232 Graduates Honored at Memorial Day Commencement Ceremonies
“When these 232 individuals have completed their academic requirements, they will be, quite simply, the finest new law graduates on the planet this year… At all the graduations in all the towns in all the world this spring, there is only one place that gets to say that, and happily, it is us.”
Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh’s pride in the Class of 2008 was evident in his remarks to graduates during commencement ceremonies on May 26, Memorial Day.
Dean Koh welcomed family, friends and faculty gathered in the sun-filled Law School courtyard shortly after noon, recognizing them for their devotion and dedication to the 232. In keeping with the day, he paid tribute to deceased U.S. military veterans who “paid what Abraham Lincoln called that ‘last full measure of devotion,’” and he honored those in the audience—including members of the graduating class—who served alongside them. A moment of silence followed.
Dean Koh recounted some of the major accomplishments of the graduates and reminded them “that the role of lawyers is to be leaders; that accomplishment alone, without humility, is tragic; and that excellence alone, without humanity, is worthless.”
“Don’t forget to work for those who need you the most because it is the duty of the most privileged to serve the least privileged,” he said. “And please, never ever let your skill exceed your virtue.”
Dean Koh then turned things over to Deputy Dean Jonathan Macey ’82 and left for an important appointment over at Beinecke Plaza, where his daughter Emily was graduating from Yale’s Jonathan Edwards College.
After a humorous introduction in which he expressed delight in addressing students “temporarily unarmed and unencumbered by laptop computers,” Deputy Dean Macey, who is also Sam Harris Professor of Corporate Law, Corporate Finance, and Securities Law, spoke of “three of the most critical things every lawyer should have: gratitude, courage, and an understanding of the world we live in today.”
The announcement of degree candidates followed—203 Juris Doctor (JD) degrees, 25 Master of Laws (LLM), 3 Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD), and 1 Master of Studies in Law (MSL).
Guido Calabresi Professor of Law at Yale Law School Kenji Yoshino ’96, chosen by the class to deliver the commencement address, spoke next.
He urged students to move toward the Promised Land of a society characterized by dignity, equality, and liberty, striving for a “career rather than a job,” and a “calling rather than a career.”
Professor Yoshino, who is leaving Yale Law School for NYU, ended his remarks on an emotional note, saying it was impossible to sum up what his years at Yale Law have meant to him.
“Today, my heart is full of gratitude,” he said. “I thank my teachers who sit behind me for letting me learn from them, and my students who sit before me for letting me teach you. Less intuitively, but perhaps more importantly, I thank my teachers behind me for letting me teach them, and my students before me for letting me learn from you.”
Also addressing the graduates was Carla Hills ’58, chair and chief executive officer of Hills & Company, International, and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Ford Administration. Hills, who received an honorary degree earlier in the day from Yale University, pointed out that the day’s festivities were taking place exactly fifty years after her own graduation ceremony from Yale Law School.
Hills congratulated the graduates and said she would henceforth consider herself a member of the Class of 2008.
“Go forth and conquer the world,” she told them, after offering a single piece of advice. “Select those opportunities that capture both your heart and mind. Love what you do and you will do it better.”