On May 29, 2015, on Holmes Field, Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow congratulated the most recent Harvard law school alumni: 586 J.D.s, 167 LL.M.s and 8 S.J.D.s.
“Every student graduating today has traveled a remarkable journey to reach this moment,” she said. “You deciphered, you debated, you served, and you soared. You shoveled snow. You shoveled piles of words. You made this place and the law yours and the world will be better for it.”
Minow applauded the many accomplishments of Class of 2015 and she praised their activism against injustice: “You led teach-ins, die-ins, and active mobilization in response to police shootings and racial injustice, and participated in criminal justice reform work. Your work changes lives,” she told the graduates.
“I can say from experience, you ask amazing and important questions. You have learned how to assess yourselves, to reflect on what you’ve learned, and to consider what could be taught better and what can be done better. This will serve you well. For, as each year passes, you will increasingly have to rely on your own assessments rather than getting feedback from others.”
She encouraged the new alumni to be proud and honest and treat feedback as a gift. “Show gratitude. Bounce back from mistakes. And do not refrain from assessing in turn your boss, organizations, leaders, nations. And craft effective ways to express your views so they can be heard.”
Always a popular photo spot, the Harvard Law School sign (and sometimes bench) is even more popular at graduation. This time-lapse video, taken on May 28, condenses six hours of foot-traffic to and from Commencement ceremonies into two minutes.
Minow urged the Class of 2015 to be upstanders rather than bystanders. She said research shows that connections to others rather than ideology are most likely to motivate people to stand up against what’s wrong. She drew a lesson for the audience: “The friendships that you have made here and that you will make over the rest of your life will make it possible for you to do the right thing and for others to do so as well.”
“You can join with others to make it more possible for each next act of upstanding. We can each help to reduce fears of speaking out against what is wrong. We can come to recognize and combat denial, rationalization, and feeling overwhelmed. You have built amazing friendships here. That’s a resource,” she said.
“Now it is your turn. The Harvard Law School Class of 2015 will be the counsel for the situations to come. You will define what law, business, policy, politics and leadership will mean. Will you take risk? Will you grab opportunities? Will you be upstanders and not bystanders? Will you rebound from mistakes? Will you question assumptions? Your influence reflects what Harvard Law School is, who you are and who you will become.”
Read Dean Minow’s prepared remarks.