Messages of Inclusion, Passion, and Determination Infuse Senior Day Ceremony
By Jenny Whalen
May 13, 2013
Wherever life may lead, be a champion for a more inclusive America, outgoing U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, '81, bid graduates of the Michigan Law Class of 2013 Sunday afternoon.
"The University of Michigan—this Law School—has been a beacon of our world and future because it is standing up for the concept that we are an inclusive America," Salazar told seniors gathered at Hill Auditorium. "Our nation has become much more diverse. Our nation has become much more global in its commercial activity," and diversity will be key to its social and economic success in the future.
He urged graduates who have an interest in issues such as immigration and border security to get involved and cautioned them against the creation of policies that would create a second-rate class of citizens or build walls at America’s borders.
Salazar’s message of inclusion resonated with LLM Conor O’Hanlon, who spoke personally of the warm reception he received upon arriving at Michigan Law last fall. Exhausted after nearly a day of travel from his native Ireland, O’Hanlon found himself immediately welcomed into the Law School’s Phid House with a handshake and a smile.
"That spirit of welcome is something I have been appreciative of ever since," said O’Hanlon, who was elected to speak on behalf of 27 LLM students, eight International Tax LLMs, and two SJDs. "Thank you JDs for welcoming us to your tailgates, your study groups, and your homes. Your hospitality is a credit to yourselves."
And though he joked that the cultural differences which translate football into soccer and remove "u" from the word "color" proved at times difficult to navigate, he added that the School’s innate sense of community has truly made "the Michigan Difference" for international students like himself.
"We will take with us memories that will last us a lifetime," O’Hanlon said. "Remember, you can say ‘Go Blue’ in more than one language."
As the elected JD speaker, Terrill Wilkins echoed O’Hanlon’s sentiments of community, but expanded that definition to include individuals outside the Law School.
"We are all here to some extent because of the family and friends who believed in us even when we weren’t sure we believed in ourselves," said Wilkins, who is the first in his family to have graduated college, let alone earn an advanced degree.
Noting the many challenges that lay ahead, Wilkins implored his peers to not let "healthy skepticism devolve into a perspective of negativity that reduces the significance of our accomplishment."
"I do not see a class that shies away from life’s challenges," he added. "I see instead a group of risk-takers who were bold enough to endure the rigors of a top law school despite the myriad of uncertainty that stood waiting for us on the other side.
"I see instead a group of future leaders who understand that today does not mark the most important achievement in our lives because there is so much more we can accomplish. I see a group of sometimes uncertain, yet ever determined individuals truly capably of greatness."
This determination is chief among the reasons Michigan Law Dean Evan Caminker sets the sky as the limit for the graduating Class of 2013.
"Thinking like a lawyer does not require you to abandon your passions," said Caminker, while delivering his final commencement address as dean. "Rather, you should continue to draw strength from these commitments. I urge you to assess your particular strengths and skills, and think deeply about what makes you tick—what kinds of things you like or dislike doing, and why.
"If you focus on who you are, and what kind of person you want to be, I'm confident you'll find or create a professional path that is rewarding and enjoyable."
Caminker advised graduates to use both their minds and hearts to explore the career paths available to them and to rely on their passion and creativity to inform and inspire their activities.
And if graduates do all that, they will find their professional careers "well worthy of ambition," Caminker promised.
(View an image gallery of Senior Day celebrations.)
(Watch the video of the Senior Day celebration.)
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