Sunflower Ceremony Remarks of Permanent Class President David Springer

Below are the prepared remarks of David Springer, the Permanent Class President for the Class of ’16. Mr. Springer was a member of the editorial board of the Texas Law Review, and spent two years as a student mentor. Before law school, he spent five years in federal service, including as a counterterrorism operations planner in Washington and as an intelligence officer deployed to Afghanistan. He earned prior degrees from The George Washington University and from Johns Hopkins. Having now graduated, Mr. Springer will clerk for Justice Jeff Brown of the Texas Supreme Court.

Good afternoon.

I recently came across a speech about how constitutional law, powers of government, and a lot other important things can be explained though Star Wars.  Now that’s an interesting speech.  So interesting I considered ripping it off wholesale.  But then I realized, I’m still a student here for about 40 more minutes and theoretically our academic honor code still applies…. and that just seemed unnecessarily risky.

So I’m taking a less ambitious route.

First, some thank yous.  This weekend last year, I was sitting out there in the audience to watch someone who I love walk across this stage and get her law degree.  And so I really know the joy and the pride that all the spouses, parents, family, and friends out there are feeling right now. It’s an incredible feeling.

And while you’re feeling that, I think all the graduates down here realize that they could not have accomplished this without your love and support.  So, family and friends, on behalf of the class of 2016, you helped get us to this stage and from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.

Graduates, thank you for being terrific classmates and friends.  I honestly cannot believe there’s a better group of people to experience law school with at any other school in the country.

And faculty… well I’ll withhold my thanks until grades come out.

Which, according to a nationally award winning Assault & Flattery video, might take quite some time.

Just kidding, of course.  Our facility is outstanding.  You inspired us to be passionate about the law and you illuminated some of its most confusing areas. We sincerely thank you.

Looking back on the past twenty or so years, it could be easy for some to see today—you graduating from one of the top law schools in the country—as a predetermined outcome. That was always the path you were on—you did well in high school, always had a way with words, loved negotiating about stuff, graduated college with a good GPA and an unmarketable political science degree—and so now graduating law school is just the inevitable next step. It was just the way things were going to be.

But of course it doesn’t actually work like that.  It is so easy to look back and see this as inevitable, but in reality there were hundreds of decisions over many years that made this possible.  Decisions to stay up an extra two hours to study, take an internship, find a mentor.

It was those many good decisions, which at the time seemed inconsequential and you might have even forgotten about, that are exactly what got you here today.  That kind of hindsight bias is normal, but it’s worth highlighting on a day like today:  You worked very hard and because of it, achieved something great.

Now law students don’t always have a reputation for being humble.  I understand where that perception comes from, but most of the graduates here are—in my experience—actually very humble.  I hear their relatives say things like: “oh congratulations on finishing your first year of law school, that’s so amazing” or “wow you go to Texas Law, that’s such an accomplishment.”

And yet almost invariably you hear a response like: oh, you know, it’s nothing… it’s not that hard, or lots of people handle law school just fine, or, you know, I’m only in the top whatever percent of my class so there are lots of people who did better than I did.

And humility is obviously a virtue. A lot of the humility around here comes from the recognition that the competitiveness of law school necessitates being extra cautious about the feelings of others, but I think today it’s okay to acknowledge this is a big deal and something that everyone here deserves to be proud of.

Relatedly, it’s been great to see all the personal growth that’s happened over the past three years.  Our class is full of people who are coming from all kinds of different backgrounds and experiences—in terms of work history, geography, culture, and nationality.

And I remember at our first bar review—and parents, bar review is an intense period of study, held every Thursday… at 10pm…. At a bar. Sorry if little Timmy never told you about that

So at our first bar review everyone was polite and making small talk and trying to act so professional, but still cool.  Three years later, this is a different group of people.  Now we could have a whole speech about areas of personal growth, but in terms of relationships, it’s awesome to see how many real friendships have emerged from this experience—relationships made strong by pressure.

People have been involved in clinics, internships, journals and other organizations—many of which have real consequence in the real world.  With those, there have been challenges that are stressful, but that experience and pressure has laid a strong foundation for professional respect and lasting friendship. In a few cases, to the extent that I expect we’ll see some class of 2016 weddings—but I won’t name names with families here, that could get awkward real fast.

A final thought: Texas monthly recently published an article about a group of women who came to this law school in the mid-1960’s.  It’s a great article, and it contains stories of lots of very normal law school stuff—making friends, killing time, some romance—and reading the article now, the names of all these people who were doing exactly what we were doing two weeks ago are very big, well-known names—politicians, law firm partners, executives.  That’s part of why Texas Monthly published it—it’s interesting to read about now seriously accomplished people doing very normal things back when they were young.

And I think the same thing’s going to happen with the names here in the Sunflower Ceremony program.  That when people look back at this list 30 years from now there are going to be some names that really stand out and it will be almost strange to think about those people hanging out at Crown and Anchor or bar review at Shakespeare’s.

And hindsight bias might make some of that success seem inevitable, but of course it will not have been.

To sum it all up, today I think it’s okay to be a little un-humble. You have accomplished something great.  This was not inevitable.  It is the result of hundreds of good decisions, and many more good decisions in the future will lead to the world hearing incredible things from the class of 2016.  I can’t wait to see what you accomplish.

Family and friends, thank you again for your love and support. Faculty and staff, you are amazing and we thank you.

Classmates, thank you again for rejecting toxic levels of competitiveness that plague other law school, for realizing that friendship and your own personal advancement were not incompatible here, and for being gracious in your many successes. Whatever’s immediately next for you, you’re now equipped with the skills and relationships to accomplish many more great things. So please take what started here and go change the world.

Hook ‘em.

Category: Law School News