Monday, May 14, 2012
San Diego (May 14, 2012) – University of San Diego School of Law alumnus and United States Congressman David Camp, ’78 (JD), addressed graduates at the 55th Conferral of Law Degrees on Saturday, May 12, 2012, at the University of San Diego's Jenny Craig Pavilion.
Congressman Camp, who represents the fourth district of Michigan and is Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, offered his sincere congratulations and advice to his fellow alumni entering the legal profession.
“You leave here with a unique education, one that has its roots in centuries of legal tradition,” said Camp. “It is an education, more than any other, that has produced leaders, change agents and history makers. It’s now up to you to decide what to do with this great gift.”
Camp then mentioned many of the most popular professions for JD graduates—public defender, prosecutor, judge, professor and public interest agent—before settling upon the one in which he has the most experience: politics.
“The law is and always has been the foundation upon which all stable societies stand,” stated Camp. “[It] provides a protection where no other refuge exits. It is a sanctuary in many ways in what is an unjust world. That is why it must be protected.”
Camp reflected upon his own sense of professional responsibility. He and his colleagues lead debate and enact new laws in the House chamber where the portraits of 23 historical lawmakers and lawgivers from Moses to Thomas Jefferson look down upon the proceedings. Camp says that those faces are awesome reminders of his obligations to the people he represents, to the laws that exist, and to the laws he as a representative has yet to make.
Despite the monuments, the C-SPAN cameras and the cable news talking heads, Camps says that his part of the American legal system is no more important than that of the country lawyer. The decisions of the President and Congress are not final. The President’s signature turning a bill into law marks the end of one process and the beginning of another.
Once the law leaves Washington, it goes to its rightful owners, the American people, who then examine it. It is tested in the courts to determine its limits, its meaning and its powers. Many laws remain intact, passing all the tests to become a part of our shared social contract. Others are transformed and even repealed.
“It’s a wondrous and messy process,” said Camp. It is a process that occurs in the smallest and largest courts in the land, whose outcome defines the character of the nation because we are a nation of laws. “From the smallest traffic violation to the Constitution that guarantees our freedoms, the law of the land tells us who we are.”
As an example, Camp mentioned the Affordable Care Act, the most sweeping overhaul of America’s healthcare system in generations. “If any law illustrates the continued beauty and strength of our system,” he said, “it’s that one.”
As one of the key lawmakers involved in the bill’s progress through Congress, Camp had a metaphorical front-row-seat in its creation and a physical front-row-seat to oral arguments for and against the law in front of the Supreme Court. What he saw was an incredible display of the power of law and of lawyers.
“Are we a nation whose government can compel individuals into commerce in order to achieve a desired outcome?” asked Camp. “Or are we a nation whose freedom to choose is paramount? In June we’ll get some answers, but I assure you they won’t be final.”
Watching the attorneys and the judges debate these questions inspired Camp, and he reports he couldn’t help but be proud to be an attorney. He suggested to the graduates that if they ever have doubts about their profession, they should go online and listen to a few of those oral arguments. “They’re like an adrenaline shot for the legal brain.”
Camp closed his remarks to the Class of 2012, encouraging them to follow their heart to find their passion. “Of course it’s my hope that you never have doubts about your profession,” said Camp, “but the reality is you will because everybody does. That’s why it’s so important that you follow your passion. You spent three years thinking with your brains, but to find your life’s happiness through your work, you must also think with your heart.”
About the University of San Diego School of Law
Recognized for the excellence of its faculty, curriculum and clinical programs, the University of San Diego (USD) School of Law enrolls approximately 1,000 Juris Doctor and graduate law students from around the United States and throughout the world. The law school is best known for its offerings in the areas of tax, intellectual property, international law, public interest, and business and corporate law.
USD School of Law is one of the 81 law schools elected to the Order of the Coif, a national honor society for law school graduates. The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, nonprofit, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949.