On May 12, the Cornell Law School class of 2018 met in Newman Arena for its final convocation. Graduates and their guests were greeted by Eduardo M. Peñalver, Allan R. Tessler Dean and professor of law, who delivered the opening address.
Peñalver told the graduates, “Honed by countless hours of arduous training, your minds are now superbly equipped to grapple with the most intractable legal puzzles. What are the boundaries of legally protected speech? What is the scope of personal jurisdiction in the Internet age? And, of course, a question I posed to you during orientation nearly three years ago: Is a burrito a sandwich?” Though such meticulous parsing is easy to mock, he observed, it reflects the lawyer’s serious commitment to equal justice and the rule of law, a commitment that, these days, is far from common and far from trivial.
Addressing the question of “What comes next?” J.D. speaker John Fitzgerald Ready noted, “Law school has made us comfortable with uncertainty… [W]e’ve learned to be humble about what we know, confident about what’s possible, and less afraid of things that just don’t matter.”
LL.M. speaker Marcel Nadal Michelman reflected on surviving cancer during the past term. The ordeal, he said, had motivated him to take advantage of his connections with his beloved classmates after graduation. He shared his plans to visit fellow graduates in more than a dozen countries.
The faculty speaker, chosen by the graduating class, was Saule Omarova, professor of law. Omarova grew up in Kazakhstan, then far behind the Iron Curtain, where, she said, the United States seemed completely unreachable. “I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been told, by many different people in many different situations, what I could and could not do, could and could not achieve, could and could not aim for,” she said. “And they always sounded so self-assured and all knowing. And they all were wrong.”
She urged the class of 2018, “Keep trying. Keep learning. Ask your questions. Find your answers. Most importantly, do your homework and own the results… We use our professional expertise not simply to make a living but to uphold the rule of law, pursue justice, and protect the core values of our society… We know you are up to the challenge, because if we didn’t know that, we wouldn’t let you graduate.”
Following Omarova’s speech, Markeisha Miner, dean of students, recognized the graduates individually before convocation attendees adjourned to Myron Taylor Hall for a reception.