Out of Many, One

By Robert Knox

 “E Pluribus Unum;” out of many, one. That is the inscription on our coins. It reflects our founders’ dream, a dream about a nation that could celebrate diversity and live united as one. Here at Law School, after three years together, we have developed a unique kind of unity. Out of diverse backgrounds, the University chose us. One class, one mission: change the face of the legal profession. We are tomorrow’s change-makers in the world.

Today is a day to celebrate our diversity. Three years ago, we came from all walks of life. We started as engineers, but now we are IP lawyers promoting innovation. We began as accountants, but now we are tax lawyers saving clients money. Yesterday we watched CSI, now we useCSI to solve crimes and prosecute criminals. The unique perspectives we once brought to classroom discussion, we now contribute to the future of the legal profession.

Today is also a day to commemorate our unity. Amidst three years of trial by fire, we bonded over our shared experiences. Prosecutors and defense attorneys developed a real camaraderie through many mock trial practices and tournaments. Volunteers at the Entrepreneurship Clinic collaborated with business people starting or expanding their small businesses. Study groups forged lifelong friendships, sharing the better part of three years trapped in the Library, married to their textbooks.

Today is the day we dedicate ourselves to a higher calling. After three years of training, we are ready to right wrongs, solve problems, and do justice. Following in the footsteps of the great men and women before us, we plunge ourselves into the toughest issues facing our society. We are lawyers. And, as Gandhi said, we must be the change we wish to see in the world.

We are ready to address the pressing issues of our day. We have been trained by some of the best professors and practitioners. They have invested in us, taught us; and they now exhort us to use the tools we have acquired. Abraham Lincoln said, “If you are resolutely determined to make a lawyer of yourself, the thing is more than half done already.” We now have the other half; with our education and indomitable spirit, we can face any legal problem. We can and we will. Three issues in particular stand out in my mind. Among the issues we must address, immigration, poverty, and violence against women demand our attention.

There are currently millions of aliens living in our Nation, and the decisions we make about immigration reform will impact all of us. This year, a classmate used her legal training to write a comment advocating for a class of migrants being overlooked during the debate on immigration reform. After seeing a case in federal court dealing with the issue, she dedicated the better part of a year to revealing an important discrepancy in the law. As lawyers, we chart a course for our Nation, developing and applying the laws that order our society.

Similarly, as the gap between rich and poor widens, fewer people have access to legal services, and our volunteer efforts can change lives. I know another classmate who spent the last three years volunteering at a homeless shelter for battered spouses and their children. Seeing the law’s profound effect on those in desperate situations put the long hours studying in perspective. As lawyers, our profession is all about service, and we wield tremendous power through our understanding of the law.

Finally, most of us know someone close to us who is a survivor of gender-based violence, and it is up to us to advocate for these victims. A classmate once helped state prosecutors select a jury in a child molestation case where nearly one-fifth of the seventy-two potential jurors had to be excused for either having been sexually assaulted or knowing a close friend or relative who had been. Our society cries out for lawyers from diverse backgrounds to stand up to the crises plaguing our Nation.

I say this to stir us to action. The founders fought to make our great Nation a reality. “E Pluribus Unum;” out of many, one. Now we are called upon to preserve it. Out of many, the University chose us. These past three years, we have shared our lives with each other, appreciating our diversity. We now stand united in mission. We must be the change we wish to see in our Nation. We have resolutely determined to be come lawyers. We are now one.

 

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