Professor of Law Kathleen M. Sullivan, who replaced scheduled speaker Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) at the last minute, urged graduating seniors at Law School Class Day ceremonies yesterday to pursue their life ambitions fearlessly.
Frank canceled his scheduled appearance because of unexpected Congressional duties, remaining on Capitol Hill to vote on a defense spending bill. A longtime proponent of defense cuts, Frank proposed an amendment to slash U.S. spending on foreign based troops by $3.5 billion.
"I noted to myself that there were very few pieces of legislation that would keep me from attending," said Frank in a statement to the Law School. But in an interview with The Crimson yesterday, he said, "This is the biggest bill of the Year."
Frank said he had not expected the defense bill to be brought up in the House until later in the month.
"I knew it was a risk to accept the invitation," he said. "But I thought it was a small risk."
"I feel badly, I really wanted to do it," he added. "You do the worst harm to people, when you want to help."
Sullivan, who said she prepared her speech during a plane trip from California Tuesday night, received many laughs and a standing ovation from the audience. Before her speech, the graduating class awarded her the first-ever Albert M. Sacks and Paul A. Freund Award for Teaching Excellence.
Sullivan, who has spent the past year teaching at Stanford University and the University of southern California, said her devotion to teaching and to her students was the reason she left for Cambridge this week on such short notice.
"Your don't do this job for money, fame or power," she said, "but for the love of your students."
And the graduating class seems to return Sullivan's affection.
"She's brilliant, articulate and obviously knowledgeable," said Inger D. Tudor '87, the class secretary. "Many students have said that they didn't notice the time go by in her class, a rare feat at Harvard Law School."
Sullivan covered a number of topics in her speech, including memories of her years teaching at the School, her experiences as a lawyer and professor, and advice for members of the graduating class.
Musing that perhaps she was invited because "this is the year of the woman, and I'm a woman," Sullivan discussed the importance of gender issues at the Law School and in today's society.
"At this rate, the number of women in the faculty will be proportionate to the student body in the year 2104," she said. "That is, by your 112th reunion."
She encouraged the students not to be ashamed of their insecurities as they go out into the world, and to take the time to make decisions that will be right for them.
"Promise yourselves to look into yourselves and ask if you have matched your great talent with you heart's desire," she said. "Choose your life rather than letting it choose you."
"Set a course for yourselves and don't think about winning or losing. Make up your mind about what you want to do and do it," she added. "I hope you do well and even more that you do good."