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President of Georgia to be keynote speaker at Ohio Northern University’s College of Law commencement
The President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, will deliver the commencement address at the 2011 Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law graduation ceremony in the ONU Sports Center on Sunday, May 15, 2011. Saakashvili also will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
Saakashvili lead the “Rose Revolution” in the former Soviet republic of Georgia in 2003 and was elected president in 2004, when, at 37, he became the youngest European president. He was re-elected in 2008.
Saakashvili was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Dec. 21, 1967, the eldest of three brothers. After graduating with honors from Kiev University Institute of International Relations, he attended Columbia University in New York City as an Edmund S. Muskie Fellow, where he received his LL.M. in 1994. In 1995, he was admitted to the New York Bar and practiced commercial law for nearly a year at Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler in New York City.
He returned to Georgia in 1995 and was elected to Parliament, where he chaired the Committee on Legal Affairs. In 2000, then-President Eduard Shevardnadze named Saakashvili as minister of justice. In these positions, he actively worked to reform many of the post-Soviet legal institutions still predominant in Georgia. In 2002, he resigned his position as minister of justice and began leading the opposition to Shevardnadze, which culminated in the peaceful 2003 Rose Revolution.
During his presidency, Saakashvili has moved Georgia away from the influence of Russia and towards integration with Europe and the west. He has focused on modernizing and diversifying the economy and combating endemic corruption. His success in dealing with corruption has been recognized through dramatically improved international rankings of the country as a place to do business. He also has had to deal with territorial disputes with Russia, including a brief war in 2008.
At the May 15 commencement ceremony, the Ohio Northern University College of Law will award both the Juris Doctor degree and the Master of Laws degree in Democratic Governance and Rule of Law to American and international students. One of the international students receiving the LL.M. degree is from Georgia, the sixth Georgian lawyer receiving the degree in the five-year history of ONU’s program. Two of the students receiving both the J.D. and LL.M. degrees spent last summer working in Georgia as part of their degree programs. Howard Fenton, ONU professor of law and the director of the LL.M. program, worked closely with Saakashvili from 1996-2002 as a consultant, helping draft new laws for Georgia through United States-sponsored law reform initiatives; he lived in Tbilisi, Georgia, from 2001-02.