Brian Larkin '08 Graduation Speech
Brian Larkin - JD Class Speaker
Good Afternoon families and friends, faculty and classmates
This ceremony represents the culmination of so much effort, so much struggle, and so much sacrifice. And I am truly honored to be included within the memory of this day. I am also grateful to have the opportunity to stand before you all and speak because Class of 2008…I have a problem.
You see…what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do.
What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do.
I have struggled with this dilemma my entire life, but it has become especially acute during my time here in law school. You see… I did not want to have Ollie’s and Café Swish on my speed dial. I did not want to run through seven VIP Gold cards at Hamilton’s Deli. I wanted to cook! I wanted to save money! But what I want to do, I do not do and what I hate, I do.
I did not want to be online in class. I did not want to see how many G-chat windows I could have open during a single lecture. I wanted to leave the computer at home. I could have been a gunner! But what I want to do I do not do, and what I hate I do.
So I stand before you all today to admit this contradiction problem, because I do not believe that I am the only one here who struggles with this condition. In fact, my legal education here at Columbia has shown me that I am not alone. For I learned that it was our nation’s founding fathers that warred with their own internal contradictions as they externally warred with the British for freedom.
It was our own Patrick Henry who proclaimed “Give me Liberty or Give me death” while also stating “Would any one believe that I am Master of Slaves of my own purchase! I am drawn along by the general Inconvenience of living without them; I will not, I cannot justify it.”
It was the great Thomas Jefferson who in his initial draft of the Declaration of Independence called the slave trade a violation of the most “sacred right of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people,” who would continue to condone this very violation in personal practice and within the establishment of the Constitution.
What the founding fathers wanted to do, create a truly republican democracy, they did not do, but what they hated, tyranny, they continued. The indifference towards this contradiction has influenced every subsequent racial problem of America’s past and present.
Now, our own individual contradictions have yet to be THAT monumental. The General Tso’s chicken that I ate from Ollie’s will not lead to Civil War.
But as we walk out of Columbia Law School this day, we will continue to face those moments when we have to choose between aspiring to the heights of our ideal, or submitting to the limitations of our reality. Even if, like me, you have found yourself imprisoned your personal status quo your entire life, it is not too late for you to say "what I want to do, I DO.” If, like me, you have made it this far while still settling for the reality and not reaching higher, then just imagine the exponential impact of the realization of your true potential.
Class of 2008, let us go farther than our today, let us strive further than our founding fathers, let us form our personal ideals into achievable realities!
And as we do this, remember that there really is no such thing as contradiction…only internal perfection waiting for fear to get out of the way.
Thank you, and I look so forward to being an eyewitness to the realization of this class’ many ideals.