Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Addresses 2004 Cardozo Graduates

YU President Richard M. Joel and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Jun 2, 2004 — Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor urged graduates of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law to pursue careers in public service in a commencement address she delivered June 1 at the school’s 26th commencement exercises at Avery Fisher Hall. Justice O’Connor was awarded a Doctor of Laws degree by Yeshiva University at the commencement, conferred by president Richard M. Joel, in what was a first for Cardozo.

“Commit yourself to being a bridge builder,” Justice O’Connor said, citing her own long career as an attorney, state senator, and the first woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court.

Her address highlighted a program at which 337 men and women received J.D. degrees and 45 got LL.M. degrees.

David Rudenstine, the school’s dean, cited Ms. O’Connor for her jurisprudence, her character, and her exceptional capacity as a judge. Echoing those sentiments was Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel, who lauded the Justice’s efforts to expand possibilities for women. “Your work has changed all our lives,” President Joel said.

Justice O’Connor discussed the difficulties she faced after graduating from Stanford Law School. She was offered a job as a legal secretary, a position for which she felt grossly overqualified. That initial disappointment, she said, served as a springboard for what she said would prove a far more satisfying career in public service.

“Life as a public servant was more interesting, the encouragement and guidance from mentors was more genuine,” O’Connor said, adding, “At every step of the way, I felt the thrill of doing something right for reasons that were good.”

Obstacles, change, and the challenge of coping with national tragedy were the focus of graduate Michael Glasser’s speech on behalf of the class of 2004. The class started right before 9/11. “Our schools, our lives, and our worlds have changed,” Glasser said.

Mr. Glasser also recounted numerous capital and other recent improvements at Cardozo, such building renovations and added faculty.

This year’s commencement coincided with the 25th reunion of Cardozo’s first graduating class, the Class of 1979. Dean Rudenstine praised the alumni, many of whom donned robes and marched in the ceremony, for taking a chance on Cardozo.

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