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On May 17, 2024, the graduates of New England Law | Boston’s Class of 2024 gathered in the Boch Center Wang Theatre for a celebration. 

The cause for celebration, of course, was their completion of law school. But what many of the graduates likely did not realize until the midpoint of their Commencement ceremony is that the 17th day of May is a joyous occasion for several reasons. 

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, ruling that it is unconstitutional for states to racially segregate their public schools. Fifty years later, on May 17, 2004, hundreds of same-sex couples got married in Massachusetts—the first state in the U.S. (and only the sixth jurisdiction in the world) to legally recognize same-sex marriages. 

Any graduate who was unaware of the significance of May 17 became enlightened during the ceremony’s keynote address, delivered by Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell. AG Campbell noted the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board and the 20th anniversary of Massachusetts’ legalization of same-sex marriage to punctuate a portion of her remarks in which she reminded the graduates of their power: 

“It will be the lawyers who protect our first amendment rights. It will be the lawyers who protect the rule of law and our democratic institutions. It will be the lawyers who protect our access to health care … It will be the lawyers who ensure that every resident is truly guaranteed liberty, opportunity, safety, and happiness.” 

After explaining how the loss of her brother prompted her to carefully consider her purpose in life—and her responsibility as a lawyer—AG Campbell concluded her address by sharing with the graduates the most vital lessons she has learned throughout her career. She boiled them down to three words: empowerment, conviction, courage. 

“I hope you use your law degree and the tools at your disposal to empower others … with unwavering moral conviction and radical courage.” 

Below is a complete recording of AG Campbell’s keynote address at New England Law’s 113th Commencement ceremony.