On Friday, May 11, 2018, the University of Colorado Law School celebrated the commencement of the Class of 2018. The ceremony recognized 194 JD graduates and seven Master of Studies in Law (MSL) graduates (these include December 2017, spring 2018, and projected summer 2018 graduates).
The ceremony included remarks by Dean S. James Anaya, former Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett ('82) (and recipient of the Honorary Order of the Coif), and Colorado Supreme Court Justice Melissa Hart. The ceremony also included a traditional honor song performed by the Standing Bear Singers drum group.
Student speakers were class president Benjamin Hand-Bender, vice president Stephanie Minutillo, secretary Megan Deaton, and treasurer Riley Cutner, who also presented the class gift: a picnic table for the Gilbert Goldstein Plaza outside the Wolf Law building.
Congratulations to the Class of 2018!
Good morning. As the Dean of the University of Colorado Law School, it is my privilege to welcome you to the commencement ceremony honoring the Class of 2018. Every single member of this class has worked hard to get to this day. Congratulations to all of you.
At the outset, I’d like to extend a special welcome to our commencement speaker, the honorable Justice Melissa Hart of the Colorado Supreme Court and a longtime professor at the law school. I’d also like to welcome and acknowledge former Boulder County District Attorney and Colorado Law alumnus Stan Garnett, who is being made an honorary member of the Order of the Coif; and Darla Daniel, president of the Colorado Law Alumni Board. Welcome.
Today, we gather to celebrate the members of the Class of 2018 and to witness the conferral upon them of the Juris Doctor degree. We also celebrate those graduates who are receiving the Master of Studies in Law degree.
I’d like to open this celebration around four words: gratitude, love, service, and joy.
Gratitude. We express gratitude for the family and friends of those graduating today. Graduates, you share this celebration with your families and friends. Those who are here and could not be here—they have supported you and share in this accomplishment. Many of them made sacrifices with you and for you to get to this day. In many cases those sacrifices have been profound, representing unconditional commitment and hope. In the tradition of many of you, thanks and honor are due as well to your ancestors of previous generations, who laid down the foundations of wisdom, inspiration, and opportunity for the path to this day. As we approach Mother’s Day, I also want to especially acknowledge all of the mothers who are with us, including those of you who are both mothers and graduates.
Graduates, let the presence of family and friends help us remember where we come from. Where we are from—that is the place and people—will provide us important bearings as we continue to develop as professionals and human beings. Years ago when I left New Mexico to go off to law school on the East Coast, my grandmother told me, “No te olvides de donde vienes, porque solo asi podras realmente saber quien eres mientras caminas en la vida.” – Don’t forget from where you come, because only in that way can you truly know who you are as you walk through life.
At this time, I’d like to ask all the family and friends of our graduates to please stand and be acknowledged, and to allow these graduates and the rest of us to express our thanks to you with a round of applause.
Thanks are also due to the student and class leadership, in particular the officers of the Student Bar Association and the officers of the class of 2018. It’s been my pleasure to work with the SBA officers, especially class member Nicolas Flavio Cordova who served as president of the SBA over the past year. Several other members of the class of 2018 served as SBA officers in previous years.
I’d also like to acknowledge the dedicated officers of the class of 2018, from whom we’ll hear in a moment. They are class president Benjamin Hand-Bender, class vice president Stephanie Marie Minutillo, class secretary Megan J. Deaton, and class treasurer Riley Mikayo Cutner. Each of these individuals is an outstanding leader who exemplifies the kind of service commitment that we promote at Colorado Law and that makes us all proud. Please join me in a round of applause for our SBA and Class of 2018 officers.
And of course thanks go to our faculty. Without our distinguished faculty, none of this would be possible. They are the backbone of this institution. For three years, they challenged you to think differently, to learn, and to lead. Our faculty members enrich the lives of our students and serve the profession and the larger community in innumerable ways. Their research and scholarship are beacons of wisdom that shine across the legal profession throughout the country and in many cases around the globe.
Special recognition goes to Professor Charles Wilkinson, who is retiring this year. Professor Wilkinson is a legendary teacher, author, and friend to many. He has inspired generations of students and countless colleagues and others. Charles, you are a treasure to Colorado Law, as well as to the world around you. Congratulations on your well-deserved retirement.
I’d also like to recognize Professor William Boyd who will be leaving our faculty to join UCLA School of Law. While at Colorado Law he has contributed greatly to our educational and scholarly community. We wish you the best, William, and we look forward to staying connected through friendships and through common endeavors in knowledge.
Finally, gratitude is due to the law school staff, who in many ways, and through a host of different vocations and tasks, support the law school and our mission. The members of our staff are first rate, and their dedication and commitment can be seen on a daily basis.
I ask all the members of the faculty and staff who are present to now stand. This includes all those members of the staff who are in the audience. Please join me in expressing thanks to the members of the renowned faculty and the staff of the University of Colorado Law School.
Love and service. The love of family and friends finds a fitting companion in the bonds of love that have formed among the members of the class of 2018 during their time here. The love I speak of is not the intimate romantic kind—although I’m sure a good bit of that has been formed—nor do I refer only to the love of close friendships that have been forged—and of course, friendships that will carry into the future abound in this class. Rather, I speak of the love that can bind all those sharing a common experience with overarching solidarity and caring. I am continually struck by manifestations of solidarity and love among the students at Colorado Law. Our students defy the stereotypic cutthroat law student behavior that lives at other law schools. In the often challenging march toward graduation, acts of kindness overshadowed contention among the Class of 2018.
The members of this class came from different backgrounds to Colorado Law, formed a bond of mutual support, built an identity around solidarity, rallying at times to support those facing hardship, and pausing to rejoice in each other's successes. That is love, and it should be cherished, repeated, and amplified throughout life.
Love of this kind carries into other shared experiences and into the broader community, and in doing so it animates service in various ways. Alongside working toward their degrees, the members of the Class of 2018 collectively contributed thousands of hours of unpaid service. They lobbied successfully for the passage of a new bill that requires the state to give college credits to veterans for parts of their military experience; traveled to Texas to assist with recovery efforts after the flooding in Houston; helped farming communities in the San Luis Valley to secure and exercise water rights that predate Colorado statehood; assisted undocumented immigrants in detention and incarcerated youth; provided direct legal assistance to transgender Coloradans with name and gender marker changes; and organized a symposium to examine the social justice implications and opportunities of technology. This is just a small sampling of the countless service activities of the Class of 2018.
Graduates, as you go forward in your careers, I trust that you will to continue to act on a spirit of service to the public and the needy, consistent with the values embedded in our profession and wisdom handed down over time. Shawnee Chief Tecumseh said, "Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people."
Many of you will go on to jobs with nonprofit organizations or in government service, but not all or even most of you will. In all cases, however, our profession values service and engaging in pro bono activities. And whatever job you may have, it is likely to entail skills and influence that can be called to service and that bear upon pressing issues of our day in one way or another.
We live in complex times in which injustices are rearing their heads in sometimes unexpected ways. The rise of incidents of racially motivated violence is but one scourge. The call to service is a call to confront injustice when we can, and as lawyers or future lawyers, we can. It is about all of us. Recall the words of Dr. Martin Luther King who said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
Joy. The law is a profession of service, as well as a profession of opportunity. The profession allows us a range of growth opportunities and lifelong learning. With these opportunities, learning and related rewards can come joy. Without joy we can only question what it’s all for. High salaries, status, and fame are often measures of success. But they alone do not bring joy. I will not presume to give you a formula for how to achieve joy while being a lawyer or other professional. Ultimately, that is a question that only can be answered by each one individually. But what I will say is that the pursuit of joy, of happiness, should be central to our lives. And joy should be accompanied by an ethic of service, a giving of love, and a constant gratitude for those who love us.
Graduates, on this one occasion of joy, you pass from being a student to being an alumnus of the University of Colorado Law School. As you now advance in your lives as legal professionals and in new routines that don’t involve the Wolf law building, remember that you remain part of the Colorado Law community. We look forward to staying in touch with you.
In closing, best wishes to you, take in this moment of commencement of the rest of your life’s journey, look around you, and please take this opportunity to congratulate one another on an outstanding accomplishment.