The Catholic University of America


Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky '75 to Students: You have not graduated a minute too soon for our nation

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New graduates emerged strong and confident on May 26, as students concluded their law school careers to the cheers of family and friends during the Law School's 128th Commencement at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.
CUA Law Dean and Knights of Columbus Professor Daniel F. Attridge reassured graduates they are ready to use their legal training in service of others. “You are ready to make the most of your training and the opportunities that you have been given. Nothing less is expected from those who receive a degree from the Columbus School of Law. When you leave us today, ready to be an example to others, you will enter a new chapter in your lives,” he said. 

Lauren Elizabeth Stewart, Student Bar Association President and a member of the graduating class, presented Professor Antonio Fidel Perez as Faculty Marshal. She noted, “The class of 2017 is immensely grateful to Professor Perez for inspiring, guiding, and challenging us every day and has selected him to lead us today. Thank you, Professor Perez, for everything you have done for your students and the Columbus School of Law.”

Stewart also introduced classmate John P. Vivian, who gave the address on behalf of the graduates. Vivian served as an active member of the Saint John Paul II Guild of Catholic Lawyers and as Lead Articles Editor for the Catholic University Law Review. In his remarks, Vivian reminded his classmates of the great tools they possess for helping others, “Many law schools can prepare you on substantive issues, but this school brings the love and compassion necessary to go that extra mile. With our doctrinal studies complete, it is now time to take that same love and compassion out into the real world. You have the tools necessary to do God’s work.”

The commencement address was offered by Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky '75, current senior international partner at the law firm WilmerHale. While serving as the U.S. Trade Representative—the country’s principal trade negotiator—Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky shepherded a seven-year negotiation on a bilateral trade agreement with China in 1999. This historic agreement ended decades of restrictive Chinese policy and offered greater market opportunities to American businesses. In return, China became a member of the World Trade Organization, strengthening world peace and stability, while as the same time creating new economic freedoms for more than 1 billion Chinese. 

After conferral of the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, by John Garvey, President of the Catholic University of America, Ambassador Barshefsky emphasized that the need for lawyers, policy makers, and problems solvers has never been greater. “Your range of opportunity – whether on 7th Street, in Silicon Valley or Syrian refugee camps – has never been greater.  Your graduation into the legal profession could not have come soon enough for our country,” she said.

Barshefsky told graduates that they are inheriting an enormous set of global economic challenges that will require skill and creativity on a national, local, and client-related level. “To be a lawyer is to apply reason to complex policy challenges like these. To be a lawyer is to problem solve, however difficult the issues or however high the stakes. To be a lawyer is to be a constructive force in the settling of disputes. It is to be involved in the life of the nation and the life of the community, applying the facts and your skills to local problems and life’s economic challenges. It is your greatest opportunity for good,” she said.

“Whether it is in trade, criminal justice, civil rights, corporate or environmental law, or any other field, in no other walk of life does one have such an opportunity. No other field so directly joins moral and ethical questions with a practical response to specific problems. This is ultimately why you have not graduated a minute too soon for our nation,” Barshefsky concluded. 

Professor Perez introduced the class of 2017 candidates, with conferral of the degrees by Dean Attridge and President Garvey. 114 successful JD candidates received their diplomas. Another 6 students who were awarded LL.M. degrees and 6 were awarded M.LS. degrees. 

At the end of the ceremony, the Law School’s newest alumni and hundreds of families and friends streamed out of the Shrine and back to the Law School for a reception on the lawn. 

Click here to view the 128th Commenecment on CUA Law's YouTube channel.