Sage Advice for the “Spectacular” Class of 2007

May 14, 2007Duke Law News

Journalist Charlie Rose ’68 commended Duke Law graduates to take risks, to act on their dreams, to pursue their passions, and to face inevitable setbacks with resilience when he addressed them at the Law School’s hooding ceremony on May 12. The ceremony in Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium honored 294 graduates – 219 who earned the JD degree, 25 who also received an LLM in international and comparative law, 29 who also received masters degrees from other Duke schools, and 75 non-American attorneys who received an LLM in American law.

“Define yourself – don’t let anybody tell you who you are,” said Rose. “Define your values and know what you stand for. Noting that his own career, which began in investment banking, has been defined by risk and his natural curiosity, Rose, an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist, said, “write your own story – it is the greatest story you will ever tell. You can’t change the ending, but what happens in between where you are now and the end is up to you.”

Rose also advised graduates to cultivate an appreciation of family, friends, and community. “People matter. Relationships matter. Colleagues matter and friends matter. You will find that at times the only voice that understands and comforts will be that of a friend,” he said.
“Give voice to the voiceless”
Speaking on behalf of the JD class, Chris Richardson praised his classmates’ talent and service in fighting “for those imprisoned in Guantanamo, for the educational rights of children, and the legal rights of HIV/AIDS patients,” among many other activities and achievements. He asked his classmates to continue to “give voice to the voiceless.”

“Our obligation is to stand with those who cannot stand by themselves and to choose to cede that obligation is a betrayal, not only of our law degrees but a betrayal of our own selves,” said Richardson. “Such talent cannot be wasted just being ‘another lawyer.”

Recalling his mother’s comfort and support when, as a teenager, his life was threatened by cancer, Richardson told his classmates “that the end of the journey is nothing – what matters is the journey itself, and ultimately who stands with you on that journey.” In the face of challenge, focus on “what is truly important,” he added. “Learn to let go of those things you can’t control in order to live with those things you can. … I ask that you live as we cancer survivors have lived: You live for your own individual passions and not what the world tells you are your passions.”

Federico de Acheval, an attorney from Buenos Aires, spoke on behalf of the 75 international LLM graduates. While the academic rigor he found at Duke far exceeded his high expectations, what truly stood out was the accessibility of the faculty and administration and the strong friendships forged of a shared experience, he said. “This LLM was not only about studying law; more importantly, it was people, classmates and friends we met here and who we will never forget.” The privilege of a Duke degree also carries responsibility, de Acheval said. “We can never forget where we came from. Now, each of us has a more special duty to the people and futures of our countries.”
A “spectacular” class
Members of the “spectacular” Class of 2007 set records in terms of initiating top-level conferences, dedication to pro bono community service, moot court tournament victories, and the high quality of their journals. Dean Katharine T. Bartlett named these as just a few of their achievements in her remarks to 294 law graduates, and their friends and families at the Law School’s hooding ceremony May 12, in Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.

“No class has put more energy and creativity into the summer public interest fellowship program, or taken more seriously the class gift effort,” said Bartlett. “This class led the University’s Hurricane Katrina relief efforts and won bar association awards for various student activities. Bottom line: No class before has exhibited more leadership, more engagement, or a greater sense of community.”

Bartlett urged the graduates to be generous with the valuable “currency” of their legal training. “I hope … that no matter in what arena you use your legal training, you’ll do your part to give access to the legal system to those who would not otherwise have it,” she said, also encouraging them to “recognize and absorb the value of other, complementary currencies” – those of compassion, honesty, generosity, creativity, hard work, imagination, and public spiritedness, as well as of creating strong communities and families. “It takes these values, as well as your knowledge of law and how to apply it, to make you successful not only at making a living, but at living a meaningful life,” she said.