School of Law Commencement
Santa Clara University
May 25, 2013
This is a wonderful honor and privilege to be here with all of you today. It really is great to be back on this campus. I'm really thrilled to be here. And it's also great to be staring out at the next generation of Bronco attorneys.
I want to start by saying I realize one important thing. Law school is a choice. Maybe some of you were the first in your family to go to college. But for many of you, I'm sure going to college was probably the norm. But graduate school is different. And law school is completely different. To come here, to put in all this work that you've put in, to get where you are today-that's a choice that you make. You looked at yourself, you looked at your career, your future, you actively sought to change something, to learn more. To improve, to discover, to explore. And for some of you, you may even have sought to understand the intricacies of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. And for that alone you deserve congratulations. Civ Pro not being one of my favorite topics.
But there are others here who deserve congratulations, too. There are a lot of people here today who believed in you. And I think this is a good time to recognize them. The parents who raised you to succeed in ways you never thought possible. The wives and husbands and partners and boyfriends and girlfriends who supported you always, even as you stayed up all night studying, even as you skipped dinners, missed anniversaries. The sons and daughters whose smiles got you through studying for your Con Law final. The professors, who made you believe that the law was alive, that justice was worth working for. The friends who saw that you were having an especially tough time with the rule against perpetuities and took you to the Hut for a drink, or maybe five. Please take this time to thank them all. [Applause] They are all incredibly proud.
And you deserve to be proud, too. This wasn't easy. I know that. These three years have been incredibly intense. The all-nighters, the killer exams, and the one day you got called on when you hadn't read the case. It was a struggle, and I'm sure at times it seemed like you'd never put this gown on that you're wearing today, you'd never walk across this stage. I'm sure it seemed impossible. Well, it's always impossible until it's done. And today, graduates of Santa Clara Law, it is done. Congratulations. [Applause.]
Now, it always seems impossible until it's done. Those are not my words. Those are the words of Nelson Mandela. I want to talk to you more about Mr. Mandela. But first, no speech would be complete at a law school without a certain kind of a joke.
A lawyer was annoyed to find that his car wouldn't start. So he called a taxi. Soon one arrives at his house. Climbing in, he proudly told the driver to take him to the halls of justice. “Where are those?” asked the driver. “You mean to say that you don't know where the courthouse is?” asked the lawyer incredulously. “The courthouse? Of course I know where that is,” replied the driver. “I thought you said you wanted to go to the halls of justice.”
Now obviously this kind of sentiment is something that's been shared about our profession for many years, and still is. That our motivations are wrong, that we're not in it for the right reasons, that justice takes a back seat to business and profit. That the courthouse is no place to find what's right and just and honorable. It's pervasive in our culture, this sentiment. But I think you know it isn't true. I think you can look around at everyone you just worked so hard with over the last three years and know with confidence that your motivations are the right ones.
I know it isn't true, too. But it's up to each of us to change that perception, to flip the script, to make it clear that we're lawyers and we're proud of the work that we do. That we worked hard to get here, and we'll work even harder to seek truth and to honor a legal system that built this country into what it is today. That the halls of justice are real, and that we know the way. It'll take work to change this misperception. But it's work that needs to be done. So I know that, sitting there now, recovering from finals, aching to grab the diplomas that are behind me, probably hung over, the last thing you might want to hear is, “There's more work to do.” But the truth is, there is more work. And without question, you're the ones to do it.
Which brings me back to Nelson Mandela. Mandela was imprisoned in 1962 for speaking up against apartheid. He of course for generations remained the loudest, most powerful voice against the segregationist policies of the South African government. For decades he led this movement from a prison cell. He fought for freedom. He spoke from the heart. And I admire him greatly.
In the early- to mid-eighties, people around the world outside South Africa heard Mandela's voice and were starting to join the cause-especially on college campuses. I wanted to join, too. I came to Santa Clara, to this great campus, as an undergrad in 1981. The fight to end apartheid was gaining steam. The need for more voices grew, and the voices already there were getting louder. Now here I was, this guy recruited to play football, not a bad deep threat wide receiver, if I say so myself. But I was a little bit of a rabble-rouser, too. I saw injustice, and maybe even surprising myself, I didn't say, “It needs to stop.” I said, “I'm going to help stop it.”
At campuses around the country, there were demonstrations aimed at getting universities to divest funds from companies doing business in South Africa. Santa Clara was one of those schools. And I, along with many others, wanted it to end. Now I knew that this was a school that had long held values that tilt toward equality, and would eventually support such a move. But I also knew that it's an institution, over a 130-year-old university, and to move that kind of an institution toward progress, forward, faster than it's ready to move is sometimes hard. I tried, though. We organized sit-ins. We demonstrated. We held a round-the-clock candlelight vigil right over here in the Mission Church. And people thought it was crazy. They said, “It will never work.” But I knew they were wrong. And eventually we succeeded. Santa Clara University, to its great credit, divested from companies that did business in South Africa. [Applause]
It taught me an important lesson, namely that institutions, no matter how stuck in their ways they may seem, no matter how implacable on the surface, with proper persuasion, with strong arguments, they can listen. They can adapt. They can change. They can even surprise. Now lucky for you, these skills are exactly what you spent the last three years honing: persuasion, argument, the ability to convince those who will listen of what's right. You have the tools now to make change in the world. You have the tools to change a system you don't like. You have the tools to make others change, too. It's powerful what you've learned here. Don't take it for granted.
Now 23 years after his imprisonment, amid extreme political pressure around the world, and violent protests within South Africa, President Botha of South Africa offered to release Mr. Mandela if he'd renounce violence. But with no promise to abolish apartheid. And after more than two decades in prison, Mandela considered his offer. And he said no. His freedom was not what he was fighting for. Ending apartheid was. His freedom from prison was nothing compared to the freedom from discrimination for millions of his fellow countrymen. And in a statement he released refusing to be released from prison, he even talked about freedom to contract-something you learned about here. If he wasn't free to live his life, if he wasn't a free man, how could he enter the agreement to get out of prison to begin with? He knew that he might have been freed from prison, but once he left, he wouldn't be free in any other meaningful sense.
That was in February 1985. Four months later I walked across pretty much a stage just like this one to grab my undergraduate diploma, knowing that his fight-in however small a way-had become my fight. That he indirectly helped shape my experience at Santa Clara. And that the work I had done on this campus went beyond the football field, beyond the lecture hall, even beyond the library. And, of course, five years later, Mr. Mandela was freed, and apartheid was abolished. Justice was served. Now that seemed impossible when I got here in 1981. But as we know, it always seems impossible until it's done.
Now I never let go of the ideal to try to do what's right over what's easy. My legal education only sharpened this sense of fairness and inspired a pursuit of justice. And this kind of came in handy a few years ago, in 2010, when we at Google decided to move our search engine out of China. Now Google prides itself on using its unique place in the world to do what's right, to use our voice for the causes of freedom and openness for the world's people. And the Chinese government, in charge of an absolutely huge market for our business, didn't believe in any of that. Google's openness makes us who we are. To bring the flow of information to everyone on earth, to give them the tools to lead happier, more meaningful lives-that's why we exist. And China was blocking all of it, controlling it, censoring it. Let's just say that they probably don't study the First Amendment in Con Law over there. But after years of trying to negotiate with a very stubborn regime, we had to make a call. We had to do what's right. So we pulled out of China, and that cost us a whole lot of money. But giving us the comfort of knowing we did the right thing by our principles. That we lived up to the values that infuse everything we do at the company. That we used our voice to make a strong statement of who we are, what we believe, and what we will and will not tolerate.
So that's what I ask of you all. Use your voice. You have something special that only a legal education provides. You spent three pretty difficult years (I'm guessing) getting it. You now have an innate sense of fairness that needs to be expressed. You understand justice in ways that many others don't. So when you see it under attack, speak up. Because no matter how loud the beliefs roil inside of you, if you don't speak up, no one will hear you. And you don't have to be shouting from the outside, either. You can, of course. But plenty of change can, and often is, sparked from the inside.
Now I work for a big corporation. Make no mistake, we've got pinball machines and free lunch and massage rooms and I never have to wear a suit. But that doesn't mean I can't fight-because it's a big company doesn't mean I can't fight to make sure that this big company sticks to its principles. That its continual march toward openness and progress and fairness mirrors the marches I participated in 30 years ago on this campus.
The truth is, you don't even know at this point how much you've learned, how much you've gained by spending time on this magnificent campus. But you will learn in the years to come. I promise that you'll see it. It's in your DNA now. We're Broncos. We buck. We disrupt. We challenge the status quo, right? That's the spirit I still carry with me to this day. And I will as long as I'm able to keep fighting for it.
And I ask you to do the same, wherever you go, whatever you do. Some of you will go into corporate law, some into family law, some into IP-that's a good choice. [Laughter] Some into PI. Some are going to go to firms, some to nonprofits, government. Some of you may not even be sure what's next. But no matter what, you're all on your way down a different path. But you're coming from the same place-a place with a strong history that has led you all into what's going to be a special future.
So whatever you do, make sure what you do doesn't supersede how you do it. Make sure that your beliefs and your values and the special dignity you gained from the three years you've been here guide you always. Make sure that the halls of justice are a real thing, that your taxi driver knows it. And that so does everyone else. And recognize that there will also be times that your conduct falls short of these ideals, times when, faced with the challenges and complexities of the world, you'll make mistakes. I certainly have made more than my share. Indeed, far more than my share. But never stop trying. It's not easy, and it won't ever be. It seems impossible, but once again, it always seems impossible until it's done.
Santa Clara Law graduates 2013, go out and get it done. Thank you. Congratulations. Go Broncos! [Applause]