Congressman Kennedy Tells Class of 2014 'Fortunes of Country May Depend' on Their Efforts Graduation Awards

Kennedy speech

U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III shows a moment of silent appreciation after receiving the UVA Law diploma of late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy '59 on behalf of the Kennedy family.

May 20, 2014

In a call to public service, U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III told the University of Virginia School of Law Class of 2014 on Sunday that the future of the nation may depend on their contributions as lawyers.

The first-term congressman from Massachusetts said a still-recovering economy, political gridlock and threats to U.S. foreign policy are among the challenges that must be addressed in order to restore faith in the American system of governance.

"Now it would be easy to think that this is not your problem," Kennedy said. "That it's those clowns in government that are giving the system a bad name. But folks, this is more than your problem; this is your purpose."

Kennedy quoted Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia, who wrote "the fortunes of our country may depend" on the University's graduates.

"Class of 2014, this is the responsibility and opportunity lying at your feet," the congressman said.

In total, the Law School conferred 405 degrees to the class: 347 J.D.s, 55 LL.M.s and three S.J.D.s.

Kennedy, a former assistant district attorney who spent two years in the Peace Corps and received his law degree from Harvard University, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2012. The Democrat serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, as well as the House Committee on Science and Technology.

The congressman is the son of former six-term congressman Joseph Kennedy II and the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy '51, for whom the Law School's Kennedy Fellowships are named. In 2006, he co-chaired the re-election campaign of his great-uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '59.

Kennedy, in encouraging the class onward to greater public service, also acknowledged its recent accomplishments.

"You've exonerated a man wrongly accused," he said. "You sent an immigration reform bill to the desk of this governor. You used the law to champion issues from autism, to housing, to wounded warriors and human rights."

Dean Paul G. Mahoney also extolled the service of the class, which collectively put in a record 17,995 hours of pro bono work to assist clients who could not otherwise afford legal representation. A record 105 students met the school's Pro Bono Challenge of performing 75 or more volunteer hours while in law school.

"You welcomed the intellectual challenges that awaited you and met them energetically," Mahoney told the class. "But you did not focus just on yourselves. You raised money and donated your time to countless important causes."

Brian Park, the outgoing president of the Student Bar Association and the president of the graduating class, announced the class gift: 297 graduates — more than 85 percent — pledged to support the Law School with financial donations over the next four years.

Following the announcement of awards (see below) and the conferral of degrees (a ceremony that included the hooding of retired Virginia judge Bert Sachs '58), Mahoney made a final, surprise presentation. The dean delivered to Kennedy the UVA Law diploma of the congressman's great-uncle, Sen. Edward "Ted" Kennedy '59, which was never collected. Ted Kennedy, in his rush to begin the election campaign of his brother, future President John F. Kennedy, skipped graduation and neglected to give the registrar his preferred forwarding information.

"Ordinarily, it does not take us 55 years to straighten out this sort of thing," Mahoney said dryly, evoking laughter from the audience. "But better late than never."

As part of the ceremony, Dean Paul G. Mahoney announced the recipients of the 2014 graduation awards.

Margaret G. Hyde Award
Sarah Buckley

James C. Slaughter Honor Award
Simon Joseph Cataldo

Thomas Marshall Miller Prize
Caroline Susan Schmidt

Z Society Shannon Award
Benjamin Charles Wood

Law School Alumni Association Best Note Award
Joseph Benjamin Tyson, "Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing: Reconceptualizing Consent Decrees to Empirically Expose Industry's Straw Man Attack on Environmental Litigation"

Robert E. Goldsten Award for Distinction in the Classroom
Stewart Inman

Roger and Madeleine Traynor Prizes 
Joseph Benjamin Tyson, "Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing: Reconceptualizing Consent Decrees to Empirically Expose Industry's Straw Man Attack on Environmental Litigation"
Justin Andrew Lollman, "The Significance of Parental Domicile Under the Citizenship Clause"

Herbert Kramer/Herbert Bangel Community Service Award
Mario David Salas

Mortimer Caplin Public Service Award
Sabrina Asgari Talukder

Edwin S. Cohen Tax Prize
Alexander Brian DeBrie
Isaac Wood

Earle K. Shawe Labor Relations Award
Claire E. Kenny

John M. Olin Prize in Law and Economics
Anne Hampton Lippitt, "An Empirical Analysis of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act"

Eppa Hunton IV Memorial Book Award
Hunter Joseph Kendrick

Virginia Trial Lawyers Trial Advocacy Award
Shannon Marie Pollock

Virginia State Bar Family Law Book Award
Meghan Elizabeth Loftus

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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