Senate President: Gexu “George” Zhang
Good afternoon, families, friends, faculty, administrators, staff, and most especially—the Columbia Law School Class of 2014!
I want to begin by thanking those who made today’s celebration possible. On behalf of the Class of 2014, I would like to extend a heart-felt thank you to each family member and guest—none of us would be here today without your love, patience, and support. And because I’m up here today, Grandma, thank you for flying here from China!
You are an amazing group of individuals. There is an unbelievable amount of talent and heart concentrated here in the middle section. We hail from around the world and from completely different backgrounds. Yet we came together, earned a top-notch legal education, and formed a community while doing so.
This legal education has changed us in many positive ways. We are more capable thinkers, more eloquent speakers, and, let’s not forget, much faster typers. Our education makes us bearers of an intellectual tradition that stretches back to the enlightened thinkers who inspired our founding fathers. Our education instills confidence in us, it opens doors, and it gives us the tools and the credibility to solve some of our most difficult problems.
But not all the things in law school have made us more positive. For one thing, I think some of us are less optimistic than we used to be. Or maybe, just less naïve. I started law school thinking I could help solve some of our most difficult problems. Now, three years later, I know just how difficult it is to write a paper that gets cited (or read, for that matter) by anyone, let alone influence the broader debate.
One effect of learning more is becoming more accustomed to the status quo. It can be hard to remain optimistic when we live in a status quo with so many major problems, such as fossil fuel dependency, rising income inequality, and gross human rights violations, to name a few. But we must hold tighter to our optimism at every single instance to resist informed complacency. Informed complacency is so dangerous because the informed are the best equipped to cause change. For example, before 2008, many at our largest financial institutions and government regulators were aware of the questionable practices and risky levels of leverage that pervaded parts of our financial system. Yet many chose to do nothing. We can’t afford to do the same. We must never discount our fresh perspective or our optimism, because as young people, those are some of our most valuable attributes.
And most importantly, for every problem that chips away at our optimism, there are better reasons to stay optimistic. We have the entire history of human innovation to bolster our outlook. Today people are more prosperous than ever.
So, for all these reasons and more, I’m very optimistic that our class will make a real positive impact. Looking at all of you, I see people who will challenge our current energy policies, who will reform the tax code, who will fight to protect human rights around the world, who will run more accountable governments and corporations. The connections, skills, and confidence that we gained in our time at this renowned institution will help us greatly in these endeavors. After today, we will be Columbia Law School graduates, and with a streak of relentless optimism and a commitment to challenge complacency, there is little we can’t change.
Now, Class of 2014—let’s get out of here and knock them dead!
Now would the graduation chairs, Kiira and Rayna, please join me here at the podium. Dean Schizer, we have a surprise for you. Would you all please join us here, at the podium.
As many of you know, Dean Schizer will soon finish his tenure as dean of the Law School after 10 dedicated years of service. He has led the school through difficult financial times and through a very public debate about the value of legal education. But despite those challenges, Dean Schizer has proven his effectiveness. He has recruited talented faculty, raised substantial capital to support a broader array of programs and academic centers, and he has lowered the student-faculty ratio to the lowest that it has ever been.
However, Dean Schizer did not preside over the best Deans’ Cup record. For friends and family, the Deans Cup is an annual basketball game between Columba Law School and NYU. It is very serious business. Going into 2014, we had not won since 2008. But we remained steadfastly optimistic and, along with your son, are very excited that we came out on top this year! So on behalf of the Class of 2014, I would like to present this replica of the Deans’ Cup trophy to celebrate our victory, and as a symbol of our appreciation for your dedication and leadership.
I am now delighted to introduce Arjun Jaikumar, who will speak for the J.D. Class, having been elected by popular vote to be class speaker.