UMass School of Law Commencement

May 16, 2016

Chancellor … Dean Bilek … distinguished members of the faculty … Trustees … honorees, guests and students.

As President, as a UMass graduate, and as a fellow lawyer, I congratulate you and welcome you into this most noble of professions.

Attending law school is one of the best decisions I ever made.  My legal training has been a friend, ally and asset throughout my career: whether that was leading the securities division of the Commonwealth’s Secretary of State’s Office at age 26, serving as First Assistant District Attorney in Middlesex County, throughout my years in the United States House of Representatives or, more recently, in leadership roles here at UMass.

Having legal skills and experience allowed me to take on Big Tobacco in Congress and gave me the ability to challenge the tobacco giants and, frankly, to prod the federal government, at a time when we weren’t doing enough to identify the enormous health-hazard that tobacco and smoking posed, and were failing to take the steps needed to protect people’s health and save lives.

And I know that all of you are going to use your skills—and courage—to stand up for the poor, to fight for people’s rights, to fight for children and the environment and for healthcare and for decent housing.

And, in an ultimate sense, to fight for justice—sending forth the tiny ripples of hope that, in the words of Robert F. Kennedy, will “build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

When I look at the Academic Calendar, I mentally circle these dates, as in my opinion, there is no better or more inspirational time of the year.

During the Commencement period, the five campuses of the UMass system send 17,000 students out into the world—agents of hope to produce the ripples that turn into an overwhelming current for positive change.

You are the legal division of this much larger force of UMass graduates.  We are very proud of what you have accomplished, and I know that we will be prouder still in the months, years and decades ahead as you take on the causes that need to be addressed, as you protect people’s rights, and bring us justice, and hope,.

Congratulations on what you have achieved.  I wish you every success in your lives and careers.  UMass will always be here to serve you.  I hope your bond with the University will always remain strong.