we always suspected or hoped we might be.
As we enjoy ourselves, let us be fair with praise earned by others and remember the right to celebrate is not ours alone. Every member of our Class has been helped by a professor willing to clarify, re-clarify, and clarify again, or by a staff member who patiently answered our repeated inane questions. We are opinionated and assertive people, and our family and friends can attest that law students do not always make the best company. Therefore, all the more remarkable that the S.J. Quinney College of Law has been a gracious host.
Having mentioned friends and family, we must also recognize all the spouses who have felt neglected, and all the children and companions who lost our time, attention, and interest to books. To those who willingly, or even begrudgingly, laid money, vacations, evening plans, and other quality moments on the altar of law school, we offer our sincere gratitude.
With all those who have paid dearly for this moment, let us now embrace our accomplishment and fully accept the honor it is our right to have bestowed upon us: we are doctors of law.
Inasmuch as we have assumed this distinction through sacrifice, let us reverence that sacrifice by permanently committing to the root of our scholarly devotion, and ever give ourselves to the law.
With such a broad call to dedication, I do not speak of the law as statutes or a list of rules. Rather I speak of an ideal—the beautiful and holy concept that allows women and men of every generation and origin to be free from the dictates of king, tyrant, state, cleric, god, or devil. To allow an individual the freedom to act for himself reasonably assured of the result is to give him his full and true humanity, and that is law.
Accordingly, as practioners of the law, we are entrusted with a great responsibility. To be worthy we must sometimes literally, but always figuratively, both prosecute and defend. In the worship of power and profit, there will inevitably be some aiming to turn people into property, humanity into holdings, and justice into jetsam. The call here extended to us, the responsibility attendant with our rights, is to unwaveringly stand between humankind and anyone who would seek to desecrate law.
The law must be true and reliable; it must be our constant. Governments will rise and fall, markets will ebb and flow. Floods, earthquakes, calamities, and death will come without our consent. Life is full of things we did not create and cannot control. But the law is ours—we are now its stewards and we must unfailingly tend to it.
For each of us a day will come when we will hold some element of pure law in our hands—for someone, somewhere, we will be able to ensure or restore her most precious humanity. I believe our lifetime’s will see “that special moment when [fate figuratively taps us] on the shoulder to do a special thing unique to [us] and fitted to [our] talents.
“What a tragedy if that moment finds [us] unprepared[,] unqualified[, or uncommitted] for the work [that would have otherwise been our] finest hour.”
May it never be so said of the Class of 2010. May we always be counted worthy of the sacrifices we now commemorate.
(S.J. Quinney College of Law commencement, May 14, 2010.)