Blog: Commencement

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May 25, 2021

Goodbye HLS Class of 2021

To the Class of 2021:

Congratulations! You are now law school graduates—always a tremendous accomplishment, but even more so in the midst of this ongoing pandemic. The last fourteen months have tested you in ways none of us could have anticipated. You persisted with compassion and commitment, through unprecedented challenges, to reach this milestone.

After you pause to celebrate the moment, we urge you to continue to look ahead. The pandemic has both laid bare and exacerbated many preexisting divides. Hundreds of millions of lives have been turned upside down, not only through the loss of loved ones but through lost health, lost education, lost opportunities, lost support networks, lost jobs, and lost income. The brunt of the pandemic has been borne by those already living at the margins or in dire circumstances. The elderly, people with disabilities, women, girls, racial and ethnic minorities, frontline workers, and those who rely on the informal economy have been especially hard hit. In less than a year, progress on gender equality was rolled back decades. Extreme poverty is on the rise for the first time in a generation. Young people are struggling, not only to access education but also to access the connections and the community needed to thrive. In some countries, the pandemic has provided pretext to crush opposition, subvert electoral processes, and crack down on human rights defenders, journalists, and activists. Worldwide vaccination efforts to date have been woefully unequal, and the virus continues to rampage across the global south.

While all of this was unfolding, we have watched in awe as you excelled in our clinic, supporting each other and persevering with extraordinary determination, intelligence, resilience, and courage. Now, as you venture out to launch your careers, you will face a new and challenging world. Solidarity and collaboration will be necessary not only to overcome the pandemic, but to meet the many human rights challenges of our time—from poverty and inequality, to climate change, to the resurgence of authoritarianism, extremism, and nationalism. Your creativity, leadership, and dedication to social justice are urgently needed.

It is daunting, but you are ready. You know how to build to community, how to lead with kindness and empathy, and how to create space for diverse voices and perspectives. We have seen you do it in our clinic, and we look forward to seeing what you will do throughout your careers. As we send you off to continue this important work, remember that you will always have a home here. We look forward to welcoming you back to the clinic, in person, one day soon.

For today, we extended our heartfelt congratulations to you, Harvard Law School’s Class of 2021!

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May 28, 2020

To the Class of 2020

Posted by Susan Farbstein and Tyler Giannini

International Human Rights Clinic students who graduated in 2020 smiling before the law school went remote.
International Human Rights Clinic 2020 graduates with clinicians and faculty.

We celebrate you today, all that you have achieved, and all that lies ahead. Of course, none of us expected your law school careers would end this way. Each of you lost precious time on campus and long-anticipated moments of camaraderie and celebration during your last term when the coronavirus pandemic forced the law school online. While there is no substitute for the in-person ceremony that you earned and deserve, the fact that we are celebrating remotely does not detract from your accomplishments and the relationships you have built — of which there are many!

In our Clinic, you have worked to address some of the most pressing and complex human rights issues that we face: climate change, socio-economic inequality, women’s leadership, accountability for gross human rights violations in Haiti, Myanmar, Bolivia, and Colombia, and preventing harms from the arms trade, killer robots, incendiary weapons, and explosive weapons, to name but a few. You have proven yourselves to be tireless and collaborative advocates, and we have been dazzled by your talents and your dedication more times that we can count.

The coronavirus has hit close to home for many of us. Some have lost a loved one, or nursed a family member fighting the disease, or been affected by the pandemic’s severe economic impact. Others have supported family members working on the frontlines or watched as their communities have struggled to formulate a response to this crisis. We have seen you respond to these adversities — just as you have faced other challenges — with grit and grace. You have shown compassion, kindness, and empathy towards your peers and the communities that we work with; you have come together, leaning on each other and the deep bonds you have built, to seek and offer support; you have modeled flexibility and creativity in finding new ways to learn and live; you have shown resilience and courage in the face of uncertainty and adversity that many of us have not previously known. These traits will serve you well not only as we respond to this pandemic, but throughout your lives and your careers.

We feel so grateful for the time that we have spent together, and will hold close the memories of working, laughing, and learning with you. We wish you long and meaningful careers. Even more importantly, we wish you lives enriched by friendship and filled with happiness. It has been an honor to watch you grow as advocates and as people, and to serve as your teachers, mentors, and now as your colleagues. We are incredibly proud of you.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020!


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June 4, 2013

A Goodbye Note to Graduates (Plus Pictures)!

Posted by Cara Solomon

Dear Graduates,

Just in case we missed you at HRP’s annual commencement party last week, this is what we wanted to say:

GOOD LUCK! And thank you. Thank you for working with us, challenging us, strengthening us, and occasionally giving us hugs. We are better for your having been here.

And now, for your amusement and embarrassment, here’s a random sampling of photographs a couple of us took at the party.

Two students smile with a clinical instructor.
Two students smile with two professors in formal wear.
Two clinical instructors pose with a student at the HRP graduation party.
Continue Reading…

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