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COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS
Delivered by
Vijay Kapoor Lí02
President, Council of Student Representatives
May 12, 2002

Kapoor, U.S. Senator Joseph Biden

When we arrived at Penn Law in the fall of 1999, things were going rather well in the world. War seemed completely out of the question, peace seemed close in the Middle East, and the economy didnít seem like it was ever going to come down. Do you remember the words ďpeace and prosperity?Ē Do you remember the law firm receptions we had as 1Ls? Three short years later we find ourselves in a position that none of us would have imagined.

This being said, this is the right time for us to be graduating. Our class is unique in that weíre able to put aside superficial differences when we address issues. Weíre neither blinded by emotion nor dominated by ideology. As individuals, we have leanings one way or the other, but in the end we all want the same thing: to leave this world a safer, better place for those who come after us. While we may disagree on the methods for getting there, all the ulterior motives - the pettiness, personality disputes, power issues - everything else that gets in the way of serious discussion was absent here. That ability is in great need right now.

We also had the foresight to sacrifice for the future. We decided to apply to law school at a time when we probably could have taken high paying jobs, but we decided to forego them. Why did we make that choice? Recall the results of a survey we took on why we came to law school. Over half of us answered ďTo make a difference in the world.Ē That was the highest response the career office had ever seen. Now, attitudes may have changed once we actually went through law school, but I doubt that many did. Even if you didnít answer this way on the survey, and Iíll be honest I didnít, you knew that the long term benefits of law school were worth more than the money that was out there at the time. Itís that sort of foresight that is also in great need now.

But our ability and judgement will mean nothing unless we put them to use for those other than ourselves - especially for those who will come after us. The memory of law school that Iíll never forget, aside from the people in my first year section, was the summer after my first year. I worked for HIAS, a nonprofit here in Philadelphia that represents asylum seekers. My first case was a Russian Baptist couple who were no older than I. They had a three-month-old daughter named Vita and they were fleeing religious persecution. Vitaís father had to testify alone and on the day of the hearing, he was a wreck. The judge grilled him about the attacks his family suffered, especially about the time they lost another baby after his pregnant wife was assaulted.

 
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