Members of the 2007 graduating class at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law were encouraged by the college’s namesake to educate future generations about civics, serve and protect the judicial branch and support their communities.
“To me, becoming a lawyer means that you are in a position in society where you can give something back, and you can help people who need it in ways that are very important,” retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said during a luncheon April 24 with graduates. “The best work I had in my practice was in the pro bono service.”
O’Connor, for whom the law school was renamed in 2006, apologized to the students for being unable to attend their commencement on May 11, due to an engagement with England’s Queen Elizabeth in Virginia.
“I wrote a letter to Elizabeth, inviting her, and to my surprise, she said, `Fine’,” she quipped.
O’Connor is the honorary chair of the 400th anniversary celebration of Jamestown, Va., the first permanent English settlement in the U.S., which was founded by barristers, or British attorneys. The colony lost most of its residents due to illness, but its common law and traditions survived.
“That’s what we all inherited, and so this is quite a celebration,” O’Connor said.
She told the graduates she was “deeply affected” by the renaming of the college, and she complimented both Patricia White, Dean of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, and its faculty members for their leadership and teachings.
On a personal note, O’Connor said she is busier now than before retirement, noting, “I had visions of working on my golf game and catching a fish, and I haven’t had a chance to do either of those things.”
O’Connor expressed disappointment that today’s youth aren’t being taught enough about the government, and she praised ASU for working on an interactive computer program that would provide free access to students of all ages to information about the state and federal systems.
She urged the graduates to continue working hard after they leave the college and to make their work more interesting than it otherwise might be.
“If you make that a habit wherever you go and whatever level you’re at, you’ll find it works well, and you will enjoy the law,” O’Connor said.
“Congratulations. Go pass the bar wherever you’re taking it, and do well in your exams – you want to leave here in high standards on all counts,” she said.