PUBLISHED:May 13, 2009

Hooding ceremony speech: Emmanuel Ceusters LLM '09

Thank you very much, Dean Levi.

Dear members of the faculty, distinguished guests, Dean Horowitz, Dean Maher, Mrs. Brown, ladies and gentlemen, fellow classmates,

To all of you, welcome or should I say bienvenue, wilkommen, bienvenIdos, benvenuti, Ahlan wa Sahlan, huan ying, an nyung ha sae yo or yo koso?

First of all, I am deeply honored to stand here in front of you tonight on this wonderful occasion.

I would specifically like to thank all our parents, friends, and loved ones who traveled here from the far corners of the earth. Personally, I thank my mother and two Belgian Duke alumni for making the long journey. And finally my thoughts go to my father who is watching down on me, for giving me the chance to be here.

[ Because] Today is not only a day to celebrate our own personal achievements. This graduation belongs as much to us as it does to our family, spouses, and loved ones. They have sacrificed as much as we have or maybe even more. Therefore, they deserve equal praise for their love and support.

Today is the apotheosis of a truly incredible journey. We arrived in August of last year as complete strangers to one another. Not even a year later, we are saying goodbye as close friends.

We came together celebrating each other’s values, embracing each other’s cultures and most importantly respecting each other’s differences. Seventy-six people from 35+ countries , sometimes at war which each other, shared ideas, studied together, and overcame the issues that divide their countries.
Together as a group, we lived through moments of profound joy and moments of extreme sorrow. What defines this LLM class is that there was always someone ready to share these sad or happy moments.

George Washington once said that friendship is like a plant that grows very slowly. Obviously, Georg Washington did not take the LLM degree because the bond of friendship that we built during this year is one that grew fast and firm.

It has been an amazing year for each and every one of us. Some traveled around the U.S., some participated in pro bono activities, some practiced competitive sports. Others participated in panels, others gave language classes, and others found love.

In addition to all this, it has been an exciting time to come to Duke this year. We benefited from the renovated law school, we watched how America’s hope for change became reality, and we experienced firsthand how Wall Street can affect Main Street.

Nobody really knows where they will end up after this LLM adventure, but one thing is certain: wherever we will travel, we will always find an open door. The same goes for our JD friends who in this current economic environment of deferrals could take advantage of the moment and visit people all around the world.

Today, in a sense, we become ambassadors for Duke all around the world. I am sure that this LLM class will carry out honorably and proudly the values of this great institution.

But what we will take away the most of this year, is the everlasting friendship that grew between us all. I sincerely hope that each and every one of us will treasure these friendships and that this deep rooted plant remains a stable tree for a long time.

Because at the end, this is all what matters.

It is a great honor to graduate with all of you.

Congratulations and thank you very much.