Monday, May 18, 2015

YLS 2015 Commencement: Graduates Encouraged to Ask “Where Am I Needed?”—PHOTOS, VIDEO, SPEECHES

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, joined by a celebratory crowd, including friends, family, and Law School faculty.

In his remarks to the graduating class, Dean Robert C. Post ’77 referred to his recovery from a back injury and how overwhelming pain—from personal events like a slipped disc to world events such as an earthquake—can lead to despair.

“If the anxiety of these dangers overwhelms us, if we merely suffer blankly in their presence, we are lost,” Dean Post said. “But if we respond by situating these dangers in time, which is to say by contextualizing them in narratives that unite time past, time present, and time future, then we have the capacity to master them.”

Dean Post closed with the following advice for the graduates: “[I]t is the true wish of all your teachers here on this stage that you may encounter the unimaginable adventures that lie before you with the same verve and intelligence, with the same unfailing self-respect, with the same moral courage, with the same pleasure and delight, that you have displayed during your time here among us.”



Professor Daniel Markovits ’00 also addressed the graduates in a speech titled “A New Aristocracy.” He urged the audience to celebrate their achievements while contemplating “what victory brings.” Markovits commented that the graduates have reached a pinnacle of meritocracy by graduating from Yale Law School, but there is a downside to this system.

“American meritocracy has thus become precisely what it was invented to combat: a mechanism for the dynastic transmission of wealth and privilege across generations,” Markovits said. “Meritocracy now constitutes a modern-day aristocracy, one might even say, purpose-built for a world in which the greatest source of wealth is not land or factories but human capital, the free labor of skilled workers.” 

Although Markovits admitted he didn’t have a solution to these problems, he encouraged the graduates to be hopeful: “We are trained to think of economic inequality as presenting a zero sum game: to suppose that redistribution to benefit the bottom simply must burden the top. But this is not such a case: reforms that democratize training and talent would benefit everybody.”

Following the remarks by Professor Markovits, Gina Raimondo ’98, the first female governor of Rhode Island, addressed the graduates.

In her brief remarks, Raimondo urged the graduates not to think only of what is best for themselves as they move forward, but said “I want you to ask the question, ‘Where am I needed? Where am I needed to go?’” She emphasized that each member of the class of 2015 has an obligation to serve “by virtue of the privilege and opportunity and talent that you have.”

Using examples from her career, she also reminded listeners to remember that “behind every decision you make is a person.” With that in mind, Raimondo said, the graduates will advance and solve problems throughout their careers and lives.


Two hundred forty-two degree candidates were honored at the ceremonies Monday, including 207 JDs, 27 LLMs, 6 JSDs, and 2 MSLs.