Justice Andrew McDonald, of the Connecticut Supreme Court, told the Class of 2021 to think about how they want their careers to be written Tuesday at the Commencement exercises for the Quinnipiac University School of Law.
“What is the rest of your story? You likely do not yet fully know the answer because it will continue to unfold in front of you every day of your life,” McDonald said. “But the story of your professional career will not be left up to chance,” he added. “No, instead it will be written by the choices you make, the opportunities you seize, the doors you open and the doors you close.”
For McDonald, the door to marriage equality that opened for him and his partner in 2009 came as a result of the tireless advocacy of lawyers and legal scholars.
“I have no doubt that the walls we knocked down in Connecticut are the direct consequence of the hard work, creativity and bravery of the lawyers and law professors who were on the front lines of that effort,” McDonald said. “Perhaps chief among them were your own dean, Jennifer Brown, and her husband Ian Ayres.”
In all, 102 graduates received their juris doctors Tuesday on the Mount Carmel Campus Quad.
As she looked out from the lectern, President Judy Olian saw a class of graduates ready to uplift society and right wrongs.
“I see a class of legal professionals who have the skills and voice to alleviate social injustice, address racial inequality, and right the persistent divides in so many areas of our society,” Olian said. “Thank you for your work that I know will continue as you launch your journey as legal professionals and advocates on behalf of justice.”
School of Law Dean Jennifer Gerarda Brown pointed out the gift bags under each graduate’s chair. Inside, notes from the School of Law faculty were written on paper with seeds embedded in it.
“I hope you’ll give yourself a moment to think about that,” Brown said. “Those pieces of paper contain the future life that I hope your education will give you.”
“Just as I hope you will plant those pieces of paper in soil and see what comes,” Brown added, “I hope you will also be ready and energetic and excited to plant the seeds of your knowledge, your skills, your values gained at Quinnipiac Law School.”
Alexander Puzone, JD ’21, sang the national anthem at the ceremony. George Morgan Jr., JD ’21, the Student Bar Association president, delivered the student remarks for the class.
“The whole lawyers we were educated to be are advocates who remember their roots, while also focusing on what lies ahead,” Morgan said. “We were trained to be lawyers who never forget the public good.”
It is precisely that prescriptive that begins those stories that McDonald addressed at the start of his remarks.
“Whatever you choose to do with the law degree bestowed upon you today, uphold the highest ideals and the honor of this proud profession,” McDonald said. “Those who cannot afford legal representation need you, too. Don’t forget about them.
“You will never be so honored to be a lawyer as when you represent someone in their most dire moments who cannot afford your services,” he added. “It is the greatest gift you can give them and, I would argue, it is the greatest give you can give to yourself.”