DOJ Seal








7 MAY 16, 1998




















1 Dean Robinson, there's only one person

2 that hopes it more than you do, and that's me. I

3 can't wait. To the class of 1998, I bring you a

4 message: I love the law after 35 years of

5 practice, and I love good lawyers, and after five

6 years as Attorney General of the United States, I

7 can tell you that there are wonderful lawyers

8 across this land doing great work for the people

9 they serve. You enter a profession that is

10 magnificent, that does so much, but that -- as

11 always -- we can work together to improve.

12 You take so much from this great law

13 school. I have had the chance to talk with some

14 of your colleagues, and the combinations of

15 idealism, of good sense, of interest in the law

16 is so wonderful and so refreshing. You will have

17 friends that you made here who will last you all

18 lifetime. You will tell stories, as I did

19 just the other day, about two of my

20 faculty members at law school. I remember them as

21 vividly as if I saw them yesterday. You will

22 be influenced all of your life and in your

23 professional career by concepts and theories of

24 the law that you learned here at Wayne State.

25 Use it. Use all these wonderful


1 attributes that you have obtained here. I urge

2 you at some point in your professional career to

3 consider public service. I have had people tell

4 me of late, why would anybody think about public

5 service? All

6 you do is get fussed at, cussed at, and

7 figuratively beaten up around the ears. I will

8 tell you that

9 there is nothing so worthwhile as trying to use

10 the law to make things better for other people.

11 You need not do it all for a career, but

12 you will find it a very refreshing change from

13 charging people to protect their rights. You may

14 be

15 a real estate lawyer or a trial lawyer. You may

16 have a small family practice. There are so

17 many other fruitful paths a law graduate can

18 follow, for I believe that a good legal education

19 does more than just produce good lawyers. It

20 also builds good citizens; men and women who work

21 harder, think more clearly, communicate more

22 effectively, analyze diverse viewpoints,

23 negotiate productively, spot and solve problems,

24 and apply their hard-won discipline to any field

25 that they chose.


1 I thought the other day about

2 what lawyers have done that I am aware of.

3 They've helped lead Fortune 500 corporations.

4 They are entrepreneurs, like the founders of

5 Southwest Airlines and David's Cookies. They

6 teach law, English and kindergarten. They found

7 and direct advocacy associations and humane

8 societies, charities and investment banks. They

9 write novels and screen plays. They are dancers

10 and disc jockeys, sculptors and restaurateurs,

11 ministers and parents, and one I know of even

12 raises llamas.

13 And if this is not enough, Tony

14 Lorissa, who managed the Oakland A's to a world

15 championship in 1989 is also a lawyer. He didn't

16 have to wear a tie. He didn't have to win every

17 day. He can yell at the judges and he gets all

18 the hot dogs he wants free.

19 But wherever you go and whatever you do

20 with the wonderful education that you have

21 received here at Wayne State, you will be

22 confronted by the issue that challenges us all:

23 how the diverse people of this earth live

24 together in peace and prosperity, first

25 maintaining proud cultural and racial heritages,


1 while eliminating prejudice, ensuring liberty and

2 justice for all without imposing unnecessary

3 restraints, and using this earth and the universe

4 that we love so that we leave it in better shape

5 for our children than in the manner we received

6 it.

7 Lawyers are better equipped, I think,

8 and clearly from my limited experience today the

9 lawyers of Wayne State are better equipped to

10 deal with this issue and these challenges than

11 any other discipline that I know. I think

12 lawyers, wherever they go, and whatever they do,

13 have three essential functions:

14 First of all, they are a sword and a

15 shield, the advocate and the protector; second,

16 the lawyer should be a problem solver, a function

17 we sometimes neglect; and third, the lawyer can

18 be a powerful, powerful peacemaker. But as we

19 consider the functions of the law, I urge you to

20 look beyond the law, to look beyond your narrow

21 specialty.

22 One of the problems the world faces

23 today is that we all attempt to solve problems

24 from a specialized point of view, and we

25 sometimes don't have the glue that brings the


1 specialized points of view together to provide

2 the solution to some of the more difficult issues

3 confronting this nation.

4 I would like to address with you today

5 two issues that you will confront, whether you're

6 the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers or whether

7 you raise llamas or whether you're a senior

8 partner in a Detroit law firm. The first issue

9 that I think it is imperative for lawyers to

10 address is how do we make the law real for all

11 Americans? How do we provide access to law, to

12 justice, and to the courts for every single

13 American?

14 Now, many people will say that's not my

15 problem, but I submit to you that it is every

16 lawyers' problem. On the wall of the justice

17 building in Washington there is an inscription

18 that says: The common law is derived from the

19 will of mankind, issuing from the people, framed

20 by mutual confidence, and sanctioned by the light

21 of reason.

22 If the common law issues from only some

23 of the people, and not all of the people, the law

24 will not be lasting. If some of the people feel

25 they do not have access to our institutions, they


1 will become disenfranchised and bitter. The

2 strength of this nation will be impaired. This

3 nation is strong if all, not some of its

4 people, are strong.

5 If this nation is to be based upon the

6 foundation of law, then all of its people must

7 have access.

8 First, wherever you go, and whatever

9 you do with the practice of law, I urge you to

10 become a spokesman to ensure that all Americans

11 when charged with a crime, regardless of their

12 ability to afford it, have competent, able

13 defense. I have seen too many cases in review in

14 these last five years where through DNA testing,

15 or some other means, we have proved that a person

16 convicted of a crime was wrongfully convicted.

17 One person is one person too many.

18 But don't be satisfied just with

19 protecting the innocent. When you represent the

20 guilty person, remember that when you get them

21 off

22 on a motion to dismiss or a motion to suppress,

23 and yet you haven't solved the problem that got

24 them there in the first place, you're not doing

25 the best job possible as a lawyer. If it's a


1 crack addiction that's caused this crime, let us

2 all try to work together to make sure that

3 everybody has treatment available when they need

4 it to solve the ultimate problem that causes the

5 crime. Let us be the problem solver in the

6 situation too.

7 I urge you to promote legal services

8 programs wherever you can, and engage in pro bono

9 efforts. It is so rewarding. But you can have a

10 choice. You can be the problem solver or just

11 the advocate. The advocate will take one case

12 against one landlord involving one unit and feel

13 that they may have won the battle when they get a

14 court order directing him to make some repairs.

15 Those repairs may be jury rigged and your client

16 may be back before you in six months.

17 But you could be creative. You could

18 talk with the landlord and find that he is in

19 despair because his property values have been

20 reduced by the crack dealers down the corner. He

21 can't get anybody to stay there. He doesn't have

22 enough money to repair it. You can begin by

23 going to look at the whole neighborhood and

24 involve people from your firm and others that you

25 know. You can learn about community development


1 block grants. You can work

2 with Habitat for Humanity to plan a

3 neighborhood-wide effort at rehabbing and

4 rebuilding a neighborhood.

5 You can involve municipal government by

6 calling on public officials to determine what can

7 be done in terms of municipal services. You can

8 work together with the citizens in that

9 neighborhood to create a sense of advocacy where

10 they can speak for themselves. You can be a

11 problem solver and have a far greater impact.

12 Mr. President, one of the points that I

13 think we should investigate is how we prepare

14 people to be community advocates. Too many of us

15 have gone to law school and don't know just how

16 to get rid of that vacant lot that's overgrown or

17 how to get rid of the car on the vacant lot or

18 how to deal with the municipality; whereas, if we

19 had a four-year degree at Wayne State in

20 community advocacy, with an internship in a

21 municipality or a local government, wherein

22 people learned how to make things work for

23 people, we could do so much.

24 That community advocate could be

25 licensed from their law firm or licensed by


1 themselves. They wouldn't anticipate making as

2 much as a lawyer, but they could make an adequate

3 living and they could do so much in terms of

4 service. We have got to be bold as we look to

5 see how we can make the law real, not just for

6 some Americans, but for all Americans.

7 We've got to look at issues such as

8 child support. When I first started practicing

9 law, a lady came to me to collect child support.

10 I quoted her a fee. She was aghast and she said:

11 "how can you expect me to pay a fee? I don't even

12 have child support. I don't even have money for

13 rent." I felt then the inadequacy of the law.

14 Now we are slowly building a framework of child

15 support enforcement in this country that can make

16 a difference. We should look to our areas of the

17 law where systems can improve on the delivery of

18 services.

19 But I go now to the second point. We

20 all have an obligation wherever we go and

21 whatever we do with the law to build community

22 and a sense of community around an America that too

23 often feels isolated, alone, and rootless, a

24 mobile America, a America that does not have a

25 sense too often of family or community.


1 Now, some of you may again say that's

2 not my problem, but I suggest to you that it

3 is all our problem. Recently I was in

4 Jacksonville

5 to consider the implementation of a comprehensive

6 strategy in dealing with the programs to end

7 youth violence. The man responsible for this

8 project? A real estate lawyer. A real estate

9 lawyer who saw

10 that his city could not grow unless he made an

11 early investment in that city.

12 If you become prominent in your

13 community, your strength of your practice, the

14 strength of your clients' businesses will be no

15 more than the strength of the community that

16 backs them up. We must look at the whole

17 picture, not just parts and pieces. We can talk

18 about economic development, but unless we make an

19 investment early on in our children, in the

20 building blocks that produce strong and positive

21 futures for our children, we will never, ever

22 begin to stem the tide of youth violence or

23 create people with the skills necessary to fill

24 the jobs to maintain this nation as a first-rate

25 nation.


1 You say what do I know about it? Use

2 the great skills and the learning that you've

3 acquired here at Wayne State to go to your

4 community and say: What are we doing to ensure

5 proper preventative medical care for our children

6 who cannot represent themselves, proper child

7 care for our children who are more alone and

8 unsupervised than at any time in our history,

9 quality education so that teachers begin to talk

10 about salaries that may not ever match, but

11 somehow compare to football players who make in

12 the six-digit figures? Let us build the blocks

13 of human existence so that our people can become

14 self-sufficient. The place where we begin? With

15 family.

16 I remember my afternoons and evenings

17 and summertimes. My mother worked in the home.

18 She taught us to play baseball and to appreciate

19 Beethoven's symphonies, to bake a cake and to

20 play fair. She punished us and she loved us with

21 all her heart, and no child care in the world

22 will ever be a substitute for what that lady was

23 in our life.

24 As you seek professional opportunities,

25 ask those people from whom you seek such


1 opportunities: What are you doing? What will

2 you do to allow me to spend quality time with my

3 children? They will grow up before you know it,

4 and yet, if you have that quality time, it will

5 be some of the most rewarding for them and for

6 you that you can imagine.

7 The second point that you must engage

8 in if you are to participate in the community is

9 to speak out against hatred and bigotry. Haters

10 are cowards, and when confronted, they most often

11 back down, but too often we let the hate go on

12 saying it's not my problem.

13 In 1951, six years after World War II,

14 I spent a year in Germany. I asked the wonderful

15 people I met how could Hitler come to power? The

16 answer was: It just happened. In your

17 community, in your nation, you as lawyers have a

18 special opportunity and a special challenge to

19 speak out against discrimination, against

20 bigotry, against hatred, and to use your

21 peace-making powers to bring people together to

22 resolve conflict, to help people understand how

23 to live together, to appreciate the diversity of

24 this nation, the wonderful heritages, the

25 wonderful backgrounds, and to help people


1 understand.

2 Young people can do that better than

3 most people. I was recently at a law school at

4 a panel, and I have heard more wisdom from those

5 students than I've heard from an awful lot of

6 people in a long time. Never underestimate what

7 you can do at 24 and 25 and 30 and 35. You don't

8 have to be an old gray-haired lady to make a

9 difference.

10 Think of what you can do in terms of

11 community justice. Courts are often times remote

12 and people don't understand them, but if people

13 are involved in the justice system, they come to

14 appreciate it. There are initiatives across this

15 country underway that are bringing neighborhoods

16 and courts and community police officers and

17 public defenders and prosecutors together in

18 neighborhood situations in which community

19 problems are being addressed in a constructive

20 and thoughtful way.

21 But you face challenges as we build

22 communities. I will be a little old lady sitting

23 on my front porch as you deal with the issues of

24 tomorrow, of how we understand and deal with the

25 fact that the crime will become international in


1 its scope and international in its impact.

2 When a man can sit in his kitchen in St.

3 Petersburg, Russia, and with his computer steal

4 from a bank in New York, you understand that as

5 we focus on our community, we must focus on it in

6 relation to all the world. How we bring justice

7 around the world will be a challenge for us all.

8 How we use modern technology to educate, to

9 communicate, to build positive futures, rather

10 than to invade privacy, to gather information

11 that can undermine our sense of community.

12 For these last five years, I have

13 traveled across this nation talking with Indian

14 tribes, with people in the innercities, with law

15 students, with congressmen, with governors, with

16 citizens, some who care and some who don't, but

17 after these five years, I have never believed so

18 profoundly in the future of this nation and the

19 strength of this nation and in the caring of this

20 nation.

21 As I talk with young people, they have

22 a sense of purpose, an optimism, an idealism

23 tempered with the realities of what they've

24 learned in law school. I think the world and

25 this nation will be in good hands with you, and I


1 wish you Godspeed and great success.