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 from Benjamin Asare, the student speaker for the Gonzaga University School of Law.
The other speeches from recent graduates are all here, on NWSidebar.
Benjamin Awuku Asare
Gonzaga School of Law
Good Morning ladies and gentlemen! Dean Korn, thank you so very much for the kind and warm introduction; for I am forever grateful to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for his grace on top of grace. Dean Korn, on behalf of the Class of 2018, we would like to thank you for your dedicated leadership and service that you provided our institution, and specifically our class, during your tenure here as dean.
Family and friends, distinguished guests, welcome to today’s graduation ceremony. It is your presence here at today’s ceremony that makes today a special day.
Class of 2018, here we are! It is a day that each and every one of us has been looking forward to for quite some time, but now that we are here, I suspect that we want to hold on to the memories for just a little bit longer.
The role that I have today as student speaker is to provide voice to the memories of this class as well as recognize how this class arrived to this moment in time, graduation. Part of my role is also to showcase a bit of the personality of this class, and it is the latter that I will take up first, and take up with great delight.
You see, in my preparation for today’s remarks, many of my classmates approached me to share advice and extend comments on what they wanted today’s speech to be about, as well as how they thought I should conceptualize this moment. Many of the comments were quite comical, so I find it appropriate to share with you today. To our classmates who did make these comments, I will not say your name, but you know who you are. First, “do not put too much pressure on yourself Ben, we probably will not be paying attention anyways.” And second, “I will be happy with whatever you talk about, so long as you make your speech all about me.” The personality of this class will be deeply missed.
Class of 2018, I want to take us back to when this whole entire law experience began: Aug. 31, 2015. To the average ear this was an average day; but to our class, that was a significant day: orientation. It was a day that many of us laid eyes on each other for the first time. On that day we were but a face and a name. As time went on, we became a face, a name, and a hometown. Conversations became longer, we started to linger a bit after a class, and soon enough we started to understand each other’s interests and hobbies. Friendships were formed, alliances were drawn, but never at the expense of another student because it was this class that was committed to the success of others. This class was the most generous when it came to lending a study aid, ensuring that the classmates that we started off with were the classmates we would finish with.
One story that sticks out is our class preparation for our first law school final exam. To put this in context for our guests, our entire grade rested on this final exam. And to increase anxiety, we all recognized right around the same time, about a week before the final exam, that all the cases we were required to read, all the philosophical discussions we had in class, were not going to mean a whole lot for the exam. What was really going to matter was approximately 37 pages of detailed code out of the 1,300 pages of required reading. Now, in our professor’s defense, this revelation was articulated in our syllabus, but let’s be honest, who really reads the syllabus anyways?
Nonetheless, we persevered, showed teamwork, and made it out of the test alive.
We approached that 1L summer with a new level of confidence, many of us taking our educational experiences to countries in Europe and cities in China, while many of us stayed here in the United States refining our craft. We approached our 2L and 3L years in much the same fashion, and it was in those years that our friendships were solidified.
Now, in reflecting on these memories, the question I keep coming back to is, how did we as a class arrive to this moment in time, graduation, May 12, 2018? And I believe the answer implicates our audience members who are here today. I am convinced that each of us is here today because someone made a difference in our lives.
To the parent, who encouraged us to pursue our dreams and gave us the necessary self-esteem to achieve our dreams—they made a difference.
To the sibling, who showcased love towards us in only the special way that siblings can, by making us laugh and smile, and letting us know that everything will be alright—they made a difference.
To the relative or family friend, who would ask us the simple question, how is law school? Knowing that there was more to the answer that we provided them, but they were simply letting us know how proud they were of us—they made a difference.
To the spouse, significant other, and child who sacrificed beyond measure—they made a difference.
And to our professors, employers, or coworkers who challenged us to reach intellectual heights and succeed at the highest levels—they made a difference.
Granted, we are entering a profession where we are required to make a difference in the lives of our clients. But what I am speaking to is bigger than that. What I am speaking to, and something we can all recognize, is making a difference in the lives of others in the same way that was done for us.
So to our family, friends, and loved ones, we are eternally grateful for the love and support you have shown us through the years, and we will be forever indebted to you in gratitude.
To the dean, our professors, and the staff here at the law school, we want to thank you for treating us as attorneys from day one, and showing us the necessary dignity and respect along the way.
To our distinguished guests: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto [D-Nev] and the Honorable [U.S. District] Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson, we want to thank you for the message of your life and the inspiration you have provided to so many.
And to my classmates, thank you so much for the lasting friendships and memories that were formed during this 33-month experience. Thank you also for allowing me to speak on your behalf today on such a special occasion.
Although it will be said many times today, it can never be said enough, congratulations.