BC Law’s 2020 Reunion may have been all-remote, but it spanned eight days of jam-packed programming. The event brought more than 300 alumni from classes ending in 5 and 0 into virtual face-to-face conversations with beloved professors Daniel Coquillette and Robert Bloom ’71, high tea with Ingrid Hillinger, bar reviews, and a mindfulness class with Filippa Anzalone. The Alumni Association held its annual board meeting and elected new officers; the Black Alumni Network also did so a few days after Reunion (see election results here).
Photo above: Obama Foundation CEO David Simas ’95 gave the Reunion 2020 keynote, saying, “I can think of no one better than people who have gone through Boston College Law School—with the ethos and the values that it has—to be part of [the] solution” to America’s divisions.
Concluding the reunion programming was a state-of-the-school address by Dean Vincent Rougeau, who recently was named inaugural director of the Boston College Forum on Racial Justice in America, and a reunion keynote speech by Barack Obama advisor David Simas ’95.
A key message of Rougeau’s presentation was the Law School’s progress in creating a more diverse culture. He offered as examples the hiring of Lisa Brathwaite as Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Programs during the fall semester and the current search for a senior-level faculty member whose scholarly interests focus on racial justice.
His contention that such actions are part of a greater need to heal divisions across the land, set the stage for Simas, CEO of the Obama Foundation and a frequent speaker at BC Law on themes of healing, unity, leadership, and commitment to service.
“The common enemy for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents is not each other,” Simas said in his reunion keynote. “Covid and this dark winter…are the common enemy. There are hundreds of thousands of Americans who are dying; the economy is shut down; we need to fix this first. That is where I think there is an opening for unity.”
Simas believes Americans are looking at a multi-year, decades-long, institutional reform period. The period will require a fundamental rethink of the way democracy works in the United States, specifically, the way elections are structured and the way people govern and engage with one another.
He went on to suggest that at the heart of any realistic solution to current problems is civic leadership. “Our North Star is all around civic leadership,” Simas argued. To hammer home his point, he quoted former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, for whom he once worked, in saying, “You can lead in one of two ways: by having people turn to each other or by having people turn on each other.”
Simas’s final call to action was directed at the Boston College Law School community, which, in his eyes, has a special responsibility. In argument, consensus, and reason, “we can demonize the idea, but never, ever the person,” he said to his rapt reunion audience. “I can think of no one better than people who have gone through Boston College Law School—with the ethos and the values that it has—to be part of [the] solution.”