2012 Columbus School of Law Commencement Remarks
John Garvey, President of The Catholic University of America
May 24, 2012
Let me begin with a special word of thanks to Dean Veryl Miles. For those guests joining us today who do not know, Dean Miles has served as Dean of the Columbus School of Law for the past seven years. She finished her term this spring, after having made a tremendous impact on the administration of our law school and the academic experience of today’s graduates. Please join me in thanking Dean Miles for her extraordinary dedication to the Columbus School of Law and The Catholic University of America.
I know this has been a long ceremony, so I want to say just two things before we recess.
I. Everyone here is very proud of you. Proud in a different way than when you graduated from college. For college graduates success means getting a good start in the right direction. It’s different for you. People who get into law school will get out, because they arrive with judgment, brains, and maturity. But law school is harder than college – fatter books, harder concepts, faster pace, higher expectations. We are proud of you for adjusting to those standards and living up to them. College commencement speakers tell their audiences they are ready to take over the world. They’re not. But you really are, and you have grown to that point over the last three years.
II. A word of advice. As befits your new station, it is big and vague. You leave law school having learned a lot. You are ready to perform noble service in one of the country’s most distinguished professions. You are equipped to read and interpret, uphold and defend the law. That is valuable knowledge; use it well. But do not forget that there are higher things to contemplate than law.
Remember that faith allows us to see more than reason can alone. Emily Dickinson said it this way:
Faith—is the Pierless Bridge
Supporting what We see
Unto the Scene that We do not—
Too slender for the eye
Faith will not undermine what you know; it will magnify it. And so as you prepare to head out into the world and share what you know, let me make three brief suggestions for how to keep your faith.
• First: If you want to keep the faith, you have to practice it. This requires discipline, but it will make your life infinitely more rewarding (and that is no exaggeration). If you are Catholic, go to Mass on Sunday or more often if you can. Remember to pray, and not just when you need something. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, prayer “keep[s] our friendship with [God] keenly alive.”
• Second: Let faith shape your work. There is an old saying, “Pray as though everything depends on God. Work as though everything depends on you.” That is about right. Prayer strengthens us. It helps us exceed our own expectations. The heroic lives of Mother Teresa and St. Francis de Sales show this. But faith also helps us to remember that everything does not depend on us. We always require God’s help.
• Finally, faith is a gift to be shared. You have spent the past 3 years studying on the campus of The Catholic University of America. Many of the people you have met here share in your faith. Where you are going next, that may not be true. If that is so, remember the words you’ve seen over and over on our University coat of arms: Deus Lux Mea Est. God is your light. Do not be afraid to share Him with those you meet.
We have tried to teach you the virtue of justice. I hope you have learned it well and will practice it scrupulously. It is one of the big ones. But my hope is that faith will be the center of your life -- that the words of poet Alexander Pope will be your own:
O lead me whereso’er I go,
Thro’ this day’s life or death!
This day be bread and peace my lot:
All else beneath the sun
Though know’st if best bestow’d or not,
And let Thy will be done.