Monday, March 24, 2008

Commencement Speaker Contest

The Monday before Spring Break, five graduating students, including the Stud, presented their speeches in the Commencement Speaker Contest. The turnout was very low; there were perhaps five graduating students other than the candidates and, for two of them, their girlfriends. Due to miscommunication from the media department, however, the speeches were not recorded, so the five candidates returned on Wednesday to tape their presentations individually in dedicated taping rooms. The links were sent out the next evening, just as students embarked on Spring Break. The votes were tallied through Monday of Spring Break; the Stud was not selected.

For those who might have missed it, the following is what the Stud presented:

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, administration and faculty, friends and family, and most importantly, the Class of 2008.

Well, this is it. This is the final stage of law school. You know, it seems like both yesterday and ages ago that Dean Yamamoto put on her smiley face dress and exhorted us with just one word: Mooch. And now, three years and many, many pizzas later, we have come to this, the penultimate pomp and circumstance. In their wisdom, the administration has chosen to hold this commencement just a little closer to the ocean. You know, before we lock ourselves up for two months to study for the bar. And it’s not even right on the ocean. It’s as if they’re preparing us for this feeling: “You’re getting close, but you’re not there just yet.”

Some of you may wonder what the heck I’m doing up here. I wasn’t in the top 10%. I didn’t make law review. Or the Byrne team. I didn’t even bother trying out for moot court. Perhaps the only achievement I can claim is, “that guy that kept sending out e-mails about Wit of Mandamus.” And like a true starving artist, I don’t even have a job lined up—which means that after today, not only do I have to look forward to two months of hard-core studying and three days of the bar, but after that, I’ll have to find a job.

In the days to come, when I’m in a suit under the hot August sun, pounding the pavement and knocking on doors, I’ll have plenty of time to think. I’ll have plenty of time to wonder.

  • I’ll wonder how my life would have been different if I had started outlining more than twelve hours before the first law school midterm. Maybe I would’ve gotten better than a B-.
  • I’ll wonder how my life would have been different if I had followed the formula in Legal Research and Writing, instead of the flourish of my own pen. Maybe I would’ve made law review.
  • I’ll wonder how my life would have been different if I had left myself open to opportunities in more fields than Intellectual Property. Maybe I would’ve found a job.

Maybe. Maybe.

But when such heavy thoughts weigh down on me, when my feet grow weary and I can’t knock on another door, when I’ve come home from another day of job-hunting, I will remember today, and I will look back on all my yesterdays. And I’ll be smiling.

I’ll be smiling because I’ll remember all the little things.

  • Little things like telling Professor Nockleby, at 8am, in the fourth week of law school, “You know, I just can’t do it; I was up until 4am reading for this class, and didn’t get to this last case.”
  • Little things like the first time my section went partying after the first midterm, and seeing the stress evaporate from my classmates.
  • Little things like seeing everyone again after a summer away.
  • Little things like dinner breaks with friends old and new during finals season.
  • Little things like free coffee—wonderful free coffee—during finals.
  • Little things like finding out that writing a decent paper for the upper division writing requirement was a lot less nerve-wracking, if not less stressful, than writing a decent memo for Legal Research and Writing.
  • Little things like getting enough Lexis points to get a new iPod nano.
  • Little things like standing up to speak for the first time during oral arguments at the end of first year and realizing that public speaking still makes my knees shake.

I’ll be smiling because I’ll remember all the big things.

  • Big things like the MPRE and wondering with friends right afterward if we’re going to have to do it again. Sounds like the future, doesn't it?
  • Big things like putting together a variety show chock full of people with a lot more talent than I can ever hope to possess.
  • Big things like my first call back, even if it was out-of-state, and even if the rejection letter was sent out the very next day.
  • Big things like studying abroad and getting to know people better in 2½ weeks than I ever thought possible.
  • Big things like trying out for commencement speaker.

And, most of all, I’ll be smiling because of all the people I’ve met.

  • People that studied with me.
  • People that drank with me. (You know who you are.)
  • People that lived with me.
  • People that performed with me.
  • People that laughed with me.
  • People that lifted me up by smiling at me at the end of a long day.
  • People that made me feel needed by leaning on my shoulder.
  • People that taught me that, no matter how crazy life here was, there was always room for the outside world, for work, for love, for friendship, for meaning.
  • In short, people that changed my life.

And so when I rest after a long day, no matter the heavy thoughts, I will reflect, and I will remember, that it is not so important, what could have been. What is important, what will carry me forward, what will make me smile, is all that has been.

At the end of this day is a line marked simply, “J.D.” As we close today and cross that line, let us look to our left, and look to our right. You are my brother. You are my sister. We have bunked down in the trenches together. We have shared joys and sorrows. And we have experienced together what few other human beings will ever have a chance to do. Let us look on each other then, smile, and remember, that come what may, our lives have been changed over the last three years. Remember the little things, remember the big things, but most of all, remember those that have shaped our lives.

To the administration and faculty, to our dear friends and family, from all of us to all of you, thank you for being there for us.

And to the Class of 2008, from me to all of you, thank you for these last three years, and I’ll see you on the other side!

I'm sorry I won't be able to share these sentiments from behind the podium on graduation day; but they are here now, and to all those that changed my life these three years, thank you, and I hope you'll continue to shape my life after graduation.


Mad Minerva said...

Lovely speech! Hear, hear!

Bruce said...

Thanks Min!