During law school we were allowed to vote on which graduate would speak at our graduation. I was nominated, so I crafted a speech however my classmate and friend, Josef Mensah, ended up being chosen…and he was phenomenal! In fact, my mother periodically asks about him because it left such an impression. I actually forgot that I even wrote a speech until yesterday. For some strange reason it popped into my head that I had one, so I searched for it and read it. Now, I felt like sharing it with you…
Disclaimer: this is written to graduating law students but in principle should be applied to any leader.
Good Morning Faculty, Staff, Family and Friends and most importantly my fellow 2013 Graduates. First it is an honor and privilege to be here and speak to you all. We have come a long way… this is the day we have looked forward to since that first civil procedure lecture. We’ve made it! Some of you are reveling in this moment, while others have already moved onto worrying about the bar exam and jobs. I am here to say to you….pause…breath and be in this moment. Enjoy this moment. This moment matters. You have just accomplished something that many people dream of… something you dreamed of. This moment is a culmination of moments, relationships and decisions made by you.
This day is a reflection of beauty of what we now have… a legal trained mind. Some things are complicated, other things that are firmly grounded; yet, there’s always an argument to me made.
We all share this legally trained mind. We didn’t all start off the same. We didn’t even take the same means or method to get to this day but we are all here together. And here’s a deeper beauty in that… each of our paths matter equally. Whether you were the person studying hard but barely making it or barely studied and breezed here. These paths matter as we go forward; whether or not you practice law from this day forward. This process will inform how we engage others, teacher others and advise others.
Everything we say and do matters because law school has equipped us with a tool. The able to reason, to articulate our reasoning and persuade others with it. This gives us the ability to affect the life of every person we interact with and those whom we will never meet. But let’s not stop there, it is no only what we say and do, but we all matter. Our experiences in life will inform the persepctives we take, the point of view we use to persuade others.
We affect so many people.. our clients, bosses, peers, the law student who will analyze one of our cases in their class…. we will create and help mold the law or policies that affect society as a whole. Just think about it… by the stroke of a pen, these tools that we have just gained, created judicial review. Do not fear terms like “well settled.” So long as we are equipped with our tools, no matter which point of view one holds, there is a place for us to make an argument. We have the tools to be creators. We understand how to start with what is, but we know that what is does not have to be what will continue to be… Together using our new tools we choose whether to keep things the same or change them.
More importantly, you matter. Your ability to analyze and articulate your reasoning makes you powerful. You are not just a citizen anymore sharing your point of view, you are persuasive wordsmiths. You hold the keys to maintaining a civilized society. Do not ever feel that are without, because you hold the tools to create. Please do not take my words to mean that other people do not have value. No what I am saying here is … “with great power comes great responsibility.”
We are powerful … we have great responsibility…. each of our life experiences are inform how we view the world and how we will persuade others to view the world. Since we now have the power to change the world on a daily basis. Keep these things in mind… everyone has value; everyone’s story has its place; remember to listen to people (just as listening to others arguments during class helped either change ur mind or feel stronger about what you already held to); be humble; recognize your power. This degree and your position post-graduation does not define you. You are matter. You always mattered. Only now what you say takes on a new level of power. Let’s go forward and be great.