J.D. Speaker: Mikael Gatsby Miller '15
Good morning! I am Gatsby Miller, the J.D. class speaker. Class of 2015, congratulations. It is my privilege and honor to speak to you today, to celebrate the end of our law school careers. While we all came to Columbia for different reasons, we do have one thing in common: All of us would be a lot happier right now if I were Amal Clooney.
After being chosen to give this speech, I asked an unnamed Columbia law professor for advice on speaking to large groups of law students. She said: “Whatever you do, remember that everyone will be too busy texting to listen.” So, taking comfort in that fact, I’d like to reflect on what we learned while in law school.
In my time here at Columbia, I learned that the world is full of two types of people: those who are full of hope, and those are full of free pizza. There are those who stopped going to class after 1L year, and those who really like how Robert Jackson looks in a three-piece suit. Those that got up at 5 a.m. for the New York marathon, and those who went to bed at 5 a.m. after a Netflix marathon.
At law school, I learned that Legally Blonde was not the gritty real-world documentary I once thought, and that law students are actually some of the most kind, inspiring people I have ever met. When we started here as 1Ls, we were scared of absolutely everything, including most of the people on this stage. Still, in spite of, and probably because of, this terror, we became friends, and, over time, a chosen family. I thank you all for the community of love, support, and free alcohol we built here in our three years.
I learned of the genuine love and kindness of the people supporting graduates here today. As someone who was a homeless youth, and went to college and law school without the support of my biological family, I have been awed by the friends and families of graduates who are here today. When many of us have struggled, you have welcomed us into your homes when we had nowhere else to go for the holidays; you have sent an ungodly number of care packages, and, even now, you will sit through the reading of the names of over 500 strangers, because you care so much.
I learned how fortunate I am to have a chosen family with all of you and with my chosen family here today, and with everyone at this school who has supported us on our path to graduation.
Lastly, at Columbia Law School, I learned that, though we have all worked incredibly hard, we are also incredibly lucky. I learned how lucky we are to be here today, how lucky we are to be at this school, and how lucky many of us were that grading on exams is anonymous.
We are so often commended on our intelligence and hard work, I think we sometimes forget just how lucky we are. We forget how many smart, hardworking people are not where we are today, because of random chance. How, but for one moment—one missed train, one use of the page break feature on SofTest—we wouldn’t be here today.
As we celebrate today, as we rightly should, take five seconds to stop. Maybe it’s at a party with your friends after we leave. Maybe it’s at dinner with your spouse. Maybe it’s in the quiet moment when you’ve taken off the regalia and are slipping into bed for a well-deserved nap. Take five seconds to thank whatever stars have aligned for you, and promise to never take for granted the amazing opportunities that we have all been given. Take a moment, also, to remember those who are not here with us today. In 40 years, when the people under this pavilion will no longer be seen as law school graduates, but as professors, legislators, human rights activists, exonerated white-collar criminals, partners, and judges, let us never forget how unbelievably lucky we are, and never take that for granted.
Class of 2015, congratulations. We did it!