Fighting for Florida
May 31 2011
Daniela Abratt, Miami Herald
As he stood before the 176 soon-to-be graduates, their family and friends, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio had to wing it.
“I actually wrote a speech, but I left it the front pocket of the plane,” said Rubio, the junior senator from Florida, at Florida International University’s College of Law commencement ceremony on Friday.
At the U.S. Century Bank Arena on FIU’s main campus in Miami, Rubio went on to offer a light-hearted message of congratulations.
“I can tell by the students who spoke before me that they’re already laying cases for class action lawsuits,” he said. “Your kids are becoming lawyers much quicker than we thought.”
Rubio was just one of the many speakers at the graduation.
President Mark B. Rosenberg gave welcoming remarks before awarding a posthumous degree to the family of Dannette Willory, a law student who was shot and killed April 1. The Class of 2011 stood and clapped in remembrance of their peer as Willory’s family, all dressed in white, wiped away tears. Dean R. Alexander Acosta handed her mother Willory’s law degree, and after they embraced, the arena observed a moment of silence.
Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Canady told the graduates they will achieve success only through diligence and honesty. He also spoke about their role as lawyers and their privilege of fostering the rule of law.
“Never forget the high calling for which you’ve been trained at this law school,” he said.
Rubio, elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, immediately established his connection to FIU, having joined the faculty as a visiting professor in 2008.
Rubio joked with the audience that the candidates for juris doctor degrees had learned nothing — except how to think and analyze the world around them differently. He said his goal was to share with the graduates some of his experiences and observations about the government and to advise them on how to best apply their degrees.
He asked the graduates to remember that a life of privilege beckons a life of philanthropy. Thus, he encouraged them to pursue public service if that is their calling
He called upon the graduates to face the world’s problems and fight for human rights.
“If we lose our voice, we lose what makes us different,’’ Rubio said.
The crowd cheered loudly at the conclusion of his speech and about half stood in applause. A few minutes later, the students moved their tassels to the left and were officially conferred as juris doctors.