More than 700 graduates, several with their young children in tow, walked across the stage in a nearly full Smith Center to receive their Juris Doctorate and advanced law degrees Sunday afternoon at the GW Law School diploma ceremony.
Mary L. Schapiro, the first female head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, urged the graduates to aid and advocate for those less fortunate as the ceremony’s keynote speaker.
Schapiro, who graduated from GW Law in 1980, said although the graduates have earned the right to celebrate their accomplishments, they cannot forget those who continually struggle to pick themselves up by their bootstraps in the United States and around the world today.
“I would like to ask you to consider devoting some of your considerable gifts to protecting and expanding opportunity here or where ever in the world your work is needed,” Schapiro said.
“Whatever the circumstances of our background or birth, as holders of a degree from one of America’s great law schools, we have been given the great advantage and the particular obligation to help others pick up their boots,” she added.
Schapiro said her words were not a suggestion to members of the graduating class to give up the careers they wish to pursue, but rather to find the human side of the law in their future endeavors.
“Think of it as a suggestion that as you pursue the science of the law, you discover its art as well. Look beyond your cases and career every now and then to remember how much good you can do,” she said.
Dean Frederick M. Lawrence echoed Schapiro’s sentiments of service to others in his closing address to students, encouraging students to serve others in their work.
“Remember that public service is not merely a branch of law, it is a way of life,” Lawrence said.
Graduate Tina Hu said that she learned important lessons from Schapiro’s speech.
“Beyond graduation, we should dedicate ourselves to bettering ourselves and helping the community,” Hu said.
Hu said she had a hard time believing that she was now the holder of a law degree.
“It feels surreal. I can’t really describe it. It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” she said.
At the ceremony, John Sorrenti, president of the Student Bar Association and member of the graduating class, presented the Distinguished Faculty and Staff Service Awards, which were voted on by the class of 2010. Professor Peter J. Smith received the faculty award, while information specialist Tamra Christopher was honored with the staff award.
Sorrenti also presented the Michael D. Cooley Memorial Award, also voted on by the class, which is given to the member of the graduating class who possesses the qualities of compassion, vitality and humanity. Aaron Joachim was the award recipient.
Graduate Anthony Bernard said he was proud to receive his degree, adding that his time in law school went by quickly.
“It feels good. It’s been a quick three years, but a satisfactory three years,” he said.