Judge Otis Wright '80 Addresses Southwestern's Newest Graduates
At Southwestern's 97th Commencement Ceremony, alumnus and Federal District Court Judge Otis D. Wright, II advised graduating students to honor their professional reputations, find a solid work-life balance and always maintain their integrity. At the May 13 ceremony, which was held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, degrees were conferred upon 332 Juris Doctor (J.D.) and 15 Master of Laws (LL.M.) candidates.
Dean Garth offered encouragement to the new lawyers about to venture into the workforce during a challenging time. "We are confident that the characteristic Southwestern entrepreneurship and drive ultimately will serve you well," he said. "The law degree - and especially one with the tools we give you at Southwestern - remains the very best ticket to make a difference, enjoy one's work, and be successful economically. And the beauty of it is that your career builds as you mature in the profession."
A 1980 graduate of Southwestern, the Hon. Otis D. Wright, II was inducted as a Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California in 2007. He served as this year's Commencement speaker, where he stressed the importance of building and maintaining a good reputation. "Protect it at all costs," he said. "It is your lifeblood as far as your legal careers are concerned. You are all familiar with the Benjamin Franklin quote that 'it takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.' This is especially true in your chosen field."
He also emphasized the importance of having a life outside of the profession. "Your jobs should neither define nor consume you," he said. "I merely caution you to balance the dedication to your work with dedication to the reason you are working and striving so hard. Do not lose sight of what and who it is all about."
While new lawyers should protect their reputations and make sure that their work does not consume their lives, it is important to maintain the highest ethical standards, he cautioned. "The contributions of lawyers to the safety and security of all of society cannot be overstated," Judge Wright said. "My message is simple: Recognize the perils. Confront them. Do everything in your power to resist them, and encourage others to do likewise. The future of the profession depends on it."
During the ceremony, the Class of 2012 continued a new tradition established last year of graduating students contributing to the Class Gift with the goals of fostering a culture of student philanthropy at Southwestern and providing graduates an opportunity to give back to their fellow students. Graduate Class Gift Committee Co-Chairs Jane Cho and Jessica Verano spearheaded this year-long fundraiser, which also received a matching gift of $10,000 from alumna Judi Jacobs '94. Graduate Class Gift founder Katherine Lawrence who established this meaningful practice at Southwestern, also graduated on this day. This year's class gift of $15,800 has been designated towards Southwestern's Public Interest Law Fund, which gives grants to Southwestern students to provide critical legal services for public interest organizations.
It was fitting for SCALE graduate Mathew Rudes to deliver the student commencement address at this year's ceremony, which happened to fall on Mother's Day. A remarkable student who has overcome extraordinary physical challenges to complete the intense, accelerated two-year J.D. program, he delivered an eloquent and inspirational speech. "Whether we become politicians or patent lawyers, civil rights activists or entertainment negotiators, and everything in between, we share the bond of a common purpose - to use our knowledge, our skills, to create a better tomorrow," he said. "My goal is to become a district attorney, to give voice to those who cannot speak for themselves, just as my mother did for me."