May 19, 2015 - Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman on Saturday urged the 322 graduates of the University of Houston Law Center to look to their future in the law with a strong moral compass and a commitment to service to the community.
Delivering the Convocation address, Guzman, an undergraduate of the University of Houston who grew up a couple of miles from the campus, -drew upon the wise words of the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, megachurch pastor Rick Warren, novelist Pearl Buck, and Jedi Master Yoda of “Star Wars” fame.
“Difficult to see – always in motion is the future,” Guzman quoted the diminutive Yoda. “Members of the Class of 2015, today we celebrate your future. We applaud your achievements, and we honor the commencement of your lives in the law.”
Guzman described her upbringing in a working-class household in the East End barrio, as one of seven children of parents of modest means.
“But they refused to have modest goals for their children. They believed that all seven of their children could do anything that they wanted to do. And so they inspired us through their example and their confidence,” she said.
Although her parents had only grade-school educations, Guzman said, she and six of her siblings graduated from the University of Houston. The seventh chose to go to another university.
Guzman implored the graduates to commit to practicing the law with three main qualities – character, excellence, and service.
She advised the graduates most of all to practice the Golden Rule.
“No creed, no philosophy, no professional code of conduct could provide a more timeless or more comprehensive guide for the practice of law or the living of life than this simple maxim: Treat others as you would have them treat you,” she said.
And she implored the graduates to serve not just their paying clients, but to commit to serve the underserved population through pro bono and other volunteer work.
The convocation ceremony at Hofheinz Pavilion was the first for Dean Leonard M. Baynes, who began his tenure at UHLC last fall.
“Lawyers have been at the forefront of civil rights, women’s rights, marriage equality, immigration reform, tort reform, tax reform, and deregulation,” Baynes told the graduates, harkening to the signature theme of his administration, “The Power of a Legal Education.”
“Ultimately as a lawyer, you will seek justice for your client whoever she may be: victim of domestic violence, immigrant seeking asylum, or a businesswoman seeking a fair merger,” Baynes said.
“We are all proud of your accomplishment today. I congratulate each of you, and look forward to hearing about all the great things I know you will be doing in the future.”
University of Houston Regent Jarvis Hollingsworth, a 1993 graduate of the Law Center, implored the graduates to “live your life with purpose. Don’t settle for anything less than the best you can achieve. Remain humble, and make helping others a priority.”
“And most important, remember that your family comes first. Every once in a while, take stock of your priorities and keep your family at the top of the list,” he said.
Class Speaker LaDelle Davenport led her fellow graduates through an often-touching, often humorous tour of their three years together.
“I realized that our legal education was divided into two parts. There was 1L and then there was everything else,” she said.
“For me, the most surprising thing about law school was just how well we got to know each other,” Davenport said. “We have the shared experience of IL. And some of those moments in IL are some of the most intense, pressure-filled moments of our lives. We came through that fire together.”
After the speeches were done, the graduates filed one-by-one to the dais to be “hooded” by University Distinguished Professor David Dow and Assistant Professor Zachary Bray as proud family members and friends applauded and occasionally shouted in recognition. The new graduates then marched out of Hofheinz Pavilion as the entire Law Center faculty, standing in a semicircle, clapped in unison.
Afterward, the graduates, family and friends, and Law Center faculty and staff celebrated at a reception on the Law Center plaza.