LaHood addresses law commencement

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, encouraged College of Law graduates to use their skills to perform a public service in his keynote address at the college’s convocation ceremony on Saturday.

“Your federal, state and local governments need you,” LaHood said. “They need your energy, your ideas, your ability to get things done. America needs patriots as well as lawyers.”

Hundreds of faculty, friends and family members gathered in the Great Hall of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at 500 S. Goodwin Ave. in Urbana to honor more than 200 Juris Doctor and LL.M. degree recipients.

Bruce Smith, dean of the college, opened the ceremony with his advice to the future lawyers.

“Master the facts, appreciate your craft, and act decently, and you will have great success,” Smith said.

Secretary LaHood also shared a recipe for success with the graduates that he said was the underpinning of all professions, as well as the underlying values of this country: honesty, integrity and respect for other points of view.

“You don’t always need to be right to win,” LaHood said. “You do need to be part of the debate; you need to participate in the search for solutions that really work.”

LaHood said that his appointment to the position of Secretary of Transportation as the only Republican among President Obama’s Democratic cabinet shows the importance of working past labels to find solutions for the future.

Student –elected speakers, Peter Bartoszek and Diego Saul challenged their fellow graduates to face the tough economic times head on, and to use the skills they learned in law school to create their own paths for the future.

Donald Manzullo, U.S. Representative from the 16th District of Illinois, and Devon Bruce, member of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees also spoke at the ceremony.

Following the convocation, a reception was held in the Krannert Center lobby for graduates and their families to celebrate.

Graduate Katie O’Brien celebrated outside with her friends and family, accepting congratulatory hugs and taking pictures. She said all of the speakers were impressive, and gave her further incentive to study hard for the bar examination this summer.

Rosemary Gerstner, a graduate, said she was also impressed with the speakers’ ability to give the graduates more confidence in the midst of tough economic times.

“They spoke accurately about the legal profession and the way it is today, and I thought that given the poor state it’s in, they gave encouraging words,” Gerstner said.