Georgetown Law Celebrates Commencement 2017

May 22, 2017

Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor with Honorary Degree Recipient Charles R. Lawrence III and Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia. Lawrence, the 2017 Law Commencement speaker, is a pioneer in critical race theory.

Georgetown Law welcomed more than one thousand new alumni — 637 J.D.s, 538 LL.M.s and one S.J.D. — on Sunday, May 21, as graduates and their families, faculty, staff and administrators gathered on Georgetown University’s Healy Lawn for Commencement 2017. The weather cooperated, the mood was joyous and everyone could reflect on what the day meant for them.

Charles R. Lawrence III, a former Georgetown Law faculty member who now teaches at the University of Hawaii, was there to receive an honorary degree and address the Class of 2017.

“Today, Georgetown Law honors a pioneer in critical race theory, an academic, an activist, and a teacher who has devoted his career to exposing law’s complicity in making inequality seem natural, to advocating for law that focuses more on injury than motive, to accessing law’s power to retell our shared history, and to amplifying our sense of justice,” Associate Dean Naomi Mezey said as she introduced Lawrence.

“Professor Lawrence has said, I want my students to recognize and take responsibility for their own significant participation as lawyers in the creation of the institutions, proscriptions and narratives that constitute law, that shape our vision of justice and give our lives meaning.”

Joining the fight

In his address to the graduates, Lawrence said that “law is a narrative…a container of our morality.” From slavery in nineteenth-century America to the fight for racial justice today, “now it is your turn to join this abolitionist struggle,” he told the graduates.

“Our country and our planet face an existential crisis…the very values that give meaning to our democracy are at stake. You graduates must choose whether will you be apologists, rationalizing slavery and dehumanization, or become our newest abolitionists, speaking truth to power and lifting up those who are rendered invisible by their difference and our disregard.”

“Whether you make our land holy by welcoming the wanderer who is without land, by refusing to look away from the homeless child, the battered woman, the refugee, the transgender adolescent, the imprisoned father, or the heroin addict, and by regarding every human being with empathy and reciprocity, we are counting on you to keep us from returning to a land where law’s narrative is used to justify crimes against humanity,” he continued.

‘Exceptional Group’

Dean William M. Treanor also addressed the Class of 2017, which he called “one exceptional group.”

“Your experience has been shaped by the world events that happened when you were together at Georgetown Law,” Treanor said, noting that this class attended law school during one of the most politically charged and divisive moments in our nation’s history. “I will always remember your thoughtful reactions, your powerful activism and your willingness to engage in hard conversation with those who had different views. Your leadership during this past year has been remarkable, and on behalf of the faculty, the staff and the administration, I want to say thank you.”

Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia, too, called for those present “to uphold our shared commitment to the common good…our institutions, our laws, our policies…all must reflect our most deeply held values, a respect for human dignity, a commitment that we will strive for conditions that will enable each one of us to be our most authentic selves capable of achieving our full promise — and an understanding that we truly are all in this together.”