Bayh Calls for American Unity, Patriotism in Commencement Address
Sen. Evan Bayh called for more unity among Americans and summoned the Class of 2005 and their families and friends to a “deeper, more profound level of patriotism” during the May 22 graduation ceremony.
Americans need “more unity, less division, and [an understanding of what] too many of our political leaders today do not want us to understand—that even with all of our superficial differences, the American people have more that unites us than divides us, a single nation with a common heritage forged on a common bond with a common destiny, and it’s about time that we began behaving that way,” said Bayh, a senator from Indiana who graduated from the Law School in 1981. “The great genius of America is not our ability to continue to divide one another to seek short-term political gain. The genius of our country is the crucible in which differences are reconciled, not accentuated.”
Bayh began his commencement address by recalling memories he had of his time at the Law School. On the day of his first-year orientation, then-Dean Hardy Dillard told his class to approach studying law with “exuberant skepticism.”
“I found that not only to be a pretty appropriate perspective for the study of law, but a pretty appropriate perspective for the pursuit of life, in particular the pursuit of public life,” Bayh said. During his first year, his mother passed away from breast cancer a week before exams began, he said, recalling the warmth the school showed him during that difficult time. She had wanted to attend the University when she was a student, but at the time the school didn’t admit women. “It meant a lot to her that I could come,” he said.
Bayh took a break from law school in 1980 to campaign for his father, three-term Sen. Birch Bayh. Although his father lost the campaign, “I came back and graduated with an idea of what I wanted to dedicate my life to.”
After entering private practice in Indianapolis, he was elected Indiana’s Secretary of State in 1986, and served as governor for two terms beginning in 1989. Last year he was elected to his second term as senator.
“I would not be the person that I am, were it not for this Law School, and the faculty of this place, and the values that they instilled in me,” Bayh said, telling graduates that if they return in 20 or 25 years, “you will find that while this place physically means a great deal to you, it is the ethos, it is the spirit embodied by your faculty and contemporaries that you will remember more than anything else.”
After law school Bayh clerked for Judge James Noland of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The new citizenship ceremonies the judge presided over twice a year made a strong impression on Bayh. The immigrants would “always dress up in their finest clothes, they’d have their friends and relatives with them. You could tell this was an important watershed event in their lives.”
The judge would tell the new citizens, “The oath of allegiance that you are about to take is at its core an oath of allegiance to an idea. It’s an idea that promise more hope and opportunities, for everyone who is willing to travel to these shores, and to work hard and sacrifice and dream big so that they can make it happen. It’s an idea that for more than 200 years we have called America.”
Bayh continued, “There is nothing written in stone that says that that idea will be permanent. Nowhere is it written that that will be the case for eternity. It is the case because each generation of Americans, each generation of graduates of this Law School and of this great university, have been willing to meet the challenges of their time, to make the difficult decisions and from time to time the sacrifices, so that it can be so, to keep faith with those who have come before us and to do right by those who will follow, and I say to you, the graduates of the Class of 2005, now is our time.
“We have gathered around us so many challenges to the idea of America, and our ability to meet those challenges will mark us down as either a great generation, or not.”
Bayh pointed to the challenges of globalization, the growth in power and numbers of the Indians and Chinese, and domestically, preparing American citizens “so that they can be economically relevant.
“The growing gap between the haves and have-nots in our country today is very much a skills gap, a knowledge gap, an education gap, and we must close it if our society is going to be the kind of cohesive place that it has always been,” Bayh said.
Other challenges include securing America while ensuring that the values of the Constitution are upheld, and the issues posed by a changing demography. “How do we honor our commitments to our senior citizens, and still do right by our young?” he asked. Furthermore, the change in American families—more households with single parents or two working parents—should be addressed. He noted that 40 percent of Americans felt so disconnected from society that they chose not to vote. “What does that say about the level of apathy, and skepticism, and cynicism?”
Bayh said Americans should understand the words of one of the nation’s great civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr., who said “We may have arrived on these shores in different ships, but we are all in the same boat now.”
Bayh said in Washington, D.C., “too often I feel like the ambassador to a foreign country.” Government leaders would do well to remember Thomas Jefferson's concerns about human frailty and passion, necessitating the need for separation of powers and balancing power in the majoritarian branch.
“With all of our attempts to instill greater virtue in our people, and all of the progress that we have made, the dangers of passion, the excess of partisanship, the zeal of the majority in the heat of the moment to work its will, will occasionally take us down the wrong path,” he said. “I am very concerned that if we abandon the need for consensus, that when the law and the judiciary are called upon to make decisions that inevitably touch upon the political process, if those who labor in the vineyards of the law are viewed as being excessively ideological or excessively partisan, the respect necessary for the rule of law to govern in this pluralistic society will erode, and America will be the lesser for it.”
Americans also need unity, Bayh said, pointing to the remarks of School of Law graduate Robert F. Kennedy in Indianapolis after King’s assassination; Indiana’s capital was the only major city not to experience an outbreak of violence. From the back of a flatbed truck, Kennedy explained that King was killed and a gasp rose from the crowd.
“For those of you who are tempted to lash out in anger and hate, I can only say that I too had a loved one who was killed. He too, was killed by a white man,” Kennedy told the audience of mostly minorities, and concluded that what Americans need is not more anger and more division, but more reconciliation and compassion.
“It was true in 1968, it’s true in 2005,” Bayh said. “The time has come for us to think about what each and every one of us can do to strengthen this nation.”
Bayh recalled a recent visit to Walter Reed Army Hospital to see soldiers wounded in Iraq.
“You would be so impressed and proud of these young men and women,” Bayh said. “They are some of the finest, most idealistic people this country has to offer.”
After leaving the hospital, “My thought was, look at what they have been willing to sacrifice, because their country has asked them to. What about me? What about each and every one of us? What are we willing to put back into this country, to make it more decent and just? What are we willing to do to strengthen America?”
Bayh noted that Jefferson’s tombstone proclaims “here lies Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, author of the law of religious freedom for the people of Virginia, founder of the University of Virginia.”
He didn’t mention his roles as president, vice president, secretary of state, or ambassador to France, to Jefferson’s friend’s dismay.
Jefferson allegedly told his friend, “I would much prefer to be remembered for what I have been privileged to do for others, rather than what others in this country have so kindly done for me.”
Bayh concluded, “More unity in this country, a deeper sense of patriotism, a devotion in our lives for doing for others, not just for what others can do for us. It is the genius of America, it will be the test of our generation, it is my charge and my challenge to the Class of 2005.”
Following Bayh's remarks, the Law School conferred 353 Juris Doctor degrees, 32 Masters of Laws degrees, two Master of Laws in the Judicial Process degrees (to judges completing the Judges Program), and two S.J.D (Doctor of Juridical Science) degrees.
Law School Dean John C. Jeffries, Jr. praised the Class of 2005 as the best the school has yet offered.
“You have also been remarkably substantive,” he told the class. “Your energy and commitment have made the Law School a rich and diverse learning environment, both in and out of the classroom. Your concern for one another, and your inextinguishable good humor have made the Law School fun.
“You leave here today with more than talent and commitment, you leave here with opportunity, with a vastly increased capacity to influence the world around you and to direct the course of future events,” Jeffries said. “The lawyer’s ability to reason carefully, to argue cogently, to express persuasively, will cause others to pay attention.
“The prominence of lawyers in all branches of government is no accident. It is a tribute to the impact of lawyers’ skills, to the influence of the legal mind, to the enormous capacity for getting results that now resides in you.”
Awards Presented at Commencement Exercises
MARGARET G. HYDE AWARD To the graduate whose scholarship, character, personality, activities in the affairs of the school, and promise of efficiency have entitled him or her to special recognition: Micah Jacob Schwartzman
JAMES C. SLAUGHTER HONOR AWARD To an outstanding member of the graduating class: Carrie Faye Apfel
THOMAS MARSHALL MILLER PRIZE To an outstanding and deserving member of the graduating class: Scott Michael George Cullen
Z SOCIETY SHANNON AWARD To the graduate with the highest academic record after five semesters: Sarang Vijay Damle
LAW SCHOOL ALUMNI ASSOCIATION BEST
NOTE AWARD To the member of the
graduating class who wrote the best note in a current issue
of a Law School publication:
Charles Lowell Barzun
ROBERT E. GOLDSTEN AWARD FOR DISTINCTION IN THE CLASSROOM To the graduate who has contributed the most to classroom education by his or her outstanding recitation and discussion: Joseph Leonard Teti
ROGER AND MADELEINE TRAYNOR PRIZE To two graduates who have produced oustanding written work:Charles Lowell Barzun, Daniel Aaron Bress
HERBERT KRAMER/HERBERT BANGEL COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD To the graduate who has contributed the most to the community: Keva Jeannette McDonald
MORTIMER CAPLIN PUBLIC SERVICE AWARD To a graduate entering a career in the public service sector who demonstrates the qualities of leadership, integrity and service to others: Marne Kay Mitskog
ROBERT F. KENNEDY AWARD FOR PUBLIC SERVICE To the graduate who has best exemplified the ideals of Senator Kennedy through active and effective community service: Patrick Stephen Lavelle
EDWIN S. COHEN TAX PRIZE To the graduate who has demonstrated superior scholarship in the tax area: Joseph Leonard Teti
EARLE K. SHAWE LABOR RELATIONS AWARD To the graduate who shows the greatest promise in the field of labor relations: Eric Russell Magnus
JOHN M. OLIN PRIZE IN LAW AND ECONOMICS To a graduate or graduates who have produced outstanding written work in the field of law and economics: Jennifer Marie DeLeonardo
EPPA HUNTON IV MEMORIAL BOOK AWARD To a graduate who demonstrates unusual aptitude in courses in the field of litigation, and who shows a keen awareness and understanding of the lawyer's ethical and professional responsibility: Sarah Marie Hobeika
VIRGINIA TRIAL LAWYERS TRIAL ADVOCACY AWARD To a graduate who shows particular promise in the field of trial advocacy: Gregory David Henning
VIRGINIA STATE BAR FAMILY LAW BOOK AWARD To
the graduate who has demonstrated the most promise and potential
for the practice of family law: David Benjamin Laibstain
Honors and Awards Previously Conferred
HARDY CROSS DILLARD SCHOLARSHIP To an exceptional member of the entering class based on, in addition to financial need, prior academic achievement, leadership, integrity, service to others, success in endeavors outside the classroom, and maturity: Carrie Faye Apfel, Micah Jacob Schwartzman
POWELL FELLOWSHIP IN LEGAL SERVICES In honor of former Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr, to a graduating student or judicial clerk to enable him or her to work in public interest law and to enhance the delivery of legal services to the poor: Anishah Aftab Cumber
DANIEL ROSENBLOOM AWARD To a student whose unselfish contributions have enhanced the academic experience of his or her fellow students: Micah Jacob Schwartzman
MORTIMER CAPLIN PUBLIC SERVICE FELLOWSHIP To a second- or third-year student who demonstrates a commitment to pursuing a legal career in the public service sector: Patrick Stephen Lavelle
LINDA A. FAIRSTEIN PUBLIC SERVICE FELLOWSHIP To a third-year student who demonstrates a commitment to pursuing a legal career in the public service sector: Katie Sue Bagley
JACKSON WALKER AWARD To the third-year student with the highest academic record after four semesters: Sarang Vijay Damle
HARDY CROSS DILLARD PRIZE To the author of the best note in the previous volume of the Virginia Journal of International Law: Danielle Sue Tarin
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF WOMEN LAWYERS AWARD To an outstanding graduate who promises to contribute to the advancement of women in society: Marne Kay Mitskog
JAMES M. SHOEMAKER JR. MOOT COURT AWARDS To the final-round participants in the William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition: Sam Quang Le, Thomas D. Nolan III, Kristi Noel O’Malley, Christopher J. Roche
KINGDON MOOT COURT PRIZE To the winners of the William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition: Sam Quang Le, Kristi Noel O’Malley
STEPHEN PIERRE TRAYNOR AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN TRIAL ADVOCACY To the best oral advocate in the final round of the William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition: Kristi Noel O’Malley
PRO BONO AWARD To the graduate who has contributed the most to the Law School's pro bono program: Heather Schroeder Eastwood
CLAIRE CORCORAN AWARD To the second-year students who have demonstrated the most commitment to public interest work: Carrie Faye Apfel, Patrick Stephen Lavelle
PRO BONO SERVICE AWARDS To
the graduates who have successfully fulfilled the requirements
of the Law School's Pro Bono Program: Elizabeth Suzanne
Anderson, Carrie Faye Apfel, Katie Sue Bagley, Jennifer Marie
Banner, Megan Elizabeth Barry, Jennifer Arrington Bowen, Meredyth
Dawn Cohen, Kenneth Walter Courter, Jr., Jennifer Suzanne Crone,
Jason Daniel Cruise, Jennifer Marie DeLeonardo, Heather Schroeder
Eastwood, Matthew Lee Fesak, Alina Georgeta Emma Fulop, Sarah
Anne Geddes, Kristin Luana Glover, Alison Marie Haddock, James
Michael Harris, Debra Tuan Ping Huang, Shaun Hart James, Patrick
Stephen Lavelle, Peter Decklan Leary, Laura Young Lee, Katherine
Gates Lindsey, Jamie Lee Lisagor, Lorre Michelle Luther, Kelly
William McDonald, Keva Jeannette McDonald, Mark Sean McDonald,
Brian Tully McLaughlin, Justin Charles Miller, Marne Kay Mitskog,
Jacob Shepard Olcott, Kristi Noel O'Malley, Trenton Colbert Packer,
Jessica Williams Paniccia, Lacey Rebecca Parker, Karen Ann Pogonowski,
Neela Kamalam Rathinasamy, Natalie Allison Rosenfelt, Suzan H.
Sandikcioglu, Tenaya Michelle Scheinman, Thomas Gregory Scriven,
Stephanie Leigh Shemin, Katherine Abigail Soles, Meredith Lynn
Stevenson, Davene Dashawn Swinson, John David Taliaferro, Elizabeth
Rebecca Miller Weyant, John M. Winn
Reported by M. Wood