New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal challenged Rutgers Law School graduates to serve others, behave honorably, and stand up for those who are voiceless. Grewal was the keynote speaker at the 111th graduation of Rutgers Law School in Newark, which took place at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on May 25.
“We need lawyers willing to stand up and push back against a rising tide of hate and intolerance. We need lawyers willing to protect the environment. We need lawyers willing to defend victims of sexual assault. To represent the indigent. To preserve the free press. To protect workers. To tackle discrimination. To uphold the Bill of Rights,” he said. “We need lawyers willing to fight for justice.”
Grewal, the state’s first Sikh-American attorney general, recounted his own journey as the son of immigrants, and talked about being harassed after 9/11 when people saw his turban and beard. He said he became involved in law enforcement, in part, because he, “felt a deep desire to help make this country the best version of itself” through public service. He has represented the United States in legal matters as a U.S. Attorney, and served as the Bergen County Prosecutor.
Led by a bagpiper, the robed students processed from the Center for Law and Justice on Washington Street, to NJPAC. Their professors and deans formed two lines to welcome the students inside the performing arts center, clapping as they entered.
Nearly 200 students graduated from the law school in Newark, which was the last graduation overseen by outgoing Co-Dean Ronald Chen, who returns to teaching full time this fall. He told the graduates, “You have inspired us with your passion, depth of your commitment and learning of the law and yearning to use it for good.” He urged them to consider Rutgers Law School their professional home. “Please come back, consult with us, let us counsel you and tell us what you’re doing and tell us about your battle for social justice we have trained you to do, and when you come back, we will be very glad to see you,” he said.
Professor Carlos Ball, who was selected by the students as the faculty speaker, gave graduating student Vijayasri Aryama an impromptu property law quiz in front of the audience. When she answered his question correctly, Ball declared, tongue-in-cheek, that the students were knowledgeable enough to graduate.
He added that in this time of public divisiveness, the law school graduates have the skills to have discourse with others with whom they may disagree.
“You will bring clear, dispassionate, thoughtful reasoning and speaking on behalf of whatever clients you choose to represent,” he said. “You will be crucial operators of the nuts and bolts of our democracy.”
Rachel Moseson, chosen by her peers as the student commencement speaker, talked about strides made by women lawyers but how more work need to be done to continue to diversify the legal profession.
“We now have the education and skills to truly influence broader conversations on public policy, underrepresentation, and equality, among the other issues of our time,” she said. “Each member of our class has been uniquely trained and is now uniquely equipped to contribute to the larger challenges facing our profession and our communities.”
“We all have to make a conscious effort to lift others wherever we climb and help open doors that might otherwise remain closed,” she said. “We have to continually ask ourselves what can I personally do so that everyone who comes after me, can do even more?”
Several awards were given out to the graduating students. One particularly impressive graduate, Steven G. Tegrar, earned both the A. Harry Moore and Saul Tischler Memorial Prizes, given to the student with the highest grades for the entire three years of law school. In addition, he won the Alumni Senior Prize, awarded