[MUSIC - AARON COPLAND, "FANFARE FOR THE COMMON MAN"] [CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
[MUSIC - EDWARD ELGAR, "POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE"]
Please sit. I feel like I'm church.
Good afternoon. Law school faculty and administration, families and friends, members of the Class of 2015.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
I'm Eduardo Penalver, the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. And today's a very special day for all of us, obviously, especially for our graduates. But on this Mother's Day, it's also a special day for moms.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
We have many mothers here with us today in our graduating class, among our faculty, and of course in the audience. So before we begin, let's take a moment to give all of them a round of applause and gratitude for everything they've done for us.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
The Class of 2015 will always hold a very special meaning for me because this is the first class to graduate since I became dean, last July.
And-- thank you.
You guys are an easy crowd. I love it.
I became dean, and you're graduating, during a time of great ferment in both the legal profession and in the legal academy. And despite that ferment you've made a wise choice, investing both your time and money in the study of law and in doing so here at Cornell.
The crisis that began in 2008 caused legal employers to pull back in fear. And the classes that graduated, even from the very best law schools, especially in 2011 and 2012, suffered, as a result. And in the years since 2008 many legal employers have begun to adjust their business models, outsourcing some work, relying on temporary contract attorneys for other. And as a result, even as profits in the legal sector have rebounded, hiring has not fully returned to pre-crisis levels.
Consequently you, the Class of 2015, faced a demanding job market. But because of Cornell's small size, the excellence of our student body, and the dedication of our career-service and public-service offices, this graduating class has achieved superb employment results. It's already clear that the Class of 2015, like the Class of 2014 before you, will achieve a level of job-placement success with large private law firms, judges, government agencies, nonprofits, and other legal employers that marks Cornell Law School as one of the very best in the country.
For the Class of 2014, our final placement results 10 months after graduation, excluding any law-school-funded positions, ranked us second among law schools nationwide.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
And we expect very similar results for your class by this time next year. But we are not complacent. We take seriously our obligation to ensure that each of our students has a job. And we are constantly seeking ways to improve our performance. Our goal every year is 100% employment.
What these placement numbers demonstrate is that in uncertain times such as these it is more important than ever to be graduating from a law school that has a national reach, that is correctly perceived by employers to count among the very best in the country-- a school whose graduates are known by those same employers to be smart, hard-working, and unpretentious. I think I know just such a law school.
In part because of the job market, your time in law school has been marked by a drumbeat of criticism of both law schools and the legal profession. And if anything, that criticism has grown even louder during your three years here. Lurking beneath at least some of these critiques seems to be a broad skepticism about law and about the work of lawyers. In our modern information economy, entrepreneurship is king, and law and lawyers can all too easily come to seem like little more than wasteful transaction costs-- parasitic friction that dissipates creative energy and slows the speed of innovation.
For some, the law itself is a kind of incumbent technology that needs disruption. Frustrated by taxi-medallion regulations that prevent you from hailing a car on the street? There's an app for that-- Uber. Or Lyft, if you prefer cars with pink mustaches.
Annoyed by the high price of hotel rooms due to onerous hotel licensing requirements? There's an app for that-- Airbnb. Need to engage in dozens of quick mortgage transfers in order to create complex mortgage-backed securities but stymied by the long periods of time it takes to record mortgages in the county land recording office? There's an app for that, too-- the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, known as MERS. I'm not sure about that last one.
But despite these wonders that entrepreneurs have created, the practice of law remains important and vital. A stable, well-functioning legal system is crucial to our ability to maintain a free society-- the kind of society in which people are empowered to think and to act differently-- to innovate. John Rawls argued that the rule of law constitutes the grounds upon which persons can rely on one another and rightly object when those expectations are not fulfilled. "If the bases of these claims are unsure," he said, "so are the boundaries of our liberties."
Far from necessarily constituting something that gums up the works, law is crucial both to freedom and innovation. It's the soil in which both grow. You can't develop the next killer app if you have to spend all your time worrying about being killed.
Now it's surely true that laws and regulations can be wasteful or become outdated. But the inertia of state actors can needlessly impair our freedom or block useful innovation. But sometimes when the law keeps us from doing what we want, it's for a good reason that we need to take heed of. Sometimes it's innovation that needs to be disrupted. The inscription in our moot courtroom says, quoting Harvard Law dean Roscoe Pound, "The law must be stable, yet it cannot stand still."
And how do we as a society know when to favor stability and when to favor innovation? This is a crucial question-- often the crucial question. And it's the lawyer's privileged role in answering this question that makes the practice of law simultaneously so challenging and so rewarding. What is the essence of marriage? Should computers be allowed to drive cars? Is a burrito a sandwich?
When society needs answers to vital questions like these, it inevitably turns to our profession. And wherever questions like these are being answered, you will find Cornell lawyers hard at work.
OK, hopefully not on the burrito question. And so I admire you for choosing the legal profession, notwithstanding the critics. And I thank you for choosing to spend your three years here with us. I think you chose wisely in both respects-- in becoming lawyers and in coming to Cornell.
And you chose wisely in coming to Cornell because Cornell Law School stands out in the crowd, even among top law schools. We stand out not only because we're an elite school that excels in placing our students in the highest reaches of the legal profession. Every top law school claims to do the same. We happen to do a little better. But every top law school claims to do the same.
No, what makes Cornell unique is that we combine that commitment to excellence with an equally strong commitment to inclusion. And this tradition goes back to the very beginning. In his earliest vision for Cornell University, AD White-- the co-founder of the university, with Ezra Cornell, and Cornell University's first president-- wrote in 1862 that he wanted this university, at whose heart he always envisioned a law school, to provide the most highly prized instruction to all, regardless of sex or color.
So it comes as no surprise, although it remains inspiring, that Cornell Law School's first graduating class included George Washington Fields, a man born in slavery. Prof. Kevin Clermont rediscovered Fields's history, painstakingly researched his life, and published a book entitled The Indomitable George Washington Fields, which is available on Amazon.
Fields is an incredible man, and I encourage you to read Prof. Clermont's book. My favorite part concerns how Fields found his way to Cornell Law School. After escaping from slavery with his mother in 1863, he made his way north. And by 1881 he found himself working for Alonzo Cornell, who was then the governor of New York and was a son of Ezra Cornell.
When Fields told Alonzo that he wanted to go to law school and had settled on Yale, Alonzo convinced him to go the Cornell Law School instead. But there was just one problem. The Cornell Law School did not yet exist. The school opened its doors 23 years after the rest of the university.
But rather than go to Yale, George Washington Fields waited for the Cornell Law School to open its doors and was in the first graduating class. He was right here with the inaugural class and began studying law at Cornell in 1887. Fields's class also included a couple of students who had somehow managed to find their way to upstate New York from Meiji, Japan.
And this same law school went on to produce four female editors-in-chief of its law review before any other top law school produced even one. The first of these, Mary Donlon, was the editor-in-chief of volume 5 of what was then called the Cornell Law Quarterly. As documented by our own Prof. Cynthia Bowman, she went on to become the first woman partner at a Wall Street law firm. She ran for Congress, a race she came within a whisker of winning, and she became Cornell University's first woman trustee. She was also instrumental in founding Cornell's College of Industrial and Labor Relations.
So this is who we are. And we are absolutely unique among top law schools, in this regard. Cornell has, from its founding, been a place that seeks to be elite without being elitist. As Prof. Isaac Kramnick of Cornell's Government department has memorably put it, "Cornell is an Ivy League university with a Big 10 soul."
And we're proud. We're proud to participate in this Cornell tradition, here at the law school. During your time at Cornell we have consistently ranked as one of the most, if not the most, diverse top law schools in the country.
Finally, you chose wisely for another reason, as well. In addition to our commitment to excellence and inclusion, Cornell Law School is a place characterized by an incomparable sense of community. Our small size and our rural location mean that Cornell is a law school where people show up. Faculty are in their offices, even when they're not teaching. Students hang around after classes end. As a result, we get to know you, and, just as importantly, you get to know one another.
I speak from experience in this regard. While I was a student here I met my wife at Cornell. My brother met his wife while he was a student here at Cornell. You may not have met your spouse during your three years here.
But I'm confident that each of you has made a friend or many friends whom you will treasure for the rest of your lives. And so the Cornell Law School community of which you have become a part will remain with you long after this day. Your connection to Cornell Law School, to this community, is a permanent one. To paraphrase Michael Corleone and Tony Soprano, just when you think you're getting out, we start to pull you back in.
Or, to be more accurate, you start to pull each other back in. And so from this day going forward you are and always will be Cornell lawyers.
Now as I just said, the bonds that form among our students are a crucial part of our identity as a law school. And so it's fitting that the speakers selected by our students-- a J.D. speaker, an LL.M. speaker, and a student-selected faculty speaker-- constitute the heart of our convocation ceremony. And so it's my pleasure to introduce our speakers for today's ceremony.
First speaking will be our J.D. Graduate Christopher Andrews.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
I had to introduce him first. Prior to his arrival at Cornell, Christopher earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University. While at Cornell Law, he's been a member of the Journal of Law and Public Policy and the Black Law Students Association. Following his first year of law school he was selected for the Lowenstein Sandler law firm scholarship program.
And during his second summer Christopher worked as a summer associate at Paul, Weiss in New York. After completing the bar exam, and passing, Christopher will be returning to the New York City office of Paul, Weiss as an associate in their litigation department. Please join me in welcoming to the stage our J.D. speaker, Christopher Andrews.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
Thank you, Dean Penalver, for the introduction.
Congratulations, Class of 2015.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
Congratulations also to our friends, families, and significant others whose support made this day possible.
When I first arrived in Ithaca, in August of 2012, I was nervous. Probably not as nervous as my parents are right now, but still I was pretty nervous. I'd heard things about the Ithaca winter, and most of those rumors were true.
If this ceremony happened in December, I'm not sure how many of us would be here. But besides the weather I was nervous about the people-- about whether I would meet people that I genuinely liked and whether those people would like me.
And here I met the best people-- people so committed to their clinical work that they would cancel their plans and travel to Southeast Asia to meet with workers suffering from unconscionable abuse. People so committed to their student groups that they would spend long hours organizing a boot camp where attorneys from all over the country would come here and help 1Ls prepare for the August job fair.
But most of all I was nervous about the intellectual challenge of law school. Covering Sibbach's dilemma on the first day of Civil Procedure did not exactly calm my nerves.
Yet this challenge was most rewarding. It forced us to consider everything. Like who should be held liable if a person was overserved at a basketball game and, while trying to catch a T-shirt thrown by a cheerleader intern--
--slipped on a banana peel and broke his arm and then fell into a woman who spilled too-hot coffee on the unsuspecting person next to her. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to think about things like that.
Law school taught us how to handle pressure. Some of us have grown grey hairs as a result. Some of us are leaving Ithaca with no hair at all.
It taught us how to manage our time. We learned that we have to make the ultimate sacrifice of deactivating our Facebook profiles if we really need to get work done.
But we're here today because we met that challenge. And in doing so we gained great power-- power to advocate for clients in packed courtrooms, power to help close transactions that impact the everyday lives of people living an ocean away, power to spot issues and rules in the thicket of confusion we call legal doctrines. And now, with this power, what are we going to do with it? What rules are we going to use in our own lives?
I started struggling with this question during our 1L year, on Thanksgiving. I had been studying in my room for a while. And earlier that week I had taken a practice test with friends, and I didn't feel good about it. I could barely stay awake, because the steady diet of Skittles, Starbucks, and Mountain Dew just weren't working anymore.
But the visceral fear of wondering whether I belonged and whether I could succeed here had officially taken me hostage. Even worse, I had just seen a picture of my entire family together at Thanksgiving. And it hurt not to be there. So I started to complain, to feel sorry for myself, to wonder if I had made the right decision in coming to Cornell and going to law school at all.
But my family has a tradition every Thanksgiving where we say we're grateful for. And so far away from home, I thought about that tradition. And I thought about how lucky I was to have this opportunity-- to have the opportunity to go to a great law school and to have family that will be proud of me regardless of how my exams turned out.
And I realized that I had this opportunity not because I'm exceptional or because I'm extraordinary on my own right but because of the graciousness of other people. And we're graduating today because of the graciousness of other people. Because of our parents and loved ones who worked tirelessly and sacrificed so much to give us opportunities they didn't have. Because of professors who answered our paranoid questions and were so patient with us during finals-- who were more like mentors when they imparted life lessons that inspired us at the end of a semester. Because of our friends who reassured us that we belonged and that we could thrive here, at times when we didn't even believe that ourselves.
And now that we have skills that we've acquired through Cornell Law School we have a special opportunity to pay that graciousness forward in ways that only lawyers can. To advocate for people whom having a good attorney is the difference between life and death. To be role models to people who don't believe they're talented enough to go to law school, but then they see us. And because they look like us, or are from the same background as us, they believe that they too can do what we are doing and what we have done. We have a chance to be lawyers in the best sense.
So as we leave Cornell Law School today-- some of us with great grades, others feeling lucky to have a diploma--
I'm still nervous.
But unlike when I first arrived, today I feel a nervous excitement-- a sense of optimism. I feel this way because I know our class's potential-- our class's power. We must start thinking about how we can use our abilities for something greater than ourselves, today-- not 40 years later, as we're nearing retirement.
MLK once wrote "Time itself is neutral. It can be used either destructively or constructively." After spending so much time with you all over the last three years, I could not be more confident that we'll use our time constructively and that we'll apply the right rules in our own lives. Congratulations, Class of 2015. Thank you.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
Thank you, Christopher. Representing the LL.M. class is Marcelo Meza Penafiel. Marcelo holds a law degree from the Universidad Adolfo Ibanez, in Chile. As a practicing lawyer he has handled a variety of commercial, constitutional, and other legal matters. He's taught several law school courses, including a course in public international law. Marcelo plans to return to Chile, following his graduation from Cornell, to rejoin his law firm. Please join me in welcoming to the stage our LL.M. speaker, Marcelo Meza Penafiel.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
Dean Penalver, Dean Spitz, Dean DeRosa, esteemed professors, families, friends-- OK, then.
LL.M. Class of 2015. I would like to start by making a small confession. I wrote this speech at the very last minute. Not only because I'm good at procrastinating-- well, that's part of this explanation-- but also because I knew that once I sat down to write this it would mean that our law school experience-- our LL.M. experience-- our Cornell experience-- would be over. I guess I wasn't prepared to do that until a few hours ago.
However, don't worry. It's not that bad.
I want to say that, anyway, I'm deeply honored. I'm thankful for the opportunity to stand here today, representing Cornell's LL.M. sesquicentennial class-- you guys. You are a truly remarkable group of young lawyers from all around the world-- mostly from China, but--
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
Well, we come from a few other places, too. So thanks to that diversity I can now honestly tell you all I can curse in at least six different languages. Don't worry, Ann, I will not say anything wrong.
Like most of my classmates in the LL.M. class, before coming here I knew very little about Cornell. I mean, I knew it had an obvious reputation-- a notorious reputation-- for producing the best LL.M. students in the USA, but not much more than that.
However, while deciding which law school to attend, I had a chance to talk to our dean of International Affairs, Dean Laura Spitz. When I talked to her, her passion for this university really moved me. She also put me in contact with an alumni of this university who also was very passionate and very proud about attending Cornell. That made my decision of choosing this place particularly easy.
She said to me "I'm going to introduce you to some people that have really drinked the Kool-Aid of Cornell." She did. And Laura, today I can say to you, you have a bunch of 80 people-- 80 LL.M. students-- who have all drank the Kool-Aid.
We all love this university as much as you do, and you can count on us.
We love you!
One thing I can say about Laura is that she's very honest, as we all know. She warned me about Ithaca weather. She told me it could be cold.
That's what she said. "It could be cold." Now, when I think back, the problem was my definition of coldness.
In my mind, coldness does not include air so freezing that hurts your face when you go out at all. Air so cold it hurts your lung to breathe. But she warned me.
Anyway, I think that Ithaca's weather and geographic location has helped us to value the little things. Things like the metric system, so we knew the temperature, actually-- not just in Fahrenheit. Things like days with a sun outside. Things like days with temperatures above zero. Now we value those.
We also learned other things. We also learned the value of friendship-- and good food, too. Because let's face it-- when it's minus 22 degrees Celsius outside-- I have no idea what it is in Fahrenheit, but it's very cold-- and it feels like minus 35, there's not much else you can do than meet a bunch of friends in a warm place and share some home-cooked meal. Not just [INAUDIBLE] bowl, but an actual home-cooked meal-- home-cooked by someone who is from a country that you have probably never visited. But it's there, and you can taste it. Tastes good.
All of our experiences here however wouldn't have been possible-- or at least they wouldn't have been the same-- if it wasn't for our families and their support. They have come here today, from all over the world, to the middle of nowhere-- I mean, to the middle of the state of New York--
--to share this day with us. Their unconditional support has allowed us to be here today. I hope you will forgive me, but I will give you a small example of what unconditional support we have received. It's a personal one.
My mom and dad are here today. They've come all the way from a country who's located at the end of the world. They don't even speak English, therefore they have no idea what I'm saying.
However, whenever I stop talking, I know they'll be there, and they'll be clapping as if I made perfect sense.
You just can't get more unconditional support than that. Talking about support, I would also like to address the J.D. class. Thank you guys. Thank you for taking the time to integrate this legion of foreigners who come from all over the place into your daily-life activities. Thanks for letting us into your music groups.
Thanks for letting us into your football teams-- teams that, for some reason, you insist on calling "soccer" team. Come on, guys. The sport is called "football." A team that never won a single match, but nevertheless, thanks for letting us play.
You also integrated us into your game-boarding sessions, into your parties, and into your study groups. Thanks for that, too. It's been a very enlightening experience, sharing the classroom with you-- some of the best lawyers that this country has to offer.
To our professors, thanks for not cold-calling on LL.M.s. To the ones of you that do cold-call on us, I have only one thing to say. Thank you for your patience.
Well, before my allotted time is up, and as much as we did have fun and enjoy this time here at Cornell, I would like to leave you with a final thought. Studying here is not free. I'm not talking about the tuition. We all know it's high, anyway.
What I mean is that studying here has with some strings attached. Studying here is a privilege. For every one of us sitting here today, there's dozens that for some reason couldn't make it.
This means that we have a responsibility. On this regard, I would like to recall the words that Mr. Kirk Bloodsworth told us here, in this very university, a few weeks ago. He was the first American who was sentenced to death row and was later on exonerated by DNA evidence.
He had a very simple but powerful message that I think is on point today. He said that it was thanks to people who attended institutions like this one that he was able to live to tell his story. It was people who received an education like the one that we have received now that saved his life-- that made literally a difference between life and death for him.
Those people decided to stand up-- to stand up against injustice. And I would like to call on all of you to do the same. I would like to call on you to stand up when you see injustice, from whichever position it is you are in. Whether you are a public servant, a prosecutor, a professor, or the most corporate and rich of all lawyers. Whether it is here in America, back in China, or wherever back home it is for you.
I will ask you to stand up whenever you see injustice. Our profession will put us in place to help people, and we should do it. This is something that can and should be asked of all of us, for we have had the privilege of attending one of the best educational institutions of the world.
Class of 2015, I wish you all the very best. And I hope to [INAUDIBLE] you soon. Thank you.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
Thank you, Marcelo. We will now hear from a member of our faculty selected by the graduating class to address all of us today-- Prof. Sherry Colb. Prof. Colb joined the Cornell Law School faculty in 2008. She earned her bachelor's degree, summa cum laude, from Columbia, where she was also valedictorian, and a J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School.
Prior to joining Cornell Law School, Prof. Colb clerked for Judge Wilfred Feinberg of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and for Justice Harry Blackmun of the United States Supreme Court. She was then a member of the Rutgers University School of Law faculty, in Newark. Prof. Colb's research and teaching interests center on issues of constitutional criminal procedure, especially the Fourth Amendment, animal rights, sexual equality, and evidence. Her scholarship has appeared in several leading law reviews.
She recently published a book about animal rights, Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger? And Other Questions People Ask Vegans and has also written a book about the modern challenges of sex equality, When Sex Counts-- Making Babies and Making Law. She composes a biweekly column on Justia's Verdict, as well as regular posts on the blog Dorf on Law. She's currently working on a fascinating book with Michael Dorf on animal rights and abortion. Please join me in welcoming Prof. Sherry Colb.
Well, first things first. Congratulations, Class of 2015.
Today I want to talk to you about mind reading. We do a lot of mind reading in the law, as well as in life. Now you might be wondering, what the heck is she talking about? Well, think about it. In criminal law we often have to prove that the defendant intended the consequences of his actions on his victim. But usually we don't have the luxury of a defendant who announces, as he kills his victim, "I hereby intend to end the life of my victim with malice aforethought."
As a result, we have to look at other things. So what do we do? We have a witness, perhaps, who saw the defendant purchasing weapons and ammunition three weeks before the crime. Maybe we have another witness who saw the defendant with binoculars, staring into the home of his victim, night after night, right before the homicide took place. And through these actions we can read his mind. And we can do it rather effectively to determine what he was thinking.
We also do mind reading in everyday life. Some mundane examples. So let's say I give my daughter a bowl of salad-- a mistake to begin with. And then she returns the bowl to me at the end of the meal, and it is filled with tomatoes. Not one tomato has been touched. I can read her mind and infer that she does not like tomatoes-- which in fact she does not. And she doesn't even need to tell me so-- although, needless to say, she does.
So we read minds in everyday life, in that important way. We also have mind reading recommended by the Bible in suggesting how we figure out whether people are guilty or innocent. Those of you who've taken my class in Criminal Procedure are going to be familiar with this quote from Proverbs 28:1. "The wicked flee when no man pursueth."
Now this quote comes up in the context of a case that we study in criminal procedure called California against Hodari D. The issue in this case is whether people have the right not to be chased by the police when police have no reason to chase them. In other words, does the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizures protect against being chased for absolutely no reason at all?
Spoiler alert-- no.
The Supreme Court held, in an opinion by Justice Scalia, that there is no Fourth Amendment right not to be chased when police have no reason at all to chase you. But he had a footnote, Justice Scalia-- and this is where the Proverbs quote comes in-- where he took issue with one of the premises of the case. The premise of the case-- or one premise-- was that the police had no good reason to chase Hodari. Right? And that's where this question arises of whether there's a right not to be chased for no reason.
But Justice Scalia said California should not have conceded that point. California conceded the point, so it wasn't before the Court. But Justice Scalia thought, well, let's talk about it anyway. So in this footnote he says, actually, Hodari was behaving in a way that made it perfectly appropriate for the police to chase him. He was running away from the police. He was afraid of the police.
And as the proverbial wisdom goes-- get it? "Proverbial wisdom"? --"The wicked flee when no man pursueth." So Justice Scalia and Proverbs, here, are suggesting some mind reading. Two layers of mind reading, to be sure. The first layer of mind reading is that you see someone running from the police, and you can read that mind to see fear. And that seems like a fair inference.
But the second layer is the why. Why is this person scared? And the mind reading says this person is scared because he knows he's done something wrong. And that knowledge of his wickedness is what drives him to fear.
Now I think we know from recent history and the news that people can be afraid of the police without necessarily having wickedness. People like Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York, and Walter Scott of North Charleston, South Carolina, and Freddie Gray of Baltimore, Maryland. And the names go on. There are many others.
People can be afraid of the police because they are scared of deadly force, even if they have committed no wickedness at all. So I think Justice Scalia's and Proverbs's mind reading in this way can go very much wrong-- can go awry.
Now there are other-- well, before I say that, you as attorneys may have opportunities to confront some of the injustice that we're talking about here. You may be a prosecutor, and you can help make sure that the criminal justice system, at least on your watch and where you are in control, does not engage in unconstitutional misconduct. And you might be a civil rights attorney and litigate against people who violate the constitutional rights of others, as well. So hopefully someday it'll be true that when somebody flees the police we can read that person's mind to say, you've done something wrong. But unfortunately, we are not yet at that stage.
Now as I started to say before, there are areas where we read minds and things can go wrong but you don't have necessarily fatal results. It's not quite as dramatic as the police use of deadly force. And what I'm talking about here is that we read our own minds.
Now once again you're thinking, why would we need to read our own minds? We have direct access to our feelings and our thoughts, don't we? We don't need to read our minds through our behavior. But research suggests that maybe we don't have as good access to our thoughts and feelings as we imagine that we do.
So to give you some mundane examples, you might go to the store and buy yourself a suit. And you think "I love this suit. This is a wonderful suit." And then a year goes by, and you have not once worn the suit. And so you can read your mind, through your behavior, to say "I guess I didn't really like the suit as much as I thought."
Or, for example, to give an example from my own life, it may be December 31st, and you decide you're going to join a gym.
And you join the gym, and you think "I'm going to go to this gym a lot. So even though it costs a little more than I'd like, it's worth it, because I'm going to go." And then a year goes by, and you haven't gone a lot. You did go that time when they had that movie that you'd missed, in the theaters, and you thought it'd be fun to see a movie, and they had donuts. But--
--but that was it. Now these mistaken mind readings, or these initial attempts at mind readings that went wrong, are not tragic. Right? So you don't wear the suit, and you don't go to the gym. Big deal.
But there are other times when it can be more serious and even devastating. And this is where we come back to that quote-- "The wicked flee when no man pursueth." Which, by the way, I should tell you is not my favorite quote in the Bible. My favorite quote in the Bible is Genesis 1:29, where God tells Adam and Eve to consume a vegan diet.
But I digress.
So when can self mind reading go wrong? Well, sometimes law students feel nervous and anxious in the classroom. I don't mean at Cornell, but, like, at other law schools.
And they feel anxiety in the classroom, and they feel fear, so they don't raise their hands. And Justice Scalia might say "The wicked flee the spotlight when no professor pursueth," or something like that. It's always important to add the "eth" at the end.
And the way this works, I would say, is that there is an internal what I will call Officer Scalia-- just to kind of conflate police officer and Justice Scalia-- and maybe Proverbs, but there's no neat way to incorporate that. So Officer Scalia says "You're afraid. You're not raising your hand. You have nothing to contribute." And he might also say "You know, you don't really have anything to say that everyone else didn't already think of, or what you're going to say is wrong."
Now, of course, there may be something else going on altogether, which is perhaps you just don't feel like talking. So that's a possibility. Another possibility is that you didn't do the reading.
Now that doesn't make you wicked, to be sure, but it does make you guilty of not doing the reading. So I'm going to put that to one side.
But for many people, you've done the reading, you understood it, you're ready, and you have something to say, but then you don't raise your hand. And this happens day after day.
And there's little Officer Scalia, in your head, saying "You're scared. You have good reason to be. Because when you're scared, there must be a good reason. It's because you're not good enough, because you don't have what it takes."
And I'm here to tell you to disregard that nonsense. OK? Don't listen to that. And that kind of anxiety, unfortunately, can last beyond law school. So our profession-- it's a very honored profession, but it has a high rate of anxiety, compared to some other occupations. This is not meant to bum you out on your graduation day.
But if you are feeling afraid, it means that you're not alone. But it is important that you not mistake that fear as evidence of truth, because it is not. And we are here-- your family, your friends, your faculty, the staff here, and the people who are here in spirit because they couldn't make it today but they so much wanted to be here. And we are all here to tell you not to listen to Officer Scalia-- that you are qualified to be here. You are qualified to do your jobs, even if it'll sometimes be challenging. It'll sometimes be exhausting. And sometimes you'll just say "What am I doing?"
You are qualified. You have the skills. You are competent. And so we welcome you into a profession that you are eminently qualified to be confident that you have the skills to perform. Congratulations, Class of 2015.
Thank you, Prof. Colb. We now come to the highlight of this day-- the formal recognition of our graduates. And at this time, I'd like to turn the proceedings over to Associate Dean John DeRosa.
Thank you, Dean Penalver. Graduates, you will be ushered to the stage by degree category. As I announce your name, please proceed across the stage. Your picture will be taken as you shake hands with the dean, and you can then return to your seats by way of the stairs on the far side of the stage.
And we will begin this afternoon with our candidates for the degree of Doctor of the Science of Law.
And the following are the candidates for the degree of Master of Laws.
The following are the candidates for the degree of Juris Doctor and Master of Laws in International and Comparative Law.
The following are the candidates for the degree of Juris Doctor and Maitrise en droit.
And the following are the candidates for the degree of Juris Doctor.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
Cornell Law School Class of 2015, congratulations.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
Congratulations to all of you. AD White hoped that you, the graduates of his law school, would become a blessing to the nation, at the bar-- you can sit.
That's fine. We're going to stand up in a second. At the nation, on the bar, on the bench, and in various public bodies. And Cornell Law graduates have, over the years, vastly exceeded his ambitions. I have no doubt that you, the Class of 2015, will do the same.
Before we conclude these proceedings, let us have one more round of applause, this time for the family and friends who are present here today.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
I know I speak for all of you graduates when I say that here in Bailey Hall with us this afternoon are family members and friends who offered you support and encouragement through the years, as law students, that we cannot possibly quantify. And as we celebrate the enormous accomplishment of our graduates, we celebrate as well all those who made these accomplishments possible.
Now I'll ask you to rise again for the singing of the Cornell alma mater. The words appear in your program.
[MUSIC - "FAR ABOVE CAYUGA'S WATERS"]
(SINGING) Far above Cayuga's waters, with its waves of blue, stands our noble alma mater, glorious to view. Lift the chorus, speed it onward, loud her praises tell. Hail to thee, our alma mater! Hail, all hail Cornell!
Far above the busy humming of the bustling town, reared against the arch of heaven, looks she proudly down. Lift the chorus, speed it onward, loud her praises tell. Hail to thee, our alma mater! Hail, all hail Cornell!
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
Please remain standing while the faculty proceeds out of the auditorium and then join us back at the law school for a reception.
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Cornell Law School honored the Class of 2015 at its convocation ceremony May 10. Eduardo M. Peñalver, Allan R. Tessler Dean and professor of law, presided over his first convocation as dean. Speakers: Sherry Colb, professor of law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar, Christopher M. Andrews J.D. '15, and Marcelo Penafiel LL.M. '15.