Penn State
Lewis Katz Building, University Park, PA
twitter facebook linkedin Instagram Google+ webmail

Penn State Law commencement celebrates students becoming ‘guardians of the land’

"We’re choosing to ‘be awake on behalf of those who sleep’—what he called guardians of the land. And that means that the responsibility falls on our shoulders to defend the notion that our experiment in democracy is worth pursuing, and that progress walks hand-in-hand with the pursuit of justice for all.”
Penn State Law student Tom Brier speaks at commencement.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In an emotional and celebratory commencement ceremony, the Penn State Law Class of 2017 officially passed from students to graduates and heard words of wisdom from University leaders, their colleagues, and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.

The opportunity to become a lawyer, Casey told the gathered crowd of future lawyers dressed in ceremonial robes, comes with an expectation to serve, whether in public office or in local communities.

“Whatever service you choose, please make a commitment, and remain ever steadfast in your commitment to public service,” he said.

Recognizing the class’ existing commitment to service, evident from their participation in Penn State Law’s legal clinics and public interest programs, Pennsylvania’s senior senator urged the graduates to “not only to make cogent, effective arguments for your clients,” but to also “set a fine example by serving your community, serving our commonwealth, serving our country, and indeed, serving our world.”

Penn State Law LL.M. student Adrian Hodis and J.D. student Tom Brier also spoke, both of whom celebrated the achievements of their colleagues and looked to the future.

Hodis, who came to study at Penn State Law after practicing law in Romania, called his colleagues “the largest, but also probably the best, LL.M. class this school has ever had,” and celebrated the diversity of this tight-knit, international group of students.

“From Brazil and Argentina, to China and India, from Norway to Iran and Saudi Arabia, we’ve had lawyers and law graduates, judges and anti-corruption officers, activists, heads of NGOs, all coming together to advance their study of the law,” Hodis said, noting they brought more than just their professional backgrounds. They brought their own cultures, ways of thinking about the law, and ways of looking at the world, creating a rich environment in which to learn from each other’s differences.

“In these past ten months, however, we all had one thing in common,” Hodis said.  “We were Penn State Law students.”

Taking the stage to give the commencement ceremony’s closing remarks, Brier treated the occasion with grace and levity, joking that somehow Penn State Law had managed to turn them into lawyers and that, looking back, maybe the last three years weren’t so bad after all.

“Sitting here today I’m reminded how lucky I am to have gone on such a remarkable three-year journey with this group of people,” Brier said. “When I say coming to Penn State Law is the best decision I could have made, I really do mean that.”

But Brier also made note of the critical responsibilities and important role in society that he and his classmates took on when they decided to become lawyers, echoing Sen. Casey’s remarks on the importance of service.

“In the words of my favorite poet Aeschylus, we’re choosing to ‘be awake on behalf of those who sleep’—what he called guardians of the land,” Brier said. “And that means that the responsibility falls on our shoulders to defend the notion that our experiment in democracy is worth pursuing, and that progress walks hand-in-hand with the pursuit of justice for all.”

“That’s on us,” Brier declared.  “And this class realized that from day one, which is why I’m so happy to be a part of this group.”

Share this story
mail