Commencement takes place twice a year in the fall (December) and the spring (May). Please continue to check these pages for specific graduation information.
May 2016 Graduation - Commencement Speech by Amanda Preston
"Members of the class of 2016. Friends. Family. Professors. Administration. Dean’s Fellows. Babycakes. Pookie Wookies. Emily Horowitz. And last but not least, the captains that brought back the Dean’s Cup.
Today marks the moment where we can finally say that we did it. We’ve gathered together with our peers and our loved ones to celebrate the fact that we’ve earned our Juris Doctor. This journey took us three years. It also took us about 20 textbooks. And 100 supplements. And 200 outlines from outline depot. It took us 10 to 12 “mandatory” Dean’s Chats and just as many boxes of honey-baked ham. It took us 3 sleepless nights trying to buy purple parking permits. It took 110 reminders from Professor Sawicki, official party promoter for Legal Grounds. And it took us 500 e-mails from Dean Vander Wyden asking us to check if we lost our cell phones, or car keys, or our cars. And on that note, to whichever one of you ladies is still missing the engagement ring that she lost during her 1L year, please see Dean V after the ceremony.
We didn’t do it by ourselves. Which is why every step of the way we’ve thanked our parents. We’ve thanked our spouses, our siblings, our cousins, our in-laws, and every other member of our family. We’ve thanked our friends. We’ve thanked our veterans. We’ve thanked our mentors. And last but not least, we’ve thanked each other, the classmates that sat beside us during this journey, and the ones we lost along the way. Classmates who we will never forget, such as Kevin Sigurani, who spent his days working in our clinics, in our courthouses, and simply making us laugh.
The opportunity to be on this stage today and to address you as student commencement speaker is a tremendous honor which words cannot truly describe. But it also presents its challenges. How can I, as young and clueless as everyone else, impart final thoughts and words of wisdom at this momentous occasion? How can I also identify a topic that is both significant yet relatable? After much thought it occurred to me that there is one thing that we not only all understand, but can apply to our experience as law students. And that one thing, is CREAC.
To give some background to the members of the audience who aren’t from the law school, CREAC stands for Conclusion, Rule, Explanation, Analysis, and Conclusion again. As tender 1Ls we were taught that this was stuff that the dreams of legal writing were made of. But as seasoned graduates, we can now use CREAC as a different acronym. It can summarize our three years at Miami Law.
So let’s first start with the C. C, which stands for our creativity. As Miami Law students we have been shown countless ways to channel our creative juices into legal settings. Most, if not all, of us have delivered a mock trial opening statement, one which was powerful, captivating, and completely offended the Federal Rules of Evidence. We’ve written papers on the hottest issues in the law today, such as aquatic invasive species in the Caribbean. We’ve travelled to Ireland, Spain, and Switzerland for LWOW, to pitch our services to businessmen, and to practice plus français with our European counterparts. The opportunities that we’ve had to creatively use our legal skills are outnumbered only by the opportunities that we’ve had to secure a Lexis Nexis water bottle.
Now let’s turn to R, which represents our emergence as readers. Because that is what the law is about. In only three years it seems like we managed to read everything. We read the entire Supreme Court decision on gay marriage in June of last year, because that was our idea of fun. We read our classmates’ papers and briefs, either because we were the definition of a good friend, or because we enjoy the ego boost from correcting somebody else’s work. We read all 5 pages of notes that we summoned the strength to take our final semester of law school, and consequently, 50 pages from our dear friends Gilbert and Emmanuel. The only thing that we still have not read to date? The emails that are delivered to our UM Law inbox.
Now we’re at E. Our graduating class is now engaged. Each day that we spent at Miami Law we were handed the tools necessary to become active participants in our community. And our class is well aware of that. That’s why we’ve formed relationships with the Public Interest office and woke up at 6:00 am on the HOPE Day of Service. That’s why we’ve joined Clinics, where we not only represented real-life clients, but did outreach activities to educate others on areas of law that we knew that we knew nothing about. That’s why we did Street Law, where we traveled to Carol City to teach a classroom of high school students, and asked them to create rap songs about copyright law. When presented with the opportunity we do not hesitate to participate. Unless we’re being asked if anyone would like to volunteer in class.
Now we’re at A, which anyone could guess stands for argumentative. Because that’s what everyone expects lawyers to be. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Because with every persuasive argument that we make our opponents and our judges know that we’ve read, prepared, and analyzed the issue. Which is why we all rushed to sign up for 7:00 am Lit Skills. It’s why we missed class the entire week before the Gaubatz moot court competition. It’s why we gave up our Fridays for International Moot Court (that had nothing to do with getting an all expense paid trip to Europe). It’s why we fought to get better WiFi on campus, though that seems to be an argument that we lost.
My classmates, as I come to the end of this review of our three years at Miami Law, I ask you to think about how we can continue to grow in the many years ahead of us in practice. We can continue to grow if we always try to encourage one little act—the final C, which stands for change. No matter where you choose to go after today you will be surrounded by persons who desire to see some kind of difference made in their communities, whether it be political, economic, or social. Most of these persons will not know where to start. And they will turn to us to help them. Our legal education was not limited to showing us what is practically step one in changing policy. It also exposed us to a wide range of perspectives that allow us to stop for a moment and ask ourselves what is the necessary policy, and what kind of change will benefit others.
Sitting in this room today are tomorrow’s practitioners, judges, politicians, and businessmen. The community that we’ve formed at the University of Miami should not disappear after today. If anything, we should make it closer, stronger, and a resource for all of our bright, innovative minds, to support each other in our goals. We may have entered law school as if we were any other student, but we graduate today as leaders. So congratulations to the University of Miami School of Law Class of 2016. Congratulations on all of your accomplishments to date, and the many more to come. Thank you.
Letter from Dean VanderWyden About the Graduation Ceremony
Your name has been included on a list of students who are close to completing requirements for graduation. If you are planning on completing your degree by May or August 2016, this message is meant for you. If you are graduating later, please disregard these instructions—we'll get back to you!
The attached Graduation Checklist is provided for your convenience. It is imperative that you read it carefully and adhere to all the deadlines given therein. The Commencement Ceremony on May 7 represents the culmination of your long journey. You should make plans to be there with your family and friends. It will be a special day. Mark your calendar for the following important events:
- application deadline for May 2016 graduation
- mandatory meeting with Dean White regarding Commencement;
- the events of Bar Week, February 8-11;
- sessions regarding financial aid issues and Bar Exam preparation;
- commencement ceremony, and the
- graduation reception in your honor.
Also, please get everything else on the Checklist accomplished in a timely manner. As always, we are here to assist you at any time. Come and see me – if I can be of any help to you in completing these final steps.
With all best wishes, I am
William P. VanderWyden
Assistant Dean for Professional Development