The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School honored the Class of 2023 graduates with a ceremony at the American Academy of Music.
On Monday, May 15, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School recognized the Class of 2023 graduates during a commencement ceremony at the American Academy of Music in Philadelphia. This year, 248 students received JDs, 104 students from over 30 countries received LLMs, one student received an LLCM, two students earned an SJD, and 37 received a Master in Law (ML) degree. Award-winning women’s rights attorney, Gloria Allred CW’63, delivered the commencement address.
A founding partner of Allred, Maroko & Goldberg (AM&G), Allred has been the leading women’s rights private law firm in the nation for 47 years, winning hundreds of millions of dollars for victims who have been discriminated against due to gender, race, age, physical handicap, sexual orientation, sexual harassment, or because they have AIDS.
Her trailblazing work has earned recognition from two United States presidents, and in 2019 Allred was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. That same year, California Rural Legal Assistance presented her with the Dolores Huerta Adelita Award, which honors women who are trailblazers in their communities.
Her numerous honors and awards include the National Association of Women Lawyers’ President’s Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from The National Trial Lawyers in 2014, the Women Who Make a Difference Award from the International Women’s Forum in 2016, the Lenore Kramer Award for Excellence from the Women’s Caucus of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association in 2018, the Lifetime Achievement Award from American Lawyer Magazine in 2021, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Organization for Women (NOW) for her enduring commitment to fighting injustices against women. Allred was also one of the rare recipients of the Praeses Elit Award by Trinity College Dublin Law Society for the advancements she has made for women’s rights and civil rights throughout her career.
Allred, a Philadelphia native, opened her remarks by leading a packed house through a traditional cheer from her own school days, modified for the current class year: “Poor Ben Franklin never did see a class as great as 2023! Poor Ben!”
In her opening remarks, Allred gave a rapid-fire account of the numerous instances where she saw injustice and could not—and did not—look away. She recounted her firm’s trajectory, from fighting discrimination against women and LGBT individuals to winning important victories for victims of sexual assault and abuse, and the firm’s impact on local, state, and national policy.
“Now, you may ask ‘Why am I telling you this?’ Because, as has been said, ‘to whom much has been given, much is expected.’ Life is full of opportunities to win change,” she said.
“I call on you, as the lawyers and judges and elected officials which you may one day be, to help win that change that is still overdue for women and marginalized minorities. All you need to do is to decide not to look away.”
Invoking the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Nelson Mandela, and Ghandi, Allred implored the Class of 2023 to develop a passion for justice and to make moral choices as legal professionals.
“I learned, at Penn, how to make a moral choice,” she said. “If you have the ability to act, and you have the desire to act, and you have the opportunity to act, it is the only moral choice that you can make. We are, today, in a country faced with many moral choices.”
Before leading the crowd through a final “Poor Ben” chant, Allred concluded her commencement speech with a reminder of the profound impact legal professionals can have.
“As a lawyer or a judge…you have the power to make individual wrong-doers, and institutions which engage in systematic injustice, accountable.”
Dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law Ted Ruger’s welcome and opening remarks applauded the graduates’ perseverance and hard work, especially noting the many challenges faced by graduates whose legal education have been characterized by a pandemic, political upheaval, and widespread public reckoning of inequity and injustice in the United States.
“We all stand in awe of you. We stand in appreciation of your hard work and share in the hope and optimism that you manifest both right now and through your careers. You will make the world a better place, and you will make our profession proud of you.”
Ruger recognized the Class of 2023’s dedication to public service, cross-disciplinary educational achievement, and leadership.
“In the time you spent here you embodied and realized the best vision of a Penn Carey law education,” he said. “You did rigorous interdisciplinary course of study. The majority of you took classes or even degrees or certificates in other parts of this university. You’ve done tens of thousands of hours of pro bono public service nationally, locally, and globally. You’ve applied your lawyering talents and diverse values to leading our campus community in over 90 different student groups, as well as…effectively advocating for change both in the broader world and here on campus.”
Master in Law, LLM, and JD Representative Remarks
Ruger introduced representatives from each graduating class: ML representative Ayo Aladesanmi ML’23, MPA’23, LLM representatives Maria Veronica Manalo LLM’23 and Nester Fernando Siazon LLM’23, and JD Class President Noor Irshaidat L’23.
Aladesanmi reflected on his motivations to pursue graduate school and the impact of an interdisciplinary legal education. He recalled his experience applying to graduate school during the fall of 2020—during the throes of the pandemic, a worldwide reckoning of the violence against Black Americans, and during a tumultuous presidential election—and how this unique point in time shifted his perspective. He celebrated his fellow graduates’ dedication to rigorous study of the law in order to better society.
“My goal grew into a desire to do justice to the study of government, public institutions, and public service. I wanted to properly understand all the systems and mechanisms that allow us to govern our society and to use this understanding to push our world toward a more just and equitable orientation.”
LLM representatives Manalo and Siazon both gave impassioned remarks, with Ruger noting afterward, “That was the most Philly speech ever given.”
Manalo recognized the Class of 2023’s perseverance in the face of numerous obstacles, and her remarks included ode to Philadelphia written in verse:
In the city of brotherly, love where freedom is found
We’ve treaded the streets of Philly, feet on the ground.
From Center City to South Street, we’ve roamed
In this vibrant city, a place we can all call home.
From cheesesteak debates to the Liberty Bell,
Philly’s charms have stories we all love to tell.
In the land of Rocky where champions rise,
We embrace the grit, reaching for the skies.
But this is just the beginning, the start of the quest
To make an impact and to rise above the rest.
LLM graduates, let’s raise the bar high.
In the footsteps of great legal minds, we shall all comply.
With Philly in our hearts and our passion ablaze
We’ll reshape the world and leave a lasting blaze.
Congratulations to the Class of LLM 2023, oh so bright!
We’ll shine in boardrooms, fighting for what’s right.
From Philly’s corners to the courtroom glory,
From Philly’s streets to the legal stage,
Together we’ll make history turning the page.
So, let’s embrace the future, our legal wings spread,
Carrying the torch with justice ahead.
So, here’s to the future as we raise the bar,
LLM graduates, shining like a star.
In the east side’s glory, we will make our mark.
Penn Carey Law, forever, we will leave a spark.
Siazon’s speech was equally passionate and full of Penn Carey Law and Philadelphia pride.
“It’s hard to believe that most of us were strangers embarking on this together,” he said. “We’ve had our share of good times and challenges in school, in Philly sports, and in everything else. But through it all we have stuck together, celebrating our victories and, more importantly, supporting each other in tough times. We have shown grit and determination in the face of adversity. And as a wise man once said ‘We are from Philly, and we fight. That’s what we do.’”
Irshaidat reflected on her class’s unique collective journey through law school.
“Each of us has our own story, our own challenges and triumphs that define our time here,” she said.
Irshaidat called on her fellow graduates to “use our legal education to address the pressing issues of our time, whether it be promoting equality and justice, advocating for human rights, protecting the environment, or helping businesses thrive.”
Irshaidat concluded with an Arabic verse, which she translated to: “The law is a sword against oppressors and a shield of the oppressed, and the lawyer is a sun that illuminates the path of justice and spreads hope in the hearts.”
Tayler Daniels L’23 presented the Harvey Levin Award for Teaching Excellence to Sophia Lee, Incoming Dean; Professor of Law and History. LLM Class Officer Errel Peli LLM’23 presented the LLM Prize for Teaching Excellence to William Ewald, Professor of Law and Philosophy; Co-Director of the Institute of Law and Philosophy.
Watch the full Ceremony
Click here to rewatch the full Penn Carey Law 2023 Commencement Ceremony