Post date: June 6, 2002 -- 11:30 a.m.
by Lewis Rice
Citing the attacks of September 11 in a call to public service, White House Counsel and Harvard Law graduate Alberto Gonzales urged Class of 2002 graduates to consider the responsibilities lawyers have to the Constitution.
The HLS Commencement Class Day speaker on June 5, Gonzales called being a lawyer for President George W. Bush "the best job in America," and noted the "indescribable experience" of stepping into the oval office and briefing the president. Security concerns in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks have challenged him and the nation, he said. Despite some critics’ charges, Gonzales said, the president and administration welcome the heightened scrutiny that the war of terrorism brings and are committed to maintaining America as the most just nation in the world.
"We’ve already discovered that this type of conflict doesn’t always fit neatly within traditional theories of civil liberties," he said, "and so the government pushes and pulls trying to find the right balance between protecting our country and preserving our freedoms."
The hallmarks of a good attorney--fidelity to the rule of law, compassion to clients, and dedication to the profession--are even more important when the country is at war, said Gonzales.
Prior to his position in the White House, Gonzales served as Bush’s counsel when he was governor of Texas, on the Texas Supreme Court, and as Texas Secretary of State. A former partner at Vinson & Elkins, Gonzales left private practice "to experience the joy, day in and day out, of making a difference in people’s lives."
"I can assure you," he told the graduates, "that public service will make you a better person."
Gonzales earlier in the day accepted the Harvard Law School Association Award, an honor whose previous recipients include Harry Blackmun, William Coleman, Mary Robinson, Archibald Cox, Elliot Richardson, and, last year, Janet Reno.
"I will dedicate the remainder of my life to live up to the principles of service and achievement reflected in this award," said Gonzales in his acceptance speech.