Students from Washington’s three law schools recently celebrated the culmination of their studies and hard work. Though the classes of 2018 come from a multitude of backgrounds, what they have in common is optimism and passion to take their newly learned skills into the community.
Below is a transcript of the graduate class student speaker Eric Liu, an Australian Lawyer who came to the University of Washington School of Law to earn his masters of laws degree.
Keep an eye on NWSidebar for speeches from other graduates.
University of Washington School of Law
Friends and family, faculty and distinguished guests, my fellow graduates, it is an honour to speak on behalf of the graduate students for the class of 2018. Today is a day of celebration; we celebrate that our hard works have finally paid off. This has been a tough but rewarding journey. But throughout this process, we were fortunate to have each other’s backs; the support of faculty and staff members; the mediocre coffee from Supreme Cup; and, for many of us, we also leaned on our friends and family overseas. Many of them are here tonight. And we couldn’t have made it without you all. So thank you.
Now we’ve earned our place to graduate at this beautiful Benaroya Hall, so what is next? You know when I told my then 13-year-old cousin Ethan, who is in audience today, that I was going to go to law school, he said “well, that means you’ll have no soul.” He may have been joking, but that does represent the perception of lawyers in some part of the society. Ethan, I hope you can change your mind after tonight.
This is the year of the #MeToo movement. We now know that powerful CEOs and executives, for years, abused the legal processes to silence women and supress sexual assault allegations. And it is hard to deny that lawyers played an integral part of that process. So what should we, the future lawyers, do to change our role in the system?
I found my answers and inspirations from my graduate classmates and my study at the law school. And it is one of morality, service, and community.
My graduate classmates are from all over the world. They are judges, prosecutors, professors, and lawyers. But it’s what they do and what they wish to pursue with the UW Law degree that truly inspired me. Huaxia from China, focused her P.h.D. work on institutionalizing global economic and environmental governance, and she is committed to imparting all of her knowledge to educate the next generation of lawyers. Adaobi from Nigeria is a director of an NGO that provides legal defence and assistance; with the study here, she will continue to help improve access to justice in her country. Sarah, all the way from Maple Valley, Washington, conducted her research on displacement of people due to climate change, and she will be continuing her passion to build coalitions to defend the environment and combat climate change.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of the amazing cohort of my graduate classmates. They all came with a mission to bring changes to their community and empower individuals. But I also realize that changes do not have to take place through monumental projects. My time at the entrepreneurial law clinic had been invaluable. I remember assisting a mother of a newborn, who had a brilliant idea of a baby-care product. When we first met, she was overwhelmed with the business and legal obstacles. My teammates and I worked hard to make sure that we provided useful information to guide her through this process. After we presented our findings and memo, the mother emailed me later that night thanking us of providing her with a roadmap to move forward, but more importantly she wrote that she left the meeting optimistic and excited as to what is to come for her business venture.
It was a heartening moment and rewarding experience, having the privilege to help others, one at a time, we are making our community better and stronger. None of it would have happened if it weren’t for Professor Jennifer Fan’s tireless dedication and mentorship, and I thank her for her service.
These are the stories of UW Law that I have come across during my time here. The school teaches us to set a higher moral standard for ourselves, and how to conduct ourselves as a better lawyer and as a better person. It is sad to say goodbye to my friends, but I know that we will stay connected. When we walk out of this law school, we will be the ambassadors of UW Law and everything it stands for. We’ve worked hard to get to where we are today, I am so proud of us. Now it’s time for us to go out there, and be the best lawyers we aspired to be. Congratulations, class of 2018. Thank you!