Denver Law Graduates Urged to Stand Against Unjust Laws
Alumna Brenda J. Hollis delivers Commencement speech to nearly 300 law school graduates
“Each of us has a role to play to promote and protect the positive relationship between justice and law.”
That was the message to the 2017 graduates of the Sturm College of Law by Commencement speaker Brenda J. Hollis. On Saturday, May 20, approximately 280 students became alumni of Denver Law, marking the 124th graduating class of the program.
Hollis, a 1977 alumna of Sturm, currently serves as prosecutor of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone. She is also the reserve international co-prosecutor for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia and works as a consultant in international criminal law and procedure.
Hollis’ message to graduates focused on the relationship between justice and law, and the role the alumni will play in making sure it is a positive one.
“The law can and should be used to promote justice — to provide the framework in which justice operates,” she said. “The law can ensure that principles that underlie justice are consistently applied and that diverse interests are appropriately balanced.”
Hollis, a former U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, retired from the U.S. Air Force after more than 20 years with the rank of Colonel. Prior to her current appointment, she was responsible for leading the legal team prosecuting former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who is currently serving a 50-year sentence for aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity.
This year’s graduating class is the first under new Denver Law dean Bruce Smith. “Graduation from law school is a time to celebrate incredible potential and incredible professional achievement,” he said. “This year it is also an occasion to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Denver’s only law school.”
The Commencement ceremony included the tradition of graduates pinning the University of Denver alumni lapel pin on the person sitting next to them. This year’s student speaker was David Coates. After completing his undergraduate from DU in 2004, he spent the next 10 years doing public service work in Russia and post-Katrina New Orleans. His message to his fellow graduates was to celebrate their hard work and achievements with those who helped them along the journey.
“For many of us, this may have been the most difficult thing we have ever done, but we did it. I hope that’s a phrase we can say over and over throughout our career: that it was difficult, but we did it,” he said. “For the difficult things are often most worth doing.”