Monday, May 23, 2016

Students Encouraged to Make a Difference

More than 200 graduates of Yale Law School participated in commencement ceremonies on Monday afternoon at the William K. Lanman Center at Payne Whitney Gymnasium, surrounded by friends, family, and the Law School faculty.

In his remarks to the graduating class, Dean Robert C. Post ’77 spoke of the great partisan division in U.S. politics today. “When asked, Americans report a lower opinion of Congress than of root canals, colonoscopies, Brussels sprouts, or traffic jams,” he said. “Congress did manage a higher approval rating than telemarketers, North Korea, or the Ebola virus.” Quoting Greek historian Thucydides and Lithuanian poet Czeslaw Milosz, he talked about making democracy work through insuring that the process is open to everyone.

Dean Post argued that the way forward was to find a way to unite. “We are thrown willy-nilly into a common lifeboat, and we flourish together or we do not flourish at all,” he said.



Stephen B. Bright, Harvey Karp Visiting Lecturer in Law, spoke to the graduates about the importance of service. Citing examples of Yale Law School students and faculty members who have fought against injustice, he encouraged all to provide a voice for those who may not be heard. “We are abandoning our children to fend for themselves in a complex and hostile legal system that sends them to prisons where they may be subject to degradation and abuse,” Bright said.

Bright asserted that lawyers have the responsibility to improve the system in which they work. “I encourage you to use your knowledge and privilege to take risks for those for whom playing it safe was never an option," he said. "Your greatest accomplishment may be the result of the greatest risk you take.”

Justice Rosalie Abella of the Supreme Court of Canada also addressed the students after receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Yale University earlier in the day. She began by reminding those in the audience that “it’s not just what the profession stands for but what it stands up for.”

She told the history of her family around World War II and how she was inspired by her father’s struggles to practice law to become a lawyer herself. “I stand proudly before you, fellow graduates, believing as did my father that democracies and their laws represent the best possibilities of justice,” Abella said.


Two hundred and twenty-nine degree candidates were honored at the ceremonies Monday, including 201 JDs, 23 LLMs, 3 JSDs, 2 MSLs, and 3 PhD.s in Law.