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Black Law Students Association Banquet
February 24, 2017
SMC Campus Center
Good evening. I’m so honored to be with you tonight for this celebration of legal scholarship, service, and activism. I’ve admired the work of BLSA for many years. I’ve admired your advocacy on important issues of equity and opportunity—both in the bar and in the communities you serve. You’ve put yourselves on the front lines of the issues that I believe will come to define us as a people—issues of civil rights and social justice, of fairness and accountability.
I think it’s accurate to say that—at this moment in time—our nation craves enlightened, informed, humane leadership. That leadership isn’t coming from all quarters. But it is coming from you. You are the leaders we’ll look to as this city, this state, and this nation work to right the wrongs that have persisted for far too long, as we fight for equal protection and equal treatment under the law—for everyone.
I think we’ve gotten to a place in this city and this nation where we’re a bit more comfortable showing our hearts to each other. We’re comfortable sharing our hopes for equality, for human dignity, for justice, for peace, for an end to oppression in all its forms. I think we’ve gotten to a place where we’re not afraid to let our empathy show. We’re not afraid to let our values be known.
There is a power in showing up for each other, in being an ally for each other, in refusing to be quiet, or silent, or subdued. There’s an power in letting the authority of our voices be heard—all of our very different voices. Because we know that there is strength in our diversity, courage in our compassion, and leadership in our service.
I know that the conviction, passion, and power of groups like BLSA will fill the leadership vacuum that now threatens us—and will deliver the justice we’re after. So I thank you for taking on this “elephant in the room.” I thank you for your impatience. I thank you for demanding dialogue about racial tensions in America today and, even more importantly, for demanding solutions.
If ever there was a time to be the change we wish to see in the world, it’s absolutely right now. Thank you, and congratulations to all of tonight’s worthy honorees.