The Catholic University of America

Class of 2009 is Urged to Act with Purpose

May 22, 2009 - Two hundred and forty-three new graduates of the Columbus School of Law were reminded during their commencement that regardless of the current legal job market, there is a great deal of vital work crying out to be done.

"In this last year we have seen our social, economic and political system struggle in crisis. Financial markets, health care, educational systems and legal justice systems, just to name a few," said Dean Veryl V. Miles. "Our community, our nation and our world need legal professionals who will step in with purpose to correct the failings in these systems and others to better serve the common good. You are those men and women."

The theme was repeated by speakers throughout the afternoon at the 120th commencement of the law school, held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Syndicated columnist and political analyst Mark Shields delivered the main address, after warming up the crowd of assembled graduates and their families with humorous quips gathered over his more than 40 years as a ringside observer in the nation's political battles. Asides like "you know the economy's bad when the gun lobby lays off three senators" drew chuckles.

Then Shields turned serious, complimenting the law school on its progressive history. He noted that Catholic University's first African-American law student was enrolled 107 years ago; its first female law student 87 years ago.

"You literally stand on the shoulders of giants, of pioneers for racial and gender justice. I salute your law school," he said.

A new Deal Democrat who has been involved in 11 presidential campaigns as manager and journalist, Shields suggested that the law school's distinguished pedigree in civil rights set the bar even higher for today's graduates. In poetic word images, he urged students to advocate during their careers "for those who catch the early bus." He referred to daycare providers, restaurant servers, hotel maids and hospice care workers.

"Each of us has drunk from wells we did not dig. Each of us has been warmed by fires we did not build," said Shields. "We can do no less for those who follow us. With the fire and the talent and the conviction of you, the Class of 2009, I am confident we can do much more."