The Kline School of Law celebrated the accomplishments of 125 JD graduates, 30 Master of Legal Studies graduates and eight LLM graduates at its 10th commencement ceremonies at the Kimmel Center on May 18.
The graduates had all completed a challenging journey yet face critical tasks ahead, the Rev. Cornell Brooks, the former president of the NAACP, said in a commencement address that evoked the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and activists from the Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and anti-gun violence movements.
“This is a moment in which our democracy is being tested and tried,” Brooks said, urging the graduates to “fall in love deeply” with the law and its capacity to produce change.
The graduates need not look far to find mentors, Brooks said, noting that powerful leadership has often emerged from individuals as unknown as their own classmates.
At a time when racial discrimination and attacks on immigrants are rising, Brooks said, the graduates should lead without hesitation.
“Do not wait for somebody to give you permission. Lead boldly and lead now,” Brooks said.
Brooks’ remarks were echoed by those of attorney and law school benefactor Tom Kline, who said the nation’s system of law is facing challenges unlike any he’s witnessed in four decades of legal practice.
Protecting the rule of law is an ongoing, never complete process in which the graduates now must engage, Kline said, adding that faithfulness to facts is the foundation for legal practice.
Many graduates have already made a favorable imprint on the community, Drexel University President John Fry said, citing the thousands of hours of services students have provided through the law school’s clinics and pro bono program.
Fry also acknowledged the success of the Trial Team and the law school’s Trial Advocacy program, which has been ranked #15 by U.S. News and World Report.
Exhorting the graduates not to underestimate their achievements or the grit they needed to complete their degrees, Dean Daniel Filler said the many family members in the hall had earned recognition for lifting them up and offering support over their lifetimes.
Alexandra Snell, the class speaker and president of the Student Bar Association, said the tremendous sense of community that exists at the law school has evolved one conversation at a time and provided a roadmap for successful advocacy.
“We are empowered with tremendous opportunity: whether that includes a plan to work in the Philadelphia legal community or to move away from the city, to work in a firm or kick start a non-profit, the conversations we are going to have after this graduation matter,” Snell said. “That is how we build great relationships, that is how we improve our advocacy and that can be how we continue this Kline legacy.”