On May 19, 2022, NYU Law’s class of 2022—more than 900 JD, LLM, JSD, and MS graduates—gathered with friends and family at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden to celebrate their achievements and receive their diplomas.
Vanita Gupta ’01, associate attorney general for the US Department of Justice (DOJ), was the keynote speaker at the morning’s JD ceremony, while Adam Bodnar, former Polish ombudsman and professor and dean of the faculty of law at SWPS University in Warsaw, Poland, addressed LLM, JSD, and MS students in the afternoon. New graduates Aaditya Prakash Tolappa ’22 and Jiaqi (Kristen) Huang LLM ’22 also delivered remarks to their classmates.
The Convocation ceremonies came one day after NYU held its University-wide Commencement on May 18 at Yankee Stadium. The 2022 graduates were joined by 11-time Grammy winner Taylor Swift, who received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree and delivered the Commencement address. “I know it can be really overwhelming figuring out who to be, and when—who you are now and how to act in order to get where you want to go. I have some good news: it’s totally up to you,” Swift said. “I also have some terrifying news: it’s totally up to you.”
At Convocation, Gupta, who has also served as president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and as deputy legal director and director of the Center for Justice at the American Civil Liberties Union, emphasized the importance of purpose, courage, and kindness. Recalling her own time at the Law School, Gupta said that at times when she felt “like a fish out of water,” encouragement from faculty members like Professor of Clinical Law Emerita Kim Taylor-Thompson and Vice Dean and Professor of Clinical Law Randy Hertz helped her keep going. “Look at your family, your friends, your professors who support you,” Gupta said. “Look at this incredible community that surrounds you. This network and the extraordinary legal education that you received here will be some of the most important assets in your professional and personal lives.”
At the afternoon ceremony, John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law Philip Alston introduced the LLM speaker, Adam Bodnar, calling him a “hero” because of his advocacy for human and civil rights—in particular, for greater rights and legal protections for women and the LGBTQ community in Poland. In his remarks, Bodnar encouraged graduates to become involved in international human rights issues, and spoke about the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24, 2022. Lawyers must be willing to engage and offer their expertise during global conflicts, including securing sanctions, advocating for the rights of refugees, prosecuting war crimes, and reforming international institutions, he said. “The world has changed, and it is incumbent upon us as lawyers to stand in solidarity,” said Bodnar.
Addressing his JD classmates, Tolappa noted that lawyers often discuss the importance of having conviction, which he described as staying resolute in the face of arguments. Equally or more important, he said, is being open to hearing different views, and even to changing one’s mind. Openness, he said, creates credibility by allowing deeper engagement with the concerns of others, which in turn, makes you a better advocate and friend. He closed his remarks with a challenge: “The next time you talk to someone about something of substance, ask yourself whether your main goal is to understand or to convince…whether your urge is to be right, or to get it right—together.”
At the afternoon ceremony, Huang, the LLM student speaker, said the pandemic had helped reveal the resiliency of her classmates: “It is during these challenging times that we find optimism, supportive spirits, resilience, and inclusiveness in ourselves.” Huang said she was impressed by her peers’ commitment to the safety measures, such as wearing masks and social distancing, that allowed their studies to take place.
In his remarks at the JD ceremony, NYU Law Board of Trustees Chair David Tanner ’84 said that a legal education from NYU Law has prepared graduates to be the next generation of leaders across industries. He noted that graduates have had an example of successful leadership in Dean Trevor Morrison, Eric M. and Laurie B. Roth Professor of Law, who is completing his nine-year deanship on June 1. “Trevor has led by example, combining intellect with empathy, balancing progress with fairness, and honoring our traditions while working tirelessly to help us become a more just and inclusive community,” said Tanner. “I hope that you will draw inspiration as I have from the wonderful leader of our Law School.”
“It feels a little as though we’re graduating together,” Morrison quipped as he addressed the graduates. He encouraged them to engage in public service at some point in their careers. “Today's ceremony underscores not only the importance of what you have learned, but also the ethos of the place where you learned it, one that values a commitment to public service and working for the greater good,” Morrison said. “Government service…is an opportunity to direct the expertise you have gained to its highest purpose.”
“NYU Law graduates make the world a better place, and we’ve never needed you more than we do now,” Morrison said, noting that the world will offer many crises that will require lawyers to help provide solutions. “You can be part of that work. You can have an impact. You can change the world. But that work can start tomorrow. Today, we celebrate.”
Posted May 20, 2022.