Welcoming Remarks at Graduation from SBA President Tamar Jones '11

President Reveley, Dean Douglas, Senator Warner, Deans, Faculty & Staff, Family & Friends, and the Class of 2011.  It is my honor and privilege to address you this afternoon.  What a journey we have all been on together!  As I reflected on our experiences and now look out at all your beautiful faces, I am reminded of our very first day of law school which, some days seems like it was yesterday, and others like it was so long ago.  I remember the sense of anticipation, excitement, and a little anxiety as we embarked on this journey.  I also remember the sense of community that quickly formed within our class and then how quickly we became a part of the community at the law school . 

I received a good piece of advice at that time and have tried to pass that on to incoming classes - that is that the people sitting next to you, fellow students, will be your colleagues forever.  At the time it seemed like such a faraway concept, and yet here we are.  We made it!  We have worked hard together over these last three years -- we have studied together, completed projects together, and solved problems together.  And it has paid off.  Now, as we enter the legal profession, we will call on each other as colleagues to solve problems for our clients and in our community.  I am proud to call you colleagues and proud to be a member of the Class of 2011.

The rigors of the law school experience at times seemed to create an insular world for us.  While we were focused intently on the tasks at hand, the world continued around us.  Other times, it was impossible to ignore the world around us.  We have all experienced highs and lows during the last few years -- we have lost loved ones, we have added to our families through new births and marriages, we have faced personal challenges and shared great victories. 

One loss that we shared was that of our very own classmate, Joseph Doyle.  He began this journey with us three years ago, but was taken from us in  a tragic accident last year.  We remember him today by placing an empty chair with a rose among the graduates and we remember his family in our thoughts and prayers today.  Although Joe left us so prematurely, he did not do so without making a significant impact on our community through his quiet and selfless dedication to the people around him.

Like Joe, our lives do and will continue to have an impact on the people and in the world around us.  This a reminder that as we leave this place and enter the legal profession, we will be expected to, and indeed we have been trained to be, Citizen Lawyers.  We have learned that the law is more than about what is written in a legal textbook or a book of rules.  The law is about people.  We are now in the unique position to help people in their time of need and offer hope for the resolution of difficult issues by using the skills and abilities that we have learned here and that we will continue to hone in practice. 

Although the future remains uncertain for many of us, I have no doubt that you will all do amazing things.  If you attended the awards ceremony yesterday, that was just the tip of the iceberg.  The Class of 2011 is truly an extraordinary class.  You have shown creativity, resilience, and tenacity and earned a great achievement today.   You have added to this school with your talents, your personalities, your scholarship, and your service.   You have already proven that you can overcome the greatest of challenges and I urge you to reflect on that.  Remember your achievements and that you each bring a unique set of gifts and abilities to the world and to the practice of law.

Remember also your support network, because we did not get here on our own.  Thank you to the deans, faculty, and staff for welcoming us into this community and guiding us through law school; for teaching us, listening to us, pushing us, and preparing us for this moment.  Thank you to our family and friends.  You make us who we are today.  You have loved us, supported us and inspired us.  To be able to celebrate this day with you makes it that much more rewarding.

To the graduates : it has been my honor and pleasure to serve you and work with you over these last three years and I am so excited about what we will continue to accomplish.  We have reached a great milestone today, but this is just the beginning.  Congratulations.