2010 Law Commencement
Remarks by Graduating Student
May 16, 2010
Good Afternoon Administration, Professors, Family, Friends, and, most importantly, the Class of 2010:
I am both honored and humbled to speak to you today. When I sat down to prepare my remarks, I thought to myself – (1) what do I say to people who have accomplished so many different things in so many different ways?, and (2) how can I adequately express gratitude to the people that made those accomplishments possible? I was stumped.
If you know me well, you know that I’m a true Pittsburgher and an avid Pittsburgh hockey fan. Lucky enough to finish finals early, I landed tickets to a Penguins’ playoff game last weekend. At perhaps the most awkward place to find inspiration for a graduation speech, it dawned on me. The Penguins’ slogan is “defy ordinary.” What a perfect phrase to define commencement, as we reflect on the past three years and embark on our legal careers. Defy ordinary.
Every graduate in the Class of 2010 has defied ordinary in some way. Some experiences are collective. We decided to attend law school and, more impressively, we survived the last three years. We learned to function on less sleep than we thought humanly possible, and we spent endless hours reading case books, researching, and writing appellate briefs and seminar papers. We worked – and were pushed – harder than ever before, and we made it.
Other experiences are individual. Some defied ordinary by being published in the law review, winning moot court competitions, starting brand new organizations, or serving as president of existing ones. Others returned to law school to pursue a second career, or are the first in their family to earn a professional degree. Still others attended law school while raising a family, an extremely commendable accomplishment – law school often made me feel overwhelmed, and I was responsible for only myself.
While in law school, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that these accomplishments defy ordinary. Really, they often seem to be just that, because everyone is intelligent, motivated, and successful. But today, on our graduation day, I want to remind you that your accomplishments do defy ordinary and you did defy ordinary – in nothing less than an extraordinary way. Congratulations.
The Class of 2010, however, would not be here without supporters who also defied ordinary. Professors, staff, family, and friends have played an indispensible role in our successes. In the past three years, I met many prospective students who always asked the same question: “What makes ONU different?” My answer was always the same – the people.
It would be easy – and typical – for law professors to walk into the classroom, grill unlucky students with the Socratic Method, and walk out fifty minutes later. But, that is not the ONU way. ONU professors teach students in the classroom and invite them into their homes for dinner. They connect students with other attorneys and potential jobs and provide life advice. We’ve been lucky enough to study law under professors who are interested in knowing us as individuals and truly care about our academic and professional successes. I’ve never attended another law school, but I don’t think this approach is traditional. ONU professors have been more than teachers; they have become mentors and friends. They have defied ordinary.
Finally, family members are often the unsung heroes of law students. Law school is not an individual or isolated experience; books are written on “Understanding your Law Student” or “What to do when Your Spouse goes to Law School,” to help families understand the law school experience. Personally, I have not been the best company for the past three years. n fact, I feel like I’ve been sleep-deprived – and, as my fiancé tells me, “cranky” – since August 2007, when I first moved to Ada. And, like most families here today, my family has heard more about the law than they probably ever cared to know, and they often got the brunt of my stress. But, I also would not be standing here without them.
Family members – whether it be a parent, sibling, spouse, significant other, or even best friend – deserve a trophy for their sacrifices, constant words of encouragement, and “I love yous.” We noticed every time you listened intently to our complaints about school or understood – without question – that we had to cancel plans because of “homework.” We do appreciate everything that you’ve done, and none of us would be here – graduating from law school – without you. Though words are definitely inadequate, you, too, have defied ordinary. So, thank you; today is a celebration for you as much as it is for us.
In closing, Class of 2010, congratulations on defying ordinary. Professors, family, and friends, thank you for going “beyond the call of duty” and defying ordinary for us. Together, we have accomplished many things and laid the foundation for outstanding legal careers. So Class of 2010, as you walk across the stage this afternoon, remember that you are still defying ordinary, and I hope that you continue to defy ordinary each and every day.