Student Senate President: Jessica Isokawa
Good afternoon, Dean Schizer, Mr. Attorney General, Members of the Administration and Faculty, Family, Friends, and Fellow Graduates. I am Jessica Isokawa, president of the Student Senate.
It is an honor to address you all today. Someone recently described my leadership style this year as characterized by “unbridled enthusiasm.” So in keeping with that, I extend heartfelt congratulations to the Class of 2010.
In our time here, it has been tempting to get bogged down fixating on how much work law school can be, how many cases we have to read for tomorrow, how shockingly heavy law texts are, or how you haven’t paid your Columbia rent in awhile. But today we have the wonderful opportunity to put everything on hold during this ceremony and think as expansively, optimistically, proudly and romantically about what it means for us to graduate today and earn our legal degrees.
Today some will focus on what we will achieve. It is a humbling honor to admit I have no idea what we will accomplish, but I suspect there are no limits. As president of the Student Senate I had the opportunity to observe what my classmates could achieve in law school – and I am confident that we are a group of 700 people who will engage very actively, critically, and thoughtfully with the whatever environments we’re headed towards, in both legal and non-legal capacities.
During our time at Columbia Law School one achievement in particular is the creation of a wonderfully vibrant community. The JG Lobby isn’t just where study groups meet; it’s where friends convene. And because of our classmates’ efforts and contributions, our law school experience has been anything but isolating. We’ve attended cultural events, watched epic moot court battles, mingled with distinguished guests of the law school, cheered on our Dean’s Cup basketball team, laughed at ourselves during the Law Revue show, and whiled away the hours at Bar Reviews. Today we sit with the friends who defined our law school experiences; the ones who helped us survive finals and commiserated over the job search, as well as supported us through moments even scarier – like the personal health scares or the loss of loved ones.
And in spite of this vibrant community, our class has also exhibited the ability to conceive more broadly of what communities we are part of and owe obligations to beyond the four walls of Jerome Greene Hall.
To name just one example, this year we had the opportunity to attend a Barristers’ Ball that benefited Haiti disaster relief. I was incredibly proud that together we took our moment of celebration and shared it with those less fortunate. Similarly, during our time in law school, we’ve seen people throw themselves into pro bono projects, caravans, elections, and countless advocacy issues.
These endeavors hint at what we can hope to achieve together as members of this class, as well as in our individual capacities.
With our legal degrees in hand, I hope we’ll continue to be inspired by the same passion that helped us thrive in law school. There’s always a risk of forgetting why you came to law school, and what compelled you towards this intellectual pursuit and profession in the first place. But we came here to empower ourselves and enhance our ability to pursue what we care about. I hope that it is not just days like graduation when we reflect on our roles, and draw inspiration from ourselves and the passion of individuals like our CLS classmates. I am confident this will protect us from directionless ambition, and instead will lead to a fulfilling life in the law and a spectacularly raucous-joy-filled fiftieth year reunion.
Today we graduate from law school slightly less fit and well rested than we were when we first got here – and we’re also graduating with an excellent legal education. We have been taught by some of the most brilliant and distinguished professors and have been guided by caring administrators. Our professors have prompted us to think in new ways by pushing us to ask the most critical questions about the norms and laws that shape our society and ourselves. On behalf of our class, I’d like to sincerely thank all of them.
And lastly, while law students are notorious for graduating with a tremendous amount of debt, the one debt I think we’ll all happily acknowledge is the one we owe to our families. Today we celebrate them. I wouldn’t be standing here, if it weren’t for mine, so thank you to my wonderful family and all the families here today for making this accomplishment possible.
Class of 2010, friends, it’s been an honor. Thank you for all the wonderful times. I can’t wait to see all that we will accomplish and I wish you all the best of luck.
I’m now delighted to introduce Mia White, JD Class of 2010 who was elected speaker by popular vote of the JD class.