On June 11, 2022, 288 graduating Stanford Law School (SLS) students celebrated their accomplishments and each other in an outdoor tent covering the lawns in front of the law school’s Canfield Courtyard. The 193 JD, 81 LLM, 11 JSM and three JSD graduates processed, cheered and celebrated together during the first in-person graduation ceremony held at the law school since June 2019.
While welcoming the graduates and their families, Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and SLS Dean, Jenny Martinez, acknowledged the extraordinary circumstances the 2022 SLS class has faced while in law school. “In March 2020, today’s JD graduates were in the middle of their first year of law school when the pandemic disrupted every aspect of life. Some were literally sitting in exams when the Santa Clara County shelter-in-place order, the first of its kind, was announced,” said Martinez.
Martinez went on to describe the unique challenges and hardships that ensued and how the law school community flexed and worked together to continue to educate the students in the audience. “The class of 2022 persisted and I am thrilled that we are able to send this heroic class off by gathering here in person today,” said Martinez. “As graduates, you are harbingers of better days to come as we launch you into legal careers amidst the gradual reopening of society. It is a society who’s flaws have been laid bare in the last few years but one that you now have the tools to contribute to and make better, and I am confident that you will.”
During the awarding of diplomas, Dylan Simmons, a third-year law student who passed away in early 2022, was awarded his law degree posthumously to thunderous applause by his classmates and the entire audience.
Later that same day, SLS welcomed back graduates from 2020 and 2021 who got the opportunity to reconnect with each other and symbolically receive their diplomas.
“The world is waiting to see what you will do.”
During her charge to the class of 2022, Dean Martinez focused on the challenges to democracy, both domestically and internationally. “Now, perhaps more than ever, our efforts are required. Although the second half of the 20th century saw tremendous progress toward freedom and self-governance compared to the millennia of human history that preceded it, the first decades of the 21st century have seen that progress slow and even reverse.”
Martinez encouraged the new graduates to use their skills to preserve democracy. “As lawyers, you are uniquely trained and positioned to understand and influence the course of a democratic society, whether in this country or around the globe. During the time you spent here at SLS, you learned the skills that can acquit you well in this sphere, and so I exhort you to use them to protect democracy and democratic institutions.”
“Bring a beginner’s mind to today’s challenges.”
The graduating class of 2022 awarded the Hurlbut Award, given to a professor who “strives to make teaching an art,” to SLS Professor Jayashri Srikantiah, Associate Dean of Clinical Education and Director, Immigrants’ Rights Clinic.
During her acceptance remarks, Srikantiah reflected on what she had learned from students during their time in the clinics, mentioning the idea of “non-anxious presence,” a term coined by family systems therapist Edwin Friedman, and shared with SLS by Andrew Toney-Noland JD ‘22. “A ‘non-anxious presence’ refers to a person who can remain present and connected to someone who is experiencing a difficult moment, while retaining a strong enough sense of self not to get pulled into anxious reactivity. Such a person can serve as an ‘anchor’ for someone who is dealing with a crisis, remaining both present with and identified apart from someone.” said Srikantiah. “As we all struggle with anxiety, depression, and other human responses to all of this, it sometimes feels like too much to bear. At these times, Andrew’s eloquent words are useful. Sometimes, the best we can do is to sit in non-anxious presence with each other. To serve as anchors for each other.”
As a lawyer of more than 25 years, Srikantiah ended her remarks by giving the new graduates some words of wisdom. “As you enter the profession, my advice is to keep bringing a beginner’s mind to today’s challenges.” said Srikantiah. “As the rule of law crumbles in various places around the world, as we struggle with the gap between justice and law, as we experience the racism and xenophobia that is part of this country’s fabric, as we endure ever-worsening climate change, we have not figured out the path forward. But, you all know how to learn. You know how to be a beginner.”
“I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, now.”
Ghaliva Nadia Sjarif, LLM ‘22, was one of two students selected by the graduating class to speak at graduation. She praised the diverse accolades of her peers, which included two Knight-Hennessy scholars, two judges, and individuals from thirty two countries.
“We will soon go back to our own lives and I’m really really going to miss you all. With that said, borrowing and amending the words of singer Demi Lovato in Camp Rock, we were exactly where we were supposed to be here at Stanford Law. Now we’re going to let the light shine on us on our next paths,” said Sjarif.
“Everyone must choose their part in the end.”
The other speaker for the class of 2022, Daniela Meuhleisen, JD ‘22, urged her peers to avoid neutrality, referencing “I Have a Seat in the Abandoned Theatre” by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. “Class of 2022 you have taught me to be as generous as I am angry. Because it takes courage to be angry in a system that asks you to be neutral above all.”
“Every time the law asked us to be only a witness, you showed me the strength and the power that it took to feel sure again that we are so much more than that. As we graduate, I think so many of us are left with the realization that the law does not and should not ever make us neutral.” said Meuhleisen.
2022 Student and Staff Awards
- Sam Becker, JD ‘22, was chosen for the 2022 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service to Stanford Law School. The Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service recognizes a graduating student who has made distinctive and exceptional contributions to legal education or the quality of student life at Stanford Law School. Award recipients are chosen collectively by their peers and the Law School faculty and staff for active and sustained efforts that both enrich the Law School community and reflect the principles and standards of excellence of Stanford Law School.
- The 2022 Staff Appreciation Award was presented to Holly Parrish, Associate Director of Student Affairs. The SLS Staff Award is given to the staff person, administrator, or faculty member “who has played an integral role in the lives of the graduating students.”
Reunited in Celebration
Due to the remote nature of the past two SLS graduation ceremonies, 173 graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021 returned to campus for an in-person celebration and to mark their accomplishments during their time at Stanford Law. While speakers for the class of 2021 delivered their speeches at the 2021 virtual graduation ceremony, the student and faculty speeches for the class of 2020 were postponed until this year.
The graduating class of 2020 awarded the Hurlbut Award to Professor Anne Joseph O’Connell. O’Connell began with naming and celebrating the work of students and faculty in 2020 before encouraging the graduates to “find your returning points and be a source of respite and joy for others.”
“Returning points are not anchors, in the sense of them not changing in important ways. They can and do move. When you feel like you are not moving, stuck in discomforting ways, or when everything is moving too fast, sometimes it’s discomforting, sometimes it’s exhilarating, these returning points—the people and places—can provide respite and joy,” said O’Connell. She asked the graduates several questions. “What are returning points for you? What people do you have in your corner? What places provide you solace? Are you someone else’s solace?”
Quoting singer Taylor Swift, O’Connell reminded the audience of the lyrics “…never be so kind you forget to be clever. And never be so clever you forget to be kind.”
“We must stand as a community.”
Holt Alden, JD ‘20, one of the three students selected by the graduating class to speak at graduation encouraged his classmates to leverage the power of their degrees for good.
“We should embody the words of Professor Miguel Mendez, the first Latino professor at this law school, who said that we must always leave the door through which we enter a little wider for those who follow,” said Alden. “We must choose to leverage that privilege to speak truth, to take action, even when we have little to gain personally.”
“These extraordinary times gave rise to extraordinary actions by extraordinary individuals.”
Two other students chosen to speak at graduation, Edmund Ruo Fan Bao & Sigríður María Egilsdóttir (both LLM ‘20), addressed their classmates both in the physical audience and those abroad watching the live-streamed ceremony. “Two years may not be a life-changing number of years, but two years is plenty of time for life to change. Our friends who couldn’t make it here today from Germany, Sri Lanka, Japan, China … are not absent because they shy away from long plane rides or because their love for Stanford has changed – but because their lives have changed. Our friends are absent to us only, but they are present in new roles, nurturing new careers, relationships, marriages and even new little lives they’ve since welcomed into the world.”
2020 Student and Staff Awards
- Pauline Ryan, JD ’20, was chosen for the 2020 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service to Stanford Law School. The Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service recognizes a graduating student who has made distinctive and exceptional contributions to legal education or the quality of student life at Stanford Law School. Dean’s award recipients are chosen collectively by their peers and the law school faculty and staff for active and sustained efforts that both enrich the law school community and reflect the principles and standards of excellence of Stanford Law School.
- The 2020 Staff Appreciation Award was given to Susan Robinson, Associate Dean for Career Services. The Staff Award is chosen by the graduating students and given to the staff person, administrator, or faculty member who has played an integral role in their lives.