Congratulations Class of 2013!
On May 19, the Boston University School of Law community convened at the Agganis Arena for the 140th Commencement ceremony. The Honorable Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., the 46th solicitor general of the United States, delivered the Commencement speech and joined the graduates and their families in the celebration.
Following Solicitor General Verrilli's address, LL.M. student Dong Long and J.D. student Jared B. Cohen delivered two exceptional speeches. Having received their degrees, the 468 graduates mingled and rejoiced at a reception following the ceremony.
- Solicitor General Verrilli's remarks (video)
- About Solicitor General Verrilli
- Dong Long (LL.M. in American Law) Delivers LL.M. Student Address
- Jared B. Cohen Delivers J.D. Student Address
- Awards & Prizes
Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., is the 46th solicitor general of the United States. He was nominated by President Obama on January 26, 2011, confirmed by the Senate on June 6, and sworn in on June 9, 2011.
Verrilli previously served as deputy counsel to President Obama and as an associate deputy attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice. Prior to his government service, he was a partner for many years at Jenner & Block, where he co-chaired the firm’s Supreme Court practice. He handled numerous cases in the Supreme Court and the courts of appeals, including MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, which helped to establish principles guiding the application of secondary liability for copyright infringement to the electronic world; and Wiggins v. Smith, which established principles governing the right to effective assistance of counsel at capital sentencing.
Verrilli maintained an active pro bono practice throughout his career in private practice and received several awards for his efforts. He also taught First Amendment law as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law School from 1992 through 2008.
Verrilli received his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Columbia Law Review. He served as a law clerk to the Honorable J. Skelly Wright of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and to the Honorable William J. Brennan, Jr. of the United States Supreme Court.
Dong, originally from China, joined BU Law from Dalian Maritime University, where she earned her LL.B. in maritime law in 2012. While at BU Law, Dong focused her studies on International Business Practice. After BU, Dong hopes to combine her interest in corporate Law with her original focus on maritime law.
Good morning, Dean O’Rourke, Solicitor General Verrilli, distinguished faculty and staff, dear friends and families, J.D. colleagues, and my dear fellow LL.M.s.
Nine months ago, we embarked on a whole new journey that brought us to this wonderful city, and also to the discovery of its wonderful people.
Nine months ago, we embarked on a journey that opened doors to new ways of thinking, to diverse cultures, and to different legal approaches.
Nine months ago, we embarked on a journey that led to the sharing of this experience with both international and American LL.M.s, creating a global bond that we will always be proud of. It is also a bond that we can always rely on, starting from a couch to crash on in more than 30 countries all over the world!
This year, we have been lucky to gather at one of the most rewarding institutions for legal studies, in one of the strongest and most united cities in the United States.
This year, we have been blessed to study alongside the most brilliant legal practitioners, and the most respected legal scholars.
This year, we have been fortunate to tremble under the Socratic method; to learn to think dualism like never before; to interact with each other to the advancement of mutual understanding and mutual respect.
These past nine months have been truly unforgettable. Yes, there had been difficulties; there had been misunderstandings and uncertainties; there had been natural disasters and there had been terrorist attacks. Fresh and vivid in our minds is the tragic event that took place a little over a month ago at the Boston Marathon. It is not a pleasant subject, but I bring it up now to demonstrate that in these times of hardship, fear, and doubt, we’ve always had the support of our wonderful families, we could always turn to the staff of the LL.M. offices, and we also had each other. It brought out the best in Bostonians and united hearts of the world. Most importantly, it reminded us to reflect on the values of life, of humanity, of tolerance and understanding; it reminded us of what we can do, and what we have learned from this year, to shoulder the social responsibilities and make the world a better place.
The LL.M. year had been a fierce sprint in the lifelong race. When it all ends, we will move on with our lives and our careers, but we will miss cheering for the Red Sox and applauding for the Celtics; we will miss studying with J.D.s and dancing with DJs; we will miss reading law reviews and drinking at bar reviews; and… some of us may even miss complaining about the incessant New England rain!
Today is not an end. This is our commencement, the commencing of another journey. Where will this new journey take us nine months from now? Well, we will be tax attorneys in Switzerland, and judges in Thailand; we will be corporate counsels in China, and arbitrators in Argentina; we will be banking lawyers in Colombia, and mediators in Saudi Arabia! We will be in France, in Japan, in Germany, in Brazil, in Italy, inthe Dominican Republic, in the Netherlands, in Russia, in Singapore, here in the USA, and in every other corner of the world. We will be sharing the ideals of law and justice, we will be working to promote cross-cultural understanding, and we will be shouldering the social responsibilities given to us. But wherever we will be, you will be hearing about changes brought to this world by the people who have been shaped and defined by this year, here in Boston, at the Boston University School of Law, and from this truly exceptional LL.M. class of 2013.
Congratulations, and thank you.
Jared Cohen graduated from Cornell in 2008 with a degree in history. Before entering law school he worked in Washington, DC on the staff of Massachusetts Congressman Mike Capuano. During his time at BU Law Jared has competed in moot court, winning the Albers Competition as a 2L and representing BU in the ABA's National Appellate Advocacy Competition this spring. He served as an editor on the BU Law Review, which this January published his Note entitled "The Commonwealth's Right to 'Honest Services': Prosecuting Public Corruption in Massachusetts." Jared also participated in the Criminal Clinic, where he defended both adult and juvenile clients in court. After graduation, Jared will join the litigation department at WilmerHale in Boston.
Dean O'Rourke, esteemed faculty & staff, and my fellow Law GRADUATES.
I want to thank you all for giving me – someone with no special wisdom to impart whatsoever – the chance to speak this morning and to share the stage with the Solicitor General of the United States.
This is, obviously, a very momentous occasion – Solicitor General Verrilli has come all the way from Washington to join us... AND Adrian Taghdiri has come all the way from Los Angeles… It's truly a great honor to be here, and I'll try my best to follow the very distinguished speakers who've gone before me. Unfortunately I can really only promise you one thing: I don't think I've plagiarized this speech.
We must also thank all of the proud families and friends who have gathered here to support us all, just as they have at every point along the way. Now I'm guessing that most of you have, at some point or another, spent time and spoken with a law student who was in the midst of his or her legal education. If not, then you might be at the wrong ceremony...But for those who have had to endure that: I'm very sorry; and I'd like to apologize on behalf of all our kind. Hopefully you've at least learned an interesting thing or two about law students. For example, you might have learned that a Note is actually a little bit more than just some scribbles on a Post-It. You've probably also learned that one of the things that we do best is complaining.
We complain about our lack of sleep and our busy schedules;
-about huge, expensive textbooks and overbearing professors – professors who may or may not be the best in the nation according to the Princeton Review...
-we complain about bad weather and mounting debt; and about how much better off the world would be if our judges and politicians were only half as smart as we are;
-here at BU we also complain about going to school in a building that looks like a charming collectivist housing block for Soviet laborers in 1980s Leningrad -- or, as some others have eloquently described it, a 17-Floor Utility Basement; and finally, we might occasionally complain about the wonderful construction and building project that looks to be completed just in time for us to be long gone.
But none of that today.... Today we're graduating and moving on to bigger and better things. We're moving on from being law students to being LAWYERS… if you skip for a moment that whole BAR Exam thing. So rather than dwell on our complaints and grievances like practiced law students, it seems much more appropriate, as newly anointed LAWYERS, to instead focus on how great we all are!
Seriously, though – since this is the part of the speech where I should transition from the facetious to the sincere – I think it's worth taking a moment to recognize and acknowledge, despite all the very real obstacles ahead, how fortunate we are in this moment, right now, when you consider all the alternatives, to be going off into the community as lawyers, with degrees from this great University. Not because we're guaranteed any minimum of success, fame, or fortune.
We are lucky because – like it or not – we are going to be entrusted with responsibility for navigating and even making, the rules that our society lives by. We're going to be expected to do great things, whether or not we ever set out to, and people will rely on us, whether or not we ever asked them to. Most of all, we're lucky because we've actually been given the tools to justify that trust, expectation, and reliance. And we have the opportunity to use them.
We each came to law school for different reasons, and we've spent our 3 years in amazingly different ways. And while I think it's fair to say most of us still have at least some interest in the law... it's obvious that we're going to pursue careers on diverse and divergent paths. Very soon, our friends and classmates are going to be prosecutors and public defenders; corporate counsel and litigators; law clerks & businessmen; politicians, lobbyists, and public interest advocates; defender of the powerful and defenders of the little guy. In all these roles – in public service and in our private pursuits – we will have an impact; we will inevitably influence the circles we inhabit. And in that modest, incremental way – whether we intend to or not – we will change our society, for better or for worse.
There is no doubt that life occasionally presents extraordinary crises and terrible trials that we must do our best to be prepared for. We’ve learned this only too well so recently, with the terrorist attacks that tore through the heart of our City and our BU Community. But the fact is, those occasions are rare. More likely, and certainly more often, the trials we face are ordinary and relatively small, and when we undergo them day after day, they can seem trivial and inconsequential.
So how shall we respond to these challenges – the great ones and the small ones that confront us every day?
It’s common in our generation to be cynical and ironic – to be detached and removed from events around us, to be sarcastic and to mock – we all do it. And I will certainly grant you: it's easy to be cynical about a lot of things these days. Sometimes it's warranted, and sometimes it just helps us get through it all.
But I think we need to fight the urge to be cynical about our professional lives in the law. We won’t always be able to move mountains and change the world, but that doesn't mean we give up the small fights, the everyday battles. The subtle, incremental change that we ARE going to make – that's something. It might even be everything. We cannot let our observations of cynicism in others lead us to debase ourselves and demean our own ambitions. We have our own standards to live up to. As lawyers we must accept the challenge of engaging the world as it is - both on its terms, and on our own.
When we face up to the complexities and ambiguities the real world presents day after day, we may concede, we may compromise – and we should – but we canNOT surrender to circumstances and give up the challenge of staying engaged, and staying involved in the things that matter. I know that we didn't reach this point, and work as hard as we've worked to get here, just to now choose a path of least resistance.
We did it so that we could control our own lives and destinies, but we can only achieve that through continued commitment and sincere effort. Because the moment we tune out, disengage and sarcastically scorn our surroundings, we lose the power to shape them. And that is the path we should most fear to go down!
Looking out at this incredible group of people I've gotten to know over the past 3 years, I feel like we’re all still in something together – something important… we’re a group of people who have conquered one set of challenges, only to be rewarded with a whole set of new ones. Not so much challenges that culminate in grand, do-or-die tests, but more the kind that accumulate, and require us to act and to make choices every day for the rest of our lives. It’s a little daunting… because we’re never done; we’re never “in the clear”… but that’s OK – because at the end of the day, I’d rather be in the action, anyway.
What further reassures me is that I know most of you feel the same way – so none of us will be in it alone. We have our friends and alumni for support, if we use them – which we absolutely should.
And as we take a break today to celebrate a very real and very proud accomplishment, I’m confident about our ability to face the challenges that will present themselves tomorrow, and the next day, and every day after that – because I know we are all up to the task.
Sebastian Horsten Prize for Academic Achievement, to the LL.M. in American Law student who has achieved the highest cumulative average in the class of 2013: Beatrice Botti
American Law Outstanding Achievement Award, for excellence in academic achievement, honorable conduct and contributions to the class: Christian Alberto Molina Estevez
Graduate Tax Program Academic Achievement Award, for the highest cumulative average in the class of 2013: Eric G. Kevorkian
Ernest M. Haddad Award, to the graduating Graduate Tax Program student who best exhibits overall ability, taking into consideration academic achievement, character and potential to serve the public interest: Joseph E. Hunt, IV
A. John Serino Outstanding Graduate Banking and Financial Law Student Prize, for overall performance, in terms of academic achievement and dedication to the highest standards of scholarship and service: Jean-Philippe Joyal and Vasileios Krokidis
Dennis S. Aronowitz Award for Academic Excellence in Banking and Financial Law, for the highest cumulative average in the class of 2013: Kerem Tayhac Sagocak
Faculty Award for Academic Accomplishment, for the most scholarly progress in the third year: Jacqueline S. Rogers
William L. and Lillian Berger Achievement Prizes, for exemplary scholastic achievement: Alexander Clark Barrett and Amin Danai
Faculty Award for Community Service, for exceptional dedication to the ideals of community service: Julia A. Hall and Kristen M. Wekony
Peter Bennett Prize, to the graduating third-year J.D. law student receiving the highest grade point average for that year: Adrienne M. Zack
Spencer R. Koch Memorial Award, for outstanding contributions to achieving the goals of the Esdaile Alumni Center through alumni outreach: Christine D. Han
Honorable Albert P. Pettoruto Memorial Award, for excellence in the field of Probate or Family Law: Emily N. Strauss
Melville M. Bigelow Scholarship Award, to a member of the graduating class who shows the greatest promise as scholar and teacher in law: Beaudre D. Barnes
Warren S. Gilford Humanity and Law Prize, to a student who shows humanitarian interest in law, primarily by taking a job in the public sector after graduation: Rachel Julia Smit
Alumni Academic Achievement Award, for the highest cumulative average in the three-year program of law study: Amber Michelle Charles
Sylvia Beinecke Robinson Award, for a significant contribution to the life of the School of Law: Brian Michael Balduzzi
Dr. John Ordronaux Prize, awarded to a member of the graduating class for the most exemplary academic performance and leadership: Amber Michelle Charles
Michael Melton Award for Excellence in Teaching is named for a longtime faculty member who taught in the tax area and was director of the Graduate Tax Program, who died in 1999 at 53: Associate Professor Lilian V. Faulhaber
John Stephen Baerst Award for Excellence in Teaching, named for the former director of the Morin Center for Banking and Financial Law (now the BU Center for Finance, Law & Policy), who died in 2006: Lecturer in Law Mark K.W. Gim
William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professorships are the highest honor bestowed upon senior members of the University’s faculty who are involved in research and scholarship, as well as in the civic life of the University: Professor Keith N. Hylton