Student Senate President: Sonya M. Mirbagheri
Good afternoon Dean Schizer, distinguished faculty, my fellow classmates, family and friends, it is an incredible honor to stand here and address you all today. . .The last time I thought I might be speaking at a graduation ceremony, was just before I lost a tough student government election in college. Crushed, I called my mom looking for comfort. And like a true Persian mother, she said: “This is a wonderful. Now you have time to study for the LSAT.”
Growing up in the U.S. but often visiting Iran, my parents homeland, I have learned that despite differences in culture, politics or other deeply held beliefs, people who are seemingly so different have more in common than they realize. As a class, we rightfully celebrate our differences. We are richly diverse; we come from different walks of life, with strong and varied individual viewpoints, and many amazing talents. Our diversity is what made this educational experience so rich, but today I’d like to recognize, as we go forward on our varied paths, that we are united by this common experience.
Together, our class has spent three years strolling across this beautiful college walk into Jerome Green where we studied entirely too hard for legal methods, a pass fail class, survived our first set of grueling exams, and somehow found enough motivation to finish our 3L year. Our accomplishments do not end in the classroom, but also include substantial contributions made to organizations we joined. We served as zealous advocates in family and housing courts around the city, traveled to Pennsylvania and Ohio to ensure voting procedures were fair during the 2004 election, and organized exciting cultural nights, conferences, and panels on campus. Most importantly, through our classes and other commitments we met intelligent, kind, dedicated, classmates, many of whom will be our life long friends.
Our class also received an excellent legal education. We have been taught by some of the most brilliant and distinguished professors and guided by caring administrators and I’d like to sincerely thank all of them on behalf of our class. They have given us the tools we need to face the obstacles now before us. And this education could not have come at a better time for we are faced as a society with difficult and important issues in which the law is going to continue to play a central role.
From what I know of our class, I have no doubt that we will use the education we have been so fortunate to receive to tackle these difficult issues. For many of us, I know that’s why we came here, to get the best preparation possible, and the skills to make a change in the legal community and in the world.
We are entering a challenging profession, and a trying one at times…but as I have been repeatedly told by inspiring professors, it is also a noble profession and I know as a class we will contribute to our fields and more importantly, to our communities. Our classmates have already inspired us. Members of our class gave up their winter and spring breaks to travel to New Orleans and provide legal aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Others spent numerous hours organizing a fantastic public interest auction where we bid on everything from gourmet dinners catered by our classmates to tax lessons with Dean Schizer. And how can we forget how our class transformed from stressed law students into fanatic sports fans who came out to support out talented basketball players at Dean’s Cup while helping raise over $100,000 for public interest organizations. These are just a few examples, and I’m confident our classmates will continue to inspire one another in whatever fields we choose.
My heart is a bit heavy today because graduating is bittersweet. Over the past few weeks I’ve found myself walking around campus more slowly, thinking about how sad I will be to go, how much I will miss sitting on the steps of Low Library on a sunny day, eating lunch in Lenfest with friends, and even going to class. But what I will miss most of all is, being able to walk into school and see a bunch of warm, familiar faces- people I have been so lucky to get to know.
Although we will no longer be classmates, what consoles me when I get just a little too sentimental is that we will always have this shared experience. Columbia is a great institution, and we are part of the reason it is so great. And as we move on, we carry not only Columbia’s name but also the name of our class, and today I am proud to stand with you as a member of the Columbia Law School Class of 2007.
Finally I’d like to thank all of our friends, families, spouses, kids, and partners who listened to us complain, whine, and generally talk way too much about law school. I know many of you have sacrificed a lot for us and we could not have accomplished this, without all of your support and love.
My friends and fellow classmates, I know this commencement is just the beginning for all of us. I have no doubt that in the years to come we will see members of our class doing great work in the public sector, at law firms, as elected officials, in the courts, and at NGOs. I hope that we continue to get to know one another or meet one another for the first time, even if we are alumni instead of classmates. I hope we don’t forget all that we have shared as a class, and all that we have in common. I hope that as we go our separate ways we are there for one another when our paths do cross as we have been there for one another these past three years. Class of 2007, it is an honor to graduate with you. I wish you all happiness, fulfilling careers, and lots of love. . .Congratulations!