American University Washington College of Law Celebrates Commencement 2012 and Welcomes Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, as Speaker

VIEW VIDEO: Full Commencement

VIEW VIDEO: Remarks by Ms. Valerie Jarrett

VIEW VIDEO: Remarks by Dean Claudio Grossman

VIEW VIDEO: Remarks by Elizabeth Fleming Jackson, student speaker

American University Washington College of Law welcomed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, as the spring 2012 commencement speaker. The ceremony was held May 20, 2012 at American University's Bender Arena.

Dean Claudio Grossman introduced Ms. Jarrett after delivering remarks which lauded the accomplishments of the class of 2012 and paid tribute to the mission of the law school's founders.

"Your alma mater's Founding Mothers changed the world through their vision and committment," said Grossman. "Their example and legacy still challenge us today, to think big and help shape history for the better."

Jarrett was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws by American University President Neil Kerwin.

(Photo L to R: President Neil Kerwin, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Dean Claudio Grossman)

"Listen to your heart and discover your passion--and renew and replenish it throughout your life," Jarrett said in her address to the law school's 437 JD, 78 LL.M., and 2 SJD graduates. "Have the courage to take risks and learn from your inevitable mistakes. Resist all temptation to move your moral compass any direction other than true north, and be decent. You are extraordinary, so just imagine what you can do if you choose to live a purposeful life and lead the way for the next generation of our country."

Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Jarrett was the chief executive officer of The Habitat Company. She also served as co-chair of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team, and senior advisor to Obama's presidential campaign.

Jarrett has held positions in both the public and private sector, including the chairman of the Chicago Transit Board, the commissioner of planning and development for the City of Chicago, and deputy chief of staff for Mayor Richard M. Daley. She also practiced law with two private law firms. Jarrett received her B.A. from Stanford University in 1978 and her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981.

Student speaker for the ceremony, Elizabeth Fleming Jackson, spoke to the honor of the legal profession in remarks to her classmates.

"We uphold the law, and we give a voice to those that are silenced," said Jackson. "Lawyers keep society civil, honest, and fair. It's an honor to be among you, to enter this legal profession—this noble profession—with all of you."

The commencement ceremony was followed by a reception attended by graduates, family, and friends on the American University Quadrangle.


Student Awards Announced at Commencement 2012

  • Administrative Law Review Award: Ted Uliassi
  • Edward C. Bou Award: JD - Shabnam Mojtanedi; LL.M. - Elad Gil
  • Clair A. Cripe Award: Chantal Hernandez
  • Clinical Legal Education Association's (CLEA) Student of the Year Award: Lucia Macias; Daniela Cornejo Suarez
  • Dean’s Award for Professional Responsibility: James Hill, Elizabeth Jackson, Jennifer Kaufmann, Ryan Norman, Laurie Monahan, Ashley Prather
  • Gillett Prize: David Teslicko, Jr.
  • Human Rights Brief Award: Justin Shore; Charlie Abbot
  • International Law Review Award: Lucas Ballet
  • Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law Award: Zachary Zarnow
  • Lura E. Turley Prize: Meredith Goldich
  • Mussey Prize: FT - Gretchen Kershaw, Andrew Kim, Katherine Nakazono, Jason M. Whittle; PT - Gregory Glofak, Kathleen Kelly
  • Mooers Trophy (Trial Advocacy): Aimee Ghosh; Ryan Norman; Brittany Gail Thomas; Brenda Gonzalez
  • Outstanding Graduate Award (L.L.M): Axel Schmitt-Nilson
  • Outstanding Research and Writing Award (LL.M. in International Legal Studies): Gregory Arnoult and Mathurabhasini Thamilmaran
  • Outstanding Research and Writing Award (LL.M. in Law and Government): Krista Dolan
  • Outstanding Graduate Award (JD): Stacy Edwards; Andrew Kim
  • Solf Award: Elad Gil
  • T. Morton McDonald Scholarship Award: Daniel J Crooks III
  • Thomas O. Sargentich Award (Law & Government): Michael Selss
  • WCL Alumni Award: Brenda Gonzalez; Rafael Roberti