“This is the most euphoric feeling I’ve ever felt in my life,” said Xavier Carr minutes after receiving his juris doctor degree at Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s Fall Graduation Ceremony on December 15. “I feel like a lifelong dream has come to fruition – a dream I’ve had since the third grade.”
Indeed, it was a dream come true for all of the more than 60 new graduates at the Symphony Hall ceremony that was a celebration of the possibilities and opportunities open to those who have a law degree.
“I am ecstatic, euphoric and feeling magnificent,” said Jessica Lockett, who is working with the Zouvas Law Group in corporate securities law while studying for the bar exam.
“It feels amazing,” said graduate Shahram Mangoli.” It’s all coming to an end, but at the same time, I feel that life is just beginning.”
“Through hard work and considerable effort and sacrifice, you have achieved your goal and we are celebrating your accomplishments today,” TJSL’s Dean and President Rudy Hasl said in congratulating the new graduates. ”I hope and pray that your professional and personal lives reflect a fervent commitment to justice and compassion in a world which so desperately needs your assistance.”
“It’s an honor to address such a diverse audience,” said class valedictorian Vatana Lay. “And I’d like to take the time to congratulate each of you for an extraordinary achievement.”
To families and friends in the audience who have been such staunch supporters of all of the graduates, Lay said: “Thank you for putting up with all the grief we’ve given you.” Then, he told a moving story of a young man who rejected his mother because she had only one eye, only to learn after her death that he had been born with one eye and she had given one of her own eyes to him. And the message Lay conveyed to all was “Don’t take for granted the sacrifices others have made for you.”
“I stand as a proud graduate of TJSL,” said commencement speaker Vince Hall ’08, the newly appointed Chief of Staff to San Diego’s new mayor, Bob Filner. Hall personifies the career possibilities of those with law degrees. “A significant percentage of our graduates have had successful careers outside of law,” said Hall, who until recently was the Vice-President of Public Affairs & Communications at Planned Parenthood of San Diego & Riverside Counties, and has served on the staffs of such politicians as then congressman Filner and former California Governor Gray Davis. And Hall says not a day goes by in his position that his law degree doesn't help him deal with the issues before him.
“A law degree helps you understand the foundation of society and we are a nation of laws. A legal education stretches your mind and makes you see the world in new ways, no matter what profession you choose.”
Hall spoke of the difficult job market some of the graduates face if they are not already employed when he urged, “Take charge of your future. Your job search is the toughest job you will ever have. So be the toughest and best boss you’ll ever have during your job search. Unemployment is not a cause of action, but a cause for action.”
And to that, Dean Rudy Hasl added, "We should all celebrate the influence that our law school had on Vince Hall's professional devlopment and what a legal education enabled him to do. His success is an inspiration to all of us."
“I see a group of people who are ready to take on the world and show them that TJSL graduates are a force to be reckoned with,” said Alumni Association President Renee Galente ’08, in a rousing speech to welcome the graduates to the ranks of TJSL’s many successful alumni. “The Alumni Association is made up of more than 6,000 graduates, spanning more than 40 years of graduating classes.”
Galente went on to list major law firms at which TJSL alumni are partners and associates, such as Casey Gerry, Neil Dymott, and Thorsnes Bartalotta McGuire. She also mentioned that alumni have used their law degrees to become San Diego County’s District Attorney and Public Defender, a U.S. Congressman, state senators, professional sports team owners and managers, and human rights advocates, not to mention the many judges who are TJSL graduates.
“We are everywhere,” said Galente.
“It’s a bittersweet experience,” said new graduate Michelle Lynn, who posed for a photo with friends she's known since since orientation, Vatana Lay, Jessica Lockett and Joshua Goodrich. “I worked so hard to get to this point and it was the biggest test of my life,” said Lynn. “It has been a journey.”
“Yes, it’s sad to see it end,” said Joshua Goodrich. “But it’s also fun and exciting.”
Sabrina Strand was also both happy and sad to see her journey come to an end. “So much hard work went into this,” she said. “But I’m so glad to see all of us together like this.”
As Renee Galente reminded all of the new graduates, “You are not alone. You have a support network to lean on who are ready, willing and able to help you. And we know you will succeed. So the question isn’t who is going to let you succeed. It’s who’s going to stop you?!”
Congratulations to all our newest graduates from everyone in the TJSL family!