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U.S. Labor Secretary Exhorts Class of 2014 to Play in the ‘Orchestra of Opportunity’

Commencement 2014

May 22, 2014

The law school celebrated 141 members of the Class of 2014 at a May 21 ceremony at the Kimmel Center that saluted the graduates’ successes while affirming that future setbacks may also provide opportunities.

In the keynote, U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said the most important lessons he’s learned resulted from disasters, and that the graduates should not fear failure.

“I hope you’ll be willing to fail,” Perez said, acknowledging that his message might sound crazy but noting that Apple president Steve Jobs was fired from his job and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was turned down by a dozen publishers before her literary epic was printed. “Adversity strips away all the unnecessary things in life.”

Citing a personal failure, Perez said that had his name removed from the ballot when he was a candidate for the state attorney in Maryland, he might never have been appointed secretary of labor by the governor of Maryland, and would in turn not have been tapped by President Obama to lead the federal labor department.

Perez applauded Drexel Law for enabling the Class of 2014 to gain intensive hands-on experience in professional practice and urged the graduates to embrace diversity and play in the “orchestra of opportunity” that promotes justice for all.

President John Fry conferred honorary degrees upon Perez and Ambassador Earle Mack, a successful businessman, esteemed Drexel alumnus and the founding donor of the law school.

Commencement 2014

Law School Board Chairman Tom Kline reminded the graduates of the awesome power and responsibility that they bear to affect people’s lives and liberty.

Dean Roger Dennis cited the 69,000 hours of professional practice experience members of the class logged, including more than 14,000 hours of pro bono service to under-represented members of the community. He saluted the graduates for their exploits on trial team, moot court, negotiation and other competitions that “broke the hearts” of peers from other law schools and commiserated with the class for all the lukewarm pizza they’d consumed. 

Commencement 2014

Class speakers Brett Kaminsky and Brittany Wakim said they and the rest of the class have joined the “Drexel Law family,” which they described as “one of those hardworking families who get on each other’s nerves but at the end of the day support each other through thick and thin.”