At the Boston College Law School Commencement ceremony, Jeanne Shaheen, US Senator for New Hampshire, told the graduates to be good stewards of the system, and to stand up against those who would challenge the “impartiality and integrity” of the courts.
“For more than two centuries, the foundation of our democracy has been our independent judiciary and our impartial legal system,” Senator Shaheen said. “Today, these independent institutions face clear and present dangers. This threat has been building for years – and now it is reaching a crisis stage.”
Senator Shaheen noted the refusal to hold hearings on Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, but also noted that the Senate’s majority party has refused to allow a vote on 20 other nominees for federal courts, a far larger number than during prior presidencies.
“Those of you who will be sworn into the bar will pledge to serve – and I quote – “with all good fidelity as well to the courts as my clients.” You will become officers of the court – stewards and guardians of our judiciary and our legal system,” she said. “BC Law has equipped you with something perhaps more valuable than a diploma. It has equipped you with good values and a social conscience. Here, you have been taught to be “men and women for others.” You have been taught to stand for social justice, economic justice, and for a system of justice that is worthy of the name. So I have a charge for you today, as soon-to-be attorneys and officers of the court. I urge you to stand for and defend our independent judiciary and legal system – judges, courts and law enforcement that are above partisan politics and shielded from external influences.”
In his address, Dean Vincent Rougeau urged the graduates to go “set the world aflame,” a reference to St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuit mission. “It is no coincidence that we have asked Senator Shaheen to join us today,” he said. “In a world that seems increasingly divided, leadership–the right kind of leadership, the kind that brings us together, rather than fragments us–is more important than ever…The world needs people who attempt to do what they know is right, regardless of whether it’s popular, who unite with others for the common good, despite personal differences, and who listen and respond with civility because they respect the dignity of their fellow human beings. The world needs leaders. The world needs you.”
A transcript of the Senator’s speech is available on Medium.
Two hundred and twenty-seven J.D. graduates received degrees at the Law School’s 83rd Commencement exercises. Fifteen LL.M. students also received degrees.
Senator Shaheen is the only woman in US history to be elected both a Governor and a United States Senator. She has served in the United States Senate since 2009, and is a member of the Senate Committees on Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Appropriations, and is Ranking Member of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.
Throughout her time in the Senate, Senator Shaheen has played a key role on issues including small business, women in the military, democracy in Eastern Europe, equal pay, energy efficiency, budget reform, and sexual assault. Just this week, the Senate unanimously passed the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act authored by Senator Shaheen to establish basic rights for survivors of sexual assault. The legislation, which codifies basic rights for survivors of sexual assault, serves as a federal model for reform efforts in states across the country.
Senator Shaheen was instrumental in passing the Small Business Jobs Act and the Small Business Innovation Research program. She led Senate efforts to pass a critical extension of unemployment benefits to help struggling families, and has led an effort toward a bipartisan debt-reduction plan, introducing bills to reform the country’s budget process. She cosponsored measures to cut government spending on vehicles by 20 percent and to eliminate unneeded tax breaks for major oil companies and ethanol production. Senator Shaheen has also advocated for energy efficiency, and recently passed bipartisan legislation that would create a national energy efficiency strategy to foster job creation, save businesses and consumers money and reduce pollution.
As Ranking Member and the former chair of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, Senator Shaheen was an outspoken proponent of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). She helped to secure its ratification, enabling the U.S. to resume critical inspections of Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
Shaheen served as Governor of New Hampshire from 1997 to 2003. Between her time as Governor and election to the U.S. Senate, Shaheen served as the Director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government.
More information on the Boston College Law School Commencement, including a replay of the livestream video feed, is available on the Commencement Website.