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Released on Oct 2, 2023
Monday Morning Message 10.2.23 Remember Your Why

Regardless of what we do in our lives, our why—our driving purpose, cause or belief—never changes.”
― Simon Sinek

Over the past weeks, I’ve shared 2 of “The 10 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Law School” that I shared with our first year class. Here’s the 3rd and final one I’m sharing…. I have spared you all 10!

When I started law school, I wish I had known to remember my why.

Two bricklayers were asked: “What are you doing?’ The first, exhausted and unhappy, said, “I am laying bricks.” The second, energized and in good spirits, said, “I am building a cathedral.”  

There will be days when it will be difficult to see beyond the bricks. Beyond the stress of today’s challenging reading assignment, tomorrow’s possible cold call in class, and next week’s final exam. But in those most challenging moments, I ask you to remember your why. You’re here to build your own cathedral, not just to lay bricks.

You have decided to study and work for the next several years like most people won’t, so you can learn law and live justice like most people can’t.

As our nation becomes more diverse, we can find the shared values and common ground that make us all human and connected, or, by our silence and inaction, we can allow demagogues to exploit our differences to divide and separate us. We need leaders who know how to discern what is true and what is not by examining facts and evidence, and have the courage to speak up when our democracy and rule of law are threatened.

My friend Richard Haass, former President of the Council on Foreign Relations, in his book, The Bill of Obligations, argues that while the Bill of Rights is at the center of our Constitution, we should also have a bill of “obligations” to which good citizens commit in order to heal our divisions and to safeguard democracy.

Similarly, with your law degree will come obligations. Among them is to know that even as you zealously advocate for your clients, you must remain committed to the ethical practice of law and civility, and to use your law degree not only to make a difference for your clients but to make a difference for people you may never meet.

Fidelity to the rule of law does not mean that the law is always just. It is not. We all have work to do in making it better. 

But when our nation has achieved anything of consequence, it has done so most often through civil debate, mutual respect, and measured compromise. We are at our best when we are showing humility, listening to other views, respectfully debating differences, and building consensus.

So think of yourselves as more than aspiring lawyers. Think of yourselves as future custodians of civility, defenders of democracy, and guardians of justice.

The world needs you now more than ever.

Have a great day and a great week.

The views and opinions expressed in my Monday Morning Message are solely my own and do not reflect the views and opinions of the law school or the university.

For copies of past messages, please go to this link: Monday Morning Messages

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