Law graduates encouraged to embrace life’s callings

Randall L. Kennedy, the commencement speaker at Northeastern University’s School of Law graduation ceremony on Friday, urged the more than 240 graduates to embrace the many opportunities they will face throughout their careers, and in their personal lives.

“Be willing to pursue a variety of callings that can enable you to do good and have fun,” Kennedy said. “To the fullest possible extent, do what you want to do.”

Kennedy, the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, advised graduates to find inspiration from the distinguished careers of two Northeastern law school professors—Margaret Burnham, founder of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project; and Michael Meltsner, the George J. and Kathleen Waters Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law, whose career includes work for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in the 1960s and being a novelist and playwright.

Kennedy, a leading scholar on race issues, recognized Burnham and Meltsner for their relentless work during the civil rights movement and in the years following to correct injustices.

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University leaders, faculty, staff, family, and friends joined the graduates in celebrating the Class of 2014 at commencement, held at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena.

In his welcoming remarks, Jeremy Paul, dean of the School of Law, told the graduates their education as lawyers does not end at graduation, and they will need to stand up to injustices against core values such as growing income inequality and corruption of public discourse that prevent thoughtful debate.

“You came to Northeastern University because you wanted to make a difference, and you are already doing so,” Paul said. “You have learned to think like lawyers. You are well prepared for the path ahead.”

Indeed, the law school graduates collectively amassed a vast amount of real-world experience while at Northeastern. As a whole, the Class of 2014 logged more than 320,000 hours of clinical work, and 89 percent of graduates did at least one public interest co-op.

In his charge to graduates, Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, told Northeastern’s newest alumni that they will be sought by others for guidance throughout their careers, no matter what type of law they practice. “Have confidence in your leadership and problem-solving skills, but season your acts with compassion,” he said.

Deirdre Foley, L’14, one of four student speakers, recognized her fellow graduates’ hard work to navigate the high demands of a law school education. “For many of us, this stage of our journey was wrought with stress, confusion, doubt of ourselves, of our choices,” she said. “But we made it through to the other side. We discovered a new meaning to the phrase “work ethic,” we dug down, and we got it done.”

Isaac Borenstein, L’75, a lecturer of law, delivered the annual faculty address.

“You’ve done a tremendous job in getting through law school,” said Borenstein, a former judge for Lawrence District Court and the Massachusetts Superior Court who has presided over more than 400 trials. “It’s a hard journey and for that we celebrate you.”