Student Legal Forum Celebrates 70 Years of High-Profile Speakers

Politicians, Judges, Actors, Writers and Activists Have All Delivered Remarks
Student Legal Forum
November 13, 2017

The Student Legal Forum at the University of Virginia School of Law, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, has hosted an impressive list of influential public figures over time.

High-profile politicians, judges, actors, writers and activists have all delivered remarks at the student organization’s request.

Guests expound upon legal topics, politics and other issues of civic interest.

Former President Harry S. Truman addressed the Law School after leaving office.

Future President John F. Kennedy spoke as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (invited by younger brother, Robert F. Kennedy '51).

Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, who was under investigation for corruption, spoke just months before his resignation.

Others, such as director Oliver Stone and actress Whoopi Goldberg, spoke from their perspectives as entertainers and social commentators.

The forum has even received the in-person advice of Miss Manners herself, Judith Martin.

With the exception of a few semesters of inactivity in the 1990s, the forum has been inviting important speakers for seven decades. The following is a slideshow of some of the more recognizable personalities who have visited.

  • Agnew

    Vice President Spiro T. Agnew spoke on May 8, 1973, as an investigation was unfolding into his receipt of illegal payments from contractors. Under a plea agreement, he stepped down from office on Oct. 10, 1973.

  • Chisholm

    U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm, who in 1968 became the first black woman elected to Congress and who in 1972 sought the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, spoke to the forum in March of 1973. 

  • Kennedy

    Co-hosting with the Black Law Students Association, the Student Legal Forum invited Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '59, a former president of the forum, to speak on Sept. 23, 1991, regarding civil rights and the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.

  • Woodward

    Famed Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward spent time with students related to a talk he gave in February of 1980.

  • Thomas

    In 1983, the same year he was appointed as a justice to the Supreme Court of Virginia, becoming the first African-American and the youngest person of any race to sit there, John Charles Thomas '75 returned to the Law School to speak.

  • Truman

    Former President Harry S. Truman exchanged dinner conversation at the forum’s banquet before giving his address.

  • Liman

    In March 1988, about a year after the Iran-Contra hearing, which dealt with backdoor efforts by the U.S. to fund Contra rebels in Nicaragua, the forum hosted a panel to discuss related issues. Arthur Liman, chief Senate counsel of the hearing, is second from right.

  • Shorr

    Former Professor Mortimer Caplin '40 introduces NPR senior analyst Daniel Shorr at a forum talk in February 1992.

  • Dukakis

    Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, spoke at the Law School in April of 1995 on the future of health care.

  • Goldberg

    Actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg spoke to students in November 1987 on HIV and the homeless. She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1991.

  • Powell

    "Advice to New Lawyers," was the title of the lecture that former Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., pictured speaking with students, gave on March 31, 1988.

  • Grisham

    Author John Grisham spoke in April of 1997. Grisham discussed his experiences related to law school and the legal profession.

  • Stone

    The award-winning writer and director Oliver Stone spoke on September 19, 1993.

  • Starr

    Solicitor General Kenneth Starr addressed attendees in 1992, two years prior to joining the investigation that led to the impeachment process against President Bill Clinton.

  • Martin

    In February 1998, Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, spoke to students in Caplin Auditorium.

  • Goldwater

    Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater delivered the lecture "The Challenge of Labor in the 1960s" in April of 1960. He would become the Republican Party’s candidate for president in 1964.

  • Couric

    On April 26, 1989, the forum welcomed Emily Couric, then a journalist in the legal press. She would later go on to become a state senator, before she succumbed to cancer.

  • Bunche

    Robert F. Kennedy '51, president of the Student Legal Forum in 1951, invited Ralph Bunche, right, who helped establish the United Nations. Bunche, here with Kennedy and Dean F.D.G. Ribble, won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in mediating in Israel.

  • Douglas

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas chatted with Robert F. Kennedy '51 and other SLF members in association with a talk he gave.

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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