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UConn Law Commencement 2018: Dean Timothy Fisher Speech

UConn Law Commencement 2018: Dean Timothy Fisher Speech

Thank you, Dean Chill. It is my pleasure to
welcome you to the 95th Commencement of the University of Connecticut School of Law. We are graced this morning by many distinguished guests. And I would like to introduce them,
and welcome those seated with me on the platform. In the back row, from your right are: Ms. Christine Savino, student member of the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees. Dr. Michelle Williams, associate vice president for research for the University. Dr. Davita Silfen Glasberg, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Dr. Jennifer Lease Butts, assistant vice provost for enrichment programs and director of the Honors Program for the University. Dr. Lloyd Blanchard, associate vice president for budget and planning for the University. Ms. Lisa Darr Rodino, registrar for the School of Law and hero to every one of you students. And Dr. Robert Birmingham, professor of law and mace bearer. In the front row to your right: Mr. Paul Chill, associate dean for clinical and experiential education and clinical professor of law and marshal. Mr. Christine Jean-Louise, class of 2008, president of the University of Connecticut Law School Alumni Association. Dr. Craig Kennedy, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs for the University. The Honorable Cornelia T. L. Pillard, Judge of the United States Appeals Court for the District of Columbia circuit and our distinguished speaker for today’s ceremony. and Ms. Darcy Kirk,
associate dean for academic affairs, associate dean for library and technology, distinguished
professor of law and law marshal. Welcome class of 2018, what a great day. You made it! So think of all you’ve been through: the shock and awe of that first semester. Late nights in the library, cold calls in class. And for many of you not only learning new
laws, but working in a new language and in what has been for most of you a very different
classroom culture. But look what you have to show for it. For now you have the capacity to change the world. In fact, you’ve already done so much in that direction. You’ve resolved tax problems for low income people. You’ve prepared estate plans for the elderly. You’ve counseled
rape victims. You’ve obtained patents and trademarks for local inventors. You’ve clerked for judges. Worked clerked for the state legislature and state agencies. You’ve conducted fundraising
to support students service projects. You’ve conducted trials, argued appeals already yourselves. You’ve been advocating for abused and neglected children. And you spent spring break in a
federal detention center, helping immigrants who face deportation to places that put their lives at risk. What this reflects is something fundamental about you. That during your time here you have transformed yourselves from students to professionals And so we proudly
launch you into your new careers. But these times are different. For you have a different challenge. Because the system, that you have been trained to support is under attack itself,
like never before. There are powerful voices assailing the independence of the judiciary
in our country. Some even threatening impeachment of entire groups of judges based on a single
decision. This is not just an attack on justice, this is an attack on your future. For you have invested heavily in learning the rules that govern the ordering of society and the resolution of disputes. And if we’re told that judges should only follow those rules that benefit one particular side or one ideology, then the rules you have studied and worked so hard on become elusive. We know where this leads because it has happened elsewhere. When you look at the world, and you think of the best and worst places on earth to live, you see that what distinguishes them is whether the law is present and whether the law is strong. When it is not, society becomes corrupt, and at its worst violent and miserable. So you have no alternative but to fight to keep our system of laws intact to form the bedrock of our society. But you are up to this challenge. We know who you are. We know you from your
time here, your tremendous energy, your good spirits, your willingness to hear and embrace new
ideas coming form people who are very different from you. Even your student organizations
have shown the way, collaborating from across opposite ends of the spectrum of ideas on joint programs, to illuminate the questions we all must grapple with. You serve as an
example to our entire country on how opposing perspective don’t advance by denegrating each
other, but rather, by working together to explore and find the truth. So you’re just getting started. In fact, many of you have already taken jobs that will continue in this great tradition of public service. Jobs legal aid. At city corporation councils’ office, for the judge advocate general of the U.S. Military. As well as clerkships in state and
federal courts. And at the same time those of you who are going into private practice
will find countless ways to carry out our profession’s ethic of public service. What does this say about you? As Dumbledore said to Harry: “It is our choices that reveal who we are far more than our abilities.” And through your service, tradition of service here, that spirit and the choices you are making now that show us who you really are. And you make
us so proud. So, don’t be strangers. You are our success stories, and the more we see and
hear from you the happier we’re going to be. Fortunately, you have elected a class secretary
who will be your official representative with us on alumni relations and who will help to organize
your first reunion five short year from now. Congratulations Sarah Boneautto. Where are you Sarah? Stand up Sarah! Where are you? There she is! At this moment, I want to acknowledge
an outstanding member of our faculty we lost this year. Professor Robert Whittman, who
taught generations of students at this law school, starting in the 1960’s And I also want to remember a member of this class who is not with us today, Will McLaughlin. We lost Will last year. With his passing lost a beautiful spirit that we will remember forever. Please join me in a moment of silence in his memory. Before closing, we should all tip our hats
to the great faculty who have done so much to get you to this day. You have no idea how hard it is to teach a good law class. And you probably never have and never will find
teachers of this quality in your lives. So please join me in giving them a big thank you. Let us also acknowledge the staff who’ve cared for you, in many ways that you know, but many others that you couldn’t ever even see. Including a special thanks to the facilities
team. It is thanks to them that we have this beautiful campus and this great event today, including a dry floor. Thank you guys. Yes! And also to the staff team that worked tirelessly
to make possible this complex choreographed ceremony: Donna Gionfriddo; Deb King; Lisa
Rodino; and Jeanne Leblanc. Thank you guys. Class of 2018, we’re going to miss you. So, stay in touch. Answer Sarah’s emails and texts, for you’re always going to be a part of our community. You’ve received this education thanks to the generosity of others who provided this community of scholars and teachers for you. Your chance is coming now to make a
difference and pay it forward to the next generation, each of you in your own way. Class of 2018, the faculty of the University of Connecticut School of Law and I salute you. We acknowledge and honor the hard work you have done to reach this moment. Congratulations to you. I now have honor of introducing our commencement speaker, Judge Cornelia Pillard. Judge Pillard is a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, often referred to as the second-highest court in
the country. Her role as a court of appeals judge is just the current crown of an extraordinary
career of achievements. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Judge Pillard attended Yale
College then Harvard Law School. After clerking for Judge Lewis Polluck of the Eastern
district of Pennsylvania, she started her legal career as a public interest lawyer. First at the ACLU and then at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Until 1994 when she was appointed
assistant to the solicitor general of the United States and served as deputy assistant
attorney general in the Department of Justice. During her years in practice, she argued nine
cases before the United States Supreme Court and briefed 25 others. Among the highlights
of her advocacy career were two in particular. The case that opened the Virginia Military
Institute to women and the case that sustained the constitutionality of The Family Medical Leave Act. Her career continued as a member of the faculty Georgetown Law School, where she was co-director
of the Georgetown Law Supreme Court Institute and innaugural academic co-founding director
of Georgetown’s Center for Trans-national Legal studies in London. Since her appointment
and confirmation to the Court of Appeals, she’s participated in many decisions of national
import. While her accomplishments tell us much about Judge Pillard, perhaps one of the
most telling tributes to her: at the time she was being considered for her current position,
was from the superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute, who was on the losing
side of her argument and her argument in that case. He said that while he was opposed to
the integration of the school at the time, he now sees it as the Virginia Military Institute’s
finest hour. And what he said was that he’s impressed by Pillard’s then, now Judge Pillard’s
fairness and rigor, and that she comported herself with integrity and understanding,
qualities that distinguish the best judges at all levels. Ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased to welcome
as our Commencement keynote speaker: United States court of appeals Judge Cornelia Pillard.

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