The William S. Richardson School of Law graduated its 2009 class on Sunday, under the happy countenance of its eponymous and emotional leader and in a wash of good old “Manoa Mist.” It was more of a Manoa downpour, really, and as the heavens opened up those of us in attendance were glad to have, if not umbrellas, then at least the Hawaiian belief in rain-as-blessing at the ready.
CJ Richardson had a lot to smile about, as students performed hula and various honorees spoke, for the most part very eloquently, about lessons learned and those still ahead. Retired Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Steven Levinson reminded the graduates of the central role of hard work and the even central-er one of serendipity, and various student and faculty speakers gave honorable remarks.
One speech stood out. Newly minted law grad Julian Aguon was selected by the class as its student speaker, and it was easy to understand the choice. Aguon, a native of Guam and an already-prominent political activist there, kept the audience riveted even in a steady rain as he wove the story of his people’s struggle against colonialism into mythological origins of his culture. He spoke warmly of the women who raised him, and of their sacrifices. Then he turned to the challenges ahead.
“Finally, a word about beauty: I have been thinking about beauty so much lately. About folks being robbed of it, folks fading for want of it, folks rushing to embrace only ghosts of it.
There have been periods in my own life when my grief felt more real to me than my hope, moments when my rage, sitting up, threatened to swallow my softness forever. It is here, in these moments, in these fields where older versions of myself come to die, that I am forced again to clarify what exactly it is that I believe.
For example, though so much of my energy of late has been in the service of opposing the largest military buildup in recent history, which is now underway in my home Guam, I don’t really believe that I am, that we are, going to stop the U.S. Defense Department from doing what it will. So what is it that I, that we, believe really?
…As lawyers fashioned in the William S. Richardson School of Law tradition, sharp analytical skills are not the only tools in our toolkit….this is what I love most about Richardson. If we paid attention, even to the silences, we leave here knowing that it is not good enough just to go out and fight the fights we can win. Rather, Richardson nurtures in us a respect for possibilities and, when we are ready, gently says to us, even without saying, “go out and fight the fights that need fighting.”
It was, for sure, an extraordinary compliment to everyone at Richardson, and while the less-gainfully employed among us practice our lawyer jokes, we should remember to count our blessings–we’re fortunate to have a local law school that cultivates those values in the future attorneys and lawmakers of Hawaii and the Pacific.
Heaven knows we need them.