Remarks to BYU Law School Graduation Class of 2013

Greetings to our esteemed guests, faculty, and classmates. I am very appreciative of the opportunity given to me by the dean, the faculty, and by my classmates, to spend a few minutes talking with you today.

As law school has drawn to a close over the last few months, I pondered the future. I pondered the great memories I had of law school, of classes, experiences, friendships, adventures, and even frustrations. We've had moments of enlightenment and amazement. Intermingled with those were times of immense desperation and feeling like we could barely keep our heads above water. But the experience has been one that we will not forget. I've been thinking about what I would be most looking forward to about life, post-law school. Studying for the bar, getting the job of my dreams, the end of final examinations forever. I finally came to the conclusion that what I am most excited about is the ending of Lawmailer messages by the dozen every day.

Luckily for you, my time is short and the jokes are few, so I want to share just a few ideas I hope you might consider:

First: take a chance everyday. Freedom comes only from taking risks. We went through law school hopefully to help make the world a little more just and free. Don't neglect the need to experience personal freedom by taking chances. It can be a big chance like many of us made, to leave comfortable employment situations to come take 3 years of law school classes. Or it could be being willing to be set up on a blind date. Both of those have worked out pretty well for me in recent history. Or it can be a little chance, like trying a new restaurant or a new item on the menu at your favorite restaurant. The point is to take a chance everyday, because in doing so, you will inevitably discover something new and interesting, often about yourself. And frequently when you take a chance, you will learn just how capable you of dealing with challenges, even those that hit us unexpectedly.

The idea is not to throw caution to the wind, but to engage in creative risk taking. Taking action instead of inaction. Doing something instead of waiting for something to happen. Inaction results in lost opportunities of unknown value. The Scottish poet Sir Walter Scott wrote, “One hour of life, crowded to the full with glorious action and filled with noble risks, is worth whole years of mean observances of paltry decorum."

Don't fear failure. Embrace it and learn from it. It’s a chance to reinvent. As Mark Twain famously said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. Sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

My second point is: Be an outsider as often as you can find opportunities to be. Travel to places where you are a minority, where you don't know the language. Or even just talk to new people wherever you are. Obviously there are times when being an insider and belonging are important and necessary, but a big step to those is sometimes to come in from the outside. There are times when clinging to the known too strongly prevents us from being all that we can be. It's been said that you can't discover new land until you lose sight of the shore.

Being on the outside offers us the chance to take experiences to a new level. Our sensory perceptions are heightened when we are not lulled into the comfort of what we know too well. For me, with no prior history or family involvement in the legal world, law school was an outsider experience at the beginning. So many new concepts, new terminology, different ways that things were done allowed for me to step outside my comfort zone and engage the world in new ways. At first I thought I could never belong to a group as amazing as the group of people assembled in this room today. But, as the famous Welsh poet and BYU professor Leslie Norris wrote, “Belonging, after all, is mostly a matter of belief.”

So whether it's learning a new language, going somewhere amazing, hanging out with people different than us, we gain many new perspectives by choosing to be an outsider sometimes, and when in the course of life you find yourself amidst something you truly believe in, the transition to belonging is within your ability.

Third, and finally, always set out to amaze yourself. Thomas Edison once said something that I have lived by for years: “If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” If you look back on our time in law school, you might find some astounding things: making it through our first semester of law school, getting through that first set of finals, tackling real legal problems for the first time in our externships.

As the future generation of lawyers, judges, lawmakers, policymakers, advisors, business leaders, and other persons of influence in our communities and our world, it is up to us to be forward looking, ready to astound ourselves and the world with the wealth of solutions that we are able to come up with. As David Lloyd George said: “Don’t be afraid to take a big step. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.”

I am astounded by this group and all of the good that I know will be done by members of this graduating class, and I consider it a true honor to be part of such an amazing group. Thank you all for a wonderful three years and even bigger thanks for being willing to make a difference now and in the many years to come.

© 2013 Ronald C. Schoedel, III