LL.M. Speaker: Josephina Tapia
Class of 2013, family, friends and distinguished guests:
Let me start by acknowledging all those who have helped each of us get to this day. Behind each graduate here are parents, siblings, partners, children, friends, mentors, administrators, support staff and maybe even critics and tormentors. Your encouragement, inspiration and assistance have brought us to this moment. Thank you for going on this journey with us.
Dear classmates, what a year it has been! It seems like it was only last month when we were 273 strangers from 70 different countries struggling to make sense of all the information being thrown at us during orientation. So much has happened since we got to New York to start our LL.M. year and these events can be summed up in the following lessons:
First, when they tell you during Orientation that the library stays open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for weeks before finals, be scared! Be very, very scared!
Second, the amount of time one spends on Facebook is directly proportional to the amount of time one has to study. During finals weeks, you knew what everyone in class was doing all the time. Private messages were instantly answered and statuses were promptly updated. Once exams were over, Facebook became quiet.
Next, the survival skills developed by our ancestors are alive and well. After weeks of free pizza for lunch, we LL.M.s eventually figured out where to score non-pizza lunches, which organizations served rice and which had fully-packed boxed meals. We also learned quickly to arrive at 1:50 p.m. at Warren Hall because the 2 p.m. free cookies and coffee would run out in 10 minutes.
Fourth, life is full of difficult choices: Securities or International Commercial Transactions? Broadway or the Metropolitan Opera? New Orleans or the Bahamas? African Safari or the Northern Lights? Given that we are wearing these caps and gowns today, I guess it’s safe to assume that the most wonderful, most important and most compelling place ever… is the Diamond Library.
Fifth, despite our cultural differences, there are certain languages we all speak.
The first is food and drink. Food and drink became our way of opening up to each other. When we were still getting used to each other’s English accents, to feign comprehension, we would smile and nod politely. But through the verbal haze, we would make out the word “tequila” “sake” or ”beer.” Finally, there was something we understood! And, a connection was formed. As time passed, we learned about geography and culture through the different ingredients and cooking methods our classmates introduced to us. Within our apartments, we travelled the world through the culinary feasts our friends lovingly prepared.
As I look out from this stage today, I see dear friends who belong to a larger, multi-cultural family that transcends nationality and territory. We have all seen that love and affection know no boundaries and that kindness goes beyond geography and culture. We consoled each other during times of loss, celebrated triumphs spectacularly and welcomed each new LL.M. baby with joy. We cheered until we were hoarse during Dean’s Cup and clapped wildly at performances where our classmates displayed their musical talents, We are athletes, chefs, artists, ship captains, art enthusiasts, scuba divers, skydivers, explorers, photographers, philosophers and so much more. And each layer of our personality was warmly embraced and celebrated by the people that have become our family here in New York.
Our time in Columbia Law School has given a name and put a face to events going on all around the world. Whether the news talks about bombings in the Middle East, a terror attack in America, a financial crisis in Europe or war in Africa—we all now have more at stake. These events are no longer just intellectual interests for us. Our family—our LLM family—is affected by the resulting changes so we too are affected. We now have a greater interest in raising our voices to call for peace and justice and in working towards seeing these ends achieved.
As lawyers we are given the privilege of changing lives. With this privilege comes a great responsibility. “In lumine tuo videbimus lumen” (“In thy light shall we see light”), our University’s motto urges us to respond to this challenge. Columbia Law School has given us much by challenging what we know and honing our legal skills. Inside and outside school, we received much more through our discussions and interactions with each other. Having been enriched by this institution’s and each other’s wisdom, it is now our turn to reflect the light that we have received. For despite all our achievements at home before coming to Columbia, and after receiving our diplomas today, our greatest lesson is a continuing one:
It is not what we gather, but what we scatter that will tell what kind of lives we have lived. May our collective light bring positive change to the world.
Congratulations, Class of 2013! Mabuhay tayong lahat!
* Thank you to Osamu Saito, Maheshwari Sundaresh and Tamsin Yap, all LL.M. ’13, Gembeth Basilgo and most specially Robert Espiritu for their invaluable contributions.
 Contributed by Motoki Saito, LL.M. ’13.
 Words of Ruchi Grover LL.M. ’13.
 Shared by Xingjia Yao, LL.M ’13.
 Paraphrased from Helen Walton.
 A traditional Filipino greeting meaning “May we all live fully!”
For more about Josephina Tapia ’13 LL.M., visit her student profile.