Students Encouraged to “Embrace the Opportunities”
The message to the Washington University School of Law Entering Class gathered at Graham Chapel for Convocation came through loud and clear: Embrace all your opportunities to grow, both as a person and a professional.
“Law school gives you the opportunity to become the very best you can be,” said The Honorable Robert E. Bacharach, JD ’85, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. “When I was sitting where you are, I had absolutely no idea what the next three years would bring. It was ultimately one of the most enriching, enjoyable and fulfilling periods of my life.”
Judge Bacharach challenged students to “focus on your weaknesses, and try to turn them into strengths. Take advantage of the opportunity to try things where you don’t feel so confident.” He stressed the importance of legal writing and maintaining a sense of balance “to see the forest but also see the trees and understand how these trees connect to create that forest.”
Bacharach delivered the keynote address following an introduction by Dean Nancy Staudt, the Howard & Caroline Cayne Professor of Law. Staudt framed the day historically for the students, who enter WashULaw 150 years after the first class. She cited events of 1867: A yellow fever epidemic in St. Louis, the purchase of Alaska from Russia, and publication of Das Kapital.
Students exit Graham Chapel after Convocation. (Mary Butkus photo)
“This was the year that made it possible for all of us to gather here together today,” Staudt said. “We worked hard to get to this point in history, and I know that you will carry us forward.”
Following the speech and lunch, students engaged in small group discussions with other prominent members of the judiciary, facilitated by faculty members and upper-class student ambassadors. Participating judges were:
- Judge Robert E. Bacharach, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
- Judge Duane Benton, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
- Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana
- Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- Judge David R. Herndon, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois
- Judge Jane L. Kelly, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
- Justice Rives Kistler, Oregon Supreme Court
- Justice David Lillehaug, Minnesota Supreme Court
- Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois
- Chief Judge Lavenski R. Smith, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
The week-long slate of events also included a solar eclipse watch party, class photo, welcome picnic, community service projects, alumni-hosted dinners, and introductions to the foundations of the profession.