NYU Law celebrated its 2020 graduates with a virtual ceremony on Thursday, May 21, honoring the achievements of more than 1,100 JD, LLM, JSD, MSL, MS, and Advanced Certificate recipients. Anthony Foxx ’96, chief policy officer of Lyft and former US Secretary of Transportation, was the keynote speaker, while Eremipagamo Amabebe ’20 and Sakeena Moeen LLM ’20 addressed their classmates. The event also featured remarks and congratulations from other members and friends of the law school community, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; and US Representatives Diana DeGette ’82, Hakeem Jeffries ’97, and Scott Peters ’84.
The streamed event followed a spring semester like no other, as the Law School responded to the advent of COVID-19 by executing a rapid shift to distance learning. As he noted the wide range of the class’s accomplishments, Dean Trevor Morrison praised the graduates for their perseverance in the face of crisis.
“Resilience is a key to success in law school and in the law more generally, but you have been called upon to exhibit resilience sooner and differently than any of us ever expected, and you have risen to the challenge,” he said.
Other speakers also reflected on the pandemic and the role that NYU Law graduates will play in the response to and recovery from the crisis. “Expect the unexpected,” Foxx told the graduates, while also advising them to renew their connections to family and friends and to continue learning in preparation for challenges ahead.
“My final bit of advice to you is to never, ever, ever give up on the public service mission that so many of you came to law school to work towards,” he said. “…In this time of challenge and tragedy and seeming overwhelming odds, we have a responsibility as lawyers to use our training to use what we know to help solve problems.”
David Tanner ’84, chair of the Law School’s Board of Trustees, echoed Foxx’s call. “I can say with certainty that in this time of national crisis we need your leadership more than ever,” Tanner said. “Our country and our world need you to follow in the path of your fellow law school alumni who have gone on to take leadership roles in private practice or in business, as judges, prosecutors, or in government positions, or in public service, in elected office, or at nonprofits. As NYU Law graduates, you have the skills required to lead our society, even as the demands of leadership are evolving quickly.”
Moeen noted that her LLM class has had a unique experience as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with uncertainty, fear, and other stresses, she said, the outbreak also “brought with it allegiance and congregation. It tested us lawyers and forced us to rely on our primal skills, our academic adversities, our diverse upbringings, our cultural differences. And we were all forced to be stripped down to our most authentic selves."
“This crisis taught us a lot,” she said. “And that is what the LLM year is really meant to be about. And I know that would not have wanted to learn this lesson anywhere other than at the New York University School of Law.”
In her remarks, Amabebe recalled hearing Kenji Yoshino, Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law, speak about identity and the power of the authentic self at her JD class’s orientation in August 2017. “I can't imagine there's a member of this class who would say they are the same person today that they were when they arrived in Greenwich Village three years ago,” Amabebe said. “But I hope and I believe that we have all changed for the better. That we are tougher, and wiser, that our wells of courage are deeper, our convictions stronger, our commitments both more nuanced and more steadfast than when we arrived.”
“I hope that as we move forward through the current challenge, and all the challenges yet to come, that we will all carry on the commitment we learned at orientation to being our authentic selves, since this is in itself a service to our communities—perhaps even the greatest service, since it empowers others to do the same,” she said.
Posted May 19, 2020. Updated May 22, 2020.