LL.M. Speaker: Andrés Aguinaco Gómez Mont ’16 LL.M.
Welcome everyone. I would like to first thank all of our loved ones. We made it this far because of you.
Thank you, also, Sylvia, Jill, Marissa, and everyone else at Graduate Legal Studies for your tireless support and patience.
Dean Lester, Columbia faculty and staff. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Our story began on an August morning, when we arrived to Columbia Law School for Orientation Day.
We were warmly greeted by everyone and overwhelmed with information about the short period of time we would share. We forgot most of it by the next day, but there were two things that really stuck: First, Sylvia telling us that we would be sitting here in a heartbeat. Second, Dean Lester telling us that the only decent cup of coffee on campus was in the Philosophy building. Of course, they were both right.
We all came here for different reasons, ranging from a next degree to a dignified sabbatical before surrendering to adulthood once and for all.
There were nine months to go, and yet so much to do and so much to learn.
One day at a time, we formed anecdotes and built our little inside jokes: that unexpectedly amazing “around the world” party; that afternoon in Friday Forum; that endless subway ride downtown; that catchy song with the taxi.
Creating memory after memory, we became an intimate community in one corner of Manhattan.
Here we learned to call New York home. We grew proud not only of its landmarks, but—more importantly—of The Hungarian Pastry Shop, Levain cookies, that one bar on the corner, and those hidden spots where we spent countless hours. New York became the perfect scenery to enhance our legal education; and mostly distract us from it.
In grand lecture halls and intimate seminar rooms, exceptional mentors enriched our understanding of the law. The Law School faculty includes some of the brightest legal minds of our generation, but also some of the most humble, open-minded, and accessible people I know. They showed us, among other things, that the law is a powerful tool to sustain oppression and inequality, but that sometimes—if we are bold enough—it can also be used to promote change and justice.
One might think that we’re lucky to be wrapping our hands around a Columbia law degree. But don’t mistake luck for privilege. We are all incredibly privileged to be sitting here.
And here’s one thing about privilege: You must acknowledge it and use it. Whenever someone gives you a hand and pulls you forward, make sure you have the other hand extended behind you to pull someone else along. Make sure others are also empowered and benefited by that privilege. It doesn’t matter if you fight the Donald Trumps of the world, or break the glass ceiling. Just look around you, the possibilities are endless. So pick a fight and make it count.
My dear LL.M.s, I wish our story was one of those that went on forever. Yet, here we are. It’s graduation day. Of course, we’ll reasonably keep in touch; we are the Facebook generation after all. We will always have Columbia and each other, just not together and not in the same way.
Instead of wishing this could go on forever, I hope we can cherish what we lived through. If we are the sum of our memories and experiences, then we are inevitably part of each other’s lives. Each one of you has contributed to define and turn us into what we are and what we take forward. That is more valuable than what we could ever ask from anybody.
“There are people you know all your life who never really make a difference to who you are; others arrive for a short time and change everything.”
Class of 2016, you changed everything.
 Miranda Dickinson, Fairytale of New York