On May 12 in Bailey Hall, Stewart J. Schwab, the Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law, presided over the final convocation of Cornell Law School’s class of 2013.
Delivering the opening speech, Cornell University President David J. Skorton introduced a theme of duty that would run throughout the program, telling the class, “I look forward to learning of your use of these skills [obtained at Cornell Law] in your professions and in service to humanity.”
“Yes, we are Type A: argumentative and competitive,” admitted J.D. speaker Courtney Finerty, recalling a classmate who decorated his study carrel with a sign reading, “Somewhere, he is working while you are not, and when you meet, he will win.” But, she added, “we are also compassionate, driven, and loyal.” Finerty extolled the awesome power of lawyers "to make the actual law fuse with the just law," and told her fellow graduates, “I can’t think of a better group of people to go out and do it.”
Echoing her sentiments, LL.M. speaker Manasa Reddy Gummi reflected that “law school has trained us to be those people who are workaholics, who ask uncomfortable questions…but what we actually take away from here is the ability to look at both sides of a situation, to take a stand in difficult circumstances, to be passionate, to be compassionate, to work under extreme stress and forget about it the next day, and most importantly to make a difference.”
This term marked the twentieth anniversary of the Law School’s Capital Punishment Clinic, and faculty speaker John Blume, co-founder of the course as well as director of Clinical, Advocacy, and Skills Programs and the Cornell Death Penalty Project, remarked that teaching it has been the most rewarding professional experience of his life.
During a fervent speech on the egregious inadequacy of legal aid for the disadvantaged, Blume exhorted the graduates, “No matter where you are going, whether to work for a large firm or a small firm, whether to work for government or for a public interest organization, you have an obligation to help the poor.”
After lauding alumni who exemplify such service, including Neil Getnick ’78 (father of J.D. speaker Finerty), Peggy Lee ’96, Jay Waks ’71, Charlotte Lanvers ’07, and Emily Paavola ’05, Blume concluded, “Now go and take your place in the world. Stand tall. Stand tall for justice. May your shoulders be strong and broad for those that come after you. The moment has come, and it is now your time.”
Following Blume’s speech, John DeRosa, Assistant Dean for Student and Career Services, recognized the graduates individually.