Brian E. Frosh, Maryland’s attorney general, addressed graduates at the University of Baltimore School of Law’s 88th commencement on Monday, May 18, 2015, at the Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric.
His address followed remarks by School of Law Dean Ronald Weich; University of Baltimore President Kurt L. Schmoke; Regent Thomas Slater; alumna Jessica Emerson, J.D. ’13; and 2015 valedictorian David T. Shafer. Dean Weich presented Law Faculty Awards to graduating students Jermaine Ryan Haughton and Meredith M. Cipriano.
Professor Kimberly N. Brown spoke in memory of Ethan Kirshenbaum, a 3L student who died in a car accident on April 22. “Ethan was simultaneously youthful and wise,” Brown said, citing Kirshenbaum’s exuberance, passion and sense of self. “He found joy in everyday life.” Kirshenbaum received his J.D. posthumously.
Frosh began his speech on a personal note, saying that even after nearly 30 years in the Maryland General Assembly he still sometimes wondered when the “grown-ups” would arrive to take charge.
“We look like authority figures [but] we don’t have the answers,” he said of himself and other leaders. “We are still trying to figure it out.”
It’s the will to figure it out – to find solutions – that is crucial, Frosh told the graduates.
“You have got a law degree. It will open doors for you,” he said. “More important, you have learned how to think. How to analyze. How to advocate. Yes, it will help you to be successful. It will also help you to improve society. You can be agents of change.”
He continued: “Thousands of years ago, the scholar Archimedes said, ‘Give me a place to stand and I will move the world.’
“He was talking about leverage, and at the University of Baltimore School of Law you have crafted a powerful lever – and you will carry it with you for the rest of your lives. The laws on which our nation and state are built are your fulcrum. And, without a doubt, we know the world needs to be moved. In fact, the evidence is right outside the window.
“Less than a mile from here, our neighbors, our friends, our families struggle to build productive lives as they navigate poverty, discrimination, unemployment, health challenges and environmental threats. In block after block of Baltimore, in neighborhoods like Sandtown-Winchester, the ills of urban America choke our communities in a painful grip. Poisoning from lead paint, drug use, crime conspire to shorten lives, dampen opportunity and crush futures.
“The challenges are obvious: What do we do about the culture of violence that grips too many people on our streets? How do we provide education and jobs and housing that will create the foundations for a healthy community? How do we foster respect and trust between law enforcement officers – many of whom are brave and committed and put themselves in harm’s way every day – and the people they serve in Baltimore and across the country?
“Here’s what President Barack Obama said after the death of Freddie Gray and the uprising in Baltimore: ‘If our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could – it’s just that it would require everybody saying, “This is important, this is significant.”’
“I know that here today, you, the class of 2015, believe that. That this is important. This is significant.”
Frosh ended with a quote from Jerry Garcia, the late lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead. (“If you don’t know the Grateful Dead, you’d better Google it,” Frosh said of the band. “It’s something you need to know.”)
“Jerry Garcia said: ‘Somebody’s got to do something. It’s just incredibly pathetic that it’s got to be us.’
“It does have to be us,” Frosh concluded. “You now have a place to stand. Move the world.”