More than 2,000 people convened as UCLA School of Law hosted its 68th commencement ceremony on May 17, celebrating the Class of 2019 with glitz, grandeur and inspiring speeches.
Family, friends, faculty, colleagues and classmates gathered on UCLA’s Dickson Court to toast 313 juris doctor (J.D.) graduates, 198 master of law (LL.M.) recipients and one person who earned a doctor of juridical science (S.J.D.) degree.
Bet Tzedek Legal Services president and CEO Jessie Kornberg ’07 delivered an impassioned commencement address, recalling the emotion from her own UCLA Law graduation day and encouraging members of the Class of 2019 to utilize their skills to help those in need.
“When you leave here today, I’m happy to tell you, you leave behind your last grade,” she said. “It doesn’t have to mean the end of learning, but it does mean the last time a professor defines what success will look like for you. … And it means that going forward, you set your own goalposts for victory.”
Bet Tzedek Legal Services president and CEO Jessie Kornberg ’07 delivers the commencement address.
She added, “With your degree today, you have the power to turn the law into hope. … Help us rebuild faith that we are part of a profession and a system that is not just for us, but open and fair and available.”
The Class of 2019’s J.D. graduates include roughly equal numbers of men and women, ranging in age from 23 to 42. Approximately 34 percent identify as Hispanic, African-American, Asian, Native American or Pacific Islander, and 18 percent are first-generation college students. About nine percent of the J.D. graduates already hold another advanced degree.
The LL.M. graduates, many of whom were already accomplished legal professionals before they came to UCLA Law to pursue their legal master’s degree, hail from 35 countries, are 61 percent female and range in age from 21 to 56. They include five Fulbright Scholars, four judges and a judge advocate general in the U.S. Marine Corps.
S.J.D. recipient Yang Liu, an assistant professor of law at Renmin Law School in Beijing, wrote a dissertation on international courts under the supervision of UCLA Law professor and professor of political science Richard Steinberg.
The ceremony under sunny skies started with the procession of graduates and a rousing a capella rendition of the national anthem by Delaram Kamalpour ’19 and Alexandra Trantham ’19.
UCLA Law Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin then welcomed the graduates and guests, urging them to embrace the qualities of gratitude, purpose and service to others.
UCLA Law Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin encourages graduates to follow their “inner GPS.”
“As you enter the legal profession, I hope you stay true to your own, personal, GPS,” she said. “I hope you will use your inner GPS as a guide, as a values-driven map that gives you lodestars and helps direct you. One that lives within you, but also outside of you, in your family and friends and communities. Keep sight of that GPS as you navigate your professional choices.”
J.D. class president Curtis Harris ’19 greeted attendees and served as emcee for the afternoon. He offered a note of remembrance for classmate Jessica Chung, who died in 2018 after a long illness.
Clémence Lépine LL.M. ’19 spoke on behalf of the LL.M. and S.J.D. class, and Ian Grady ’19 presented the award for Professor of the Year to Beth Colgan. Earlier in the year, Colgan received the 2019 Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching, the law school’s highest faculty honor for classroom excellence.
“I know you have what it takes to do this job and do it well,” Colgan told the graduates. “You will be prepared.”
Sarah Rahimi ’19 spoke on behalf of the J.D. graduates. She reflected on a tumultuous three years of national political and social strife, applauding her classmates for rising to many challenges.
“Refusing to be intimidated by the adversity of the moment, you chose to put your talents, privilege and hard work to use in the service of those who needed it the most,” Rahimi said. “Refusing to just give up on one another, you decided to challenge each other and grow instead. Refusing to be passively shaped by the law and its trajectory, you decided to shape how it was to affect your communities. … Refusing to bow to what you believe to be unjust conditions, you instead have dared to hope.”