Dean Douglas, Justice Scalia, Esteemed Faculty, Parents, Family, and Friends, the Class of 2014 is honored to have you with us on our Graduation Day.
About two months ago when we announced that Justice Scalia would be our Commencement Speaker, one of my favorite professors, Adam Gershowitz, came up to me and said, “Hey that’s great news that you got Justice Scalia to be the speaker. By the way, you have to give a speech at Commencement too don’t you?” And I replied, “Yes, the SBA President has to give one every year.” To which he responded, as only Professor Gershowitz could respond, “Well I just thought you should know, those student Commencement speeches are usually pretty terrible.” So . . . with the bar set low, “Game on Professor!”
A lot has changed at William & Mary in the three years that we’ve been here. No class’s path to a law school graduation is an easy one, but because of these changing times, our path to Lake Matoaka has had a few more obstacles on it than most. For us, things got off to a rocky start. In our first year, we fell in the rankings. Since then, we have witnessed major changes to the Legal Practice Program and endured one of the worst legal recessions of all time. For many students, and many classes, this would have been too much. Blow after blow, setback after setback, once knocked down, they would have stayed down, never to be heard from again, and never to be remembered.
But I’m proud to say, that’s just not how the Class of 2014 does things. Knocked down seven times, we stood back up eight. It took a lot of character to get to where we are today. And because of this, when people look back on our class 10, 20, even 30 years from now they won’t remember the struggles that we’ve been through, but rather, they’ll remember everything we’ve accomplished and every goal that we’ve achieved.
They’ll remember that it was our class, entrusted with the Citizen-Lawyer ideal, that performed over 2500 hours of community service. Through 3L guidance and leadership we helped the Public Service Fund raise over $27,000 in this year’s auction and members of our class led our BLSA chapter to Mid-Atlantic BLSA chapter of the year.
Some of our classmates have not only argued cases before the Third and Fourth Circuits, but they won those cases. We’ve had Moot Court members win accolades in Charleston and New Orleans and Trial Team competitors bring home victories from Washington, DC and Buffalo. We’ve won Transactional Team tournaments in Houston and collectively, the 180 of us that serve on journals have published 20 issues for 5 different journals.
And most of all, in addition to these competitions we’ve won, journals we’ve published, and service projects we’ve led, they’ll remember that it was the Class of 2014 that smashed the Class Gift record, with a 90% pledge rate. And with that, we’re the reason Dean Douglas is sitting behind me moustache-less.
And finally, we will remember that all our hard work attracted a sitting United States Supreme Court Justice as Commencement Speaker for the first time at this school in 21 years.
We’ve accomplished all this and more in our three years here, and in the years to come, we’ll do so much more. Justice Scalia, sitting before you today are teachers … mentors … public servants … elected officials … soldiers, sailors, and marines . . . husbands and wives . . . fathers and mothers.
And all that, was before we started law school. When Thomas Jefferson said he wanted lawyers to be trained as citizen leaders for their communities, he envisioned a class like this one. A class dedicated to the common good . . . to use the advantages that lawyers have to improve our society . . . and to be leaders in our communities, states, and nation. Together, there is nothing we cannot, and will not, achieve. Thank you!
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.