Birmingham School of Law celebrated the graduation of the Class of 2019 on Sunday, May 19th, at the Alys Stephens Center. Graduates joined in their celebration with family, friends and the esteemed BSL faculty.
Valedictorian Chester Lachowicz addressed attendees and focused on the lessons he and his classmates learned during their long journey. “Like law school at BSL, nothing worth having in life is easy,” he says. He spoke fondly of learning how to trust and depend on others, including his classmates and family. Lachowicz reminded the graduating class that “it is in the gray that the law lies,” and he wished his fellow students good luck in their endeavors.
Salutatorian Beth Clayton restated to her classmates the task they are undertaking. She shared a gripping parable and told her classmates that danger lies not in doing something, but in doing nothing. “It is our job, as lawyers, to stand up for people,” she said, reiterating that they all shared a common goal, which is a call to service. Clayton closed by charging her fellow graduates to vote, run for office, and to pay attention to what is happening in government.
Marcus Hill, the summa cum laude graduate, was recognized for having the third highest GPA in the graduating class.
The highlight of the celebration was a commencement speech by Judge U.W. Clemon, one of the first black lawyers admitted to the Alabama state bar. He served as Alabama’s first black federal judge and was appointed to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama by President Jimmy Carter. He rose to become the District’s chief judge from 1999 to 2006, succeeding Sam Pointer, Jr. Clemon served a total of 29 years before retiring from the bench in January 2009. He then returned to private practice at White, Arnold & Dowd.
Clemon spoke to the graduates about how civilizations rise and fall, but that the rule of law has been the cornerstone of almost every new nation. He reminded them of their sworn duty to uphold the rule of law. “Though it may be hard sometimes, you must be reliable and resourceful and stand up when you must,” he said. “We need each other. We are keepers of each other… an inescapable network of mutuality tied to a single garment of destiny.”
Clemon closed with a reading from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “O Ship of State,” which refers to the affairs of a state symbolized as a ship on course, and he reiterated the importance of each graduate’s contribution to that great “Ship.”
“Humanity with all its fears, with all the hopes of future years, is hanging breathless on thy fate!”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow