Law Center Commencement 2014
Sunday, May 18, 2014 2 p.m. ET
May 18, 2014 – Kenneth Feinberg, best known for handling high-profile victim compensation cases, told the more than 1,100 graduates of Georgetown Law Center to be ready for the unpredictable and encouraged them to consider public service.
“Beware of the tendency of law students everywhere to think too much like lawyers in deciding today what you will do tomorrow,” said Feinberg, an adjunct professor at Georgetown. “If I have learned anything over the past 35 years in compensating the innocent victims of tragedy, it is that life has a way of altering the most carefully thought-out plans. Brace yourself for the unpredictable."
Feinberg has served as the administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility established by the Obama administration to process claims for compensation after the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He also served as special master of the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund as well as the Federal Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation.
“I have witnessed firsthand how we as a nation come together as one in times of national tragedy – September 11, the Virginia Tech, Colorado and Sandy Hook shootings, the BP oil spill and the Boston Marathon bombings,” said Feinberg, who received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the ceremony. “After these and other similar horrors, we circle the wagons, lock arms and demonstrate to the world that we are one – ready to help the victims, their families and the community.”
But he also said it shouldn’t take a national national tragedy to “reinvigorate and reinforce” a sense of community.
“It is altogether fitting, as we honor the 50th anniversary of the Administration of President John F. Kennedy, that we reinforce the importance of public service …” Feinberg said. "[Kennedy believed in] the idea that – no matter what our chosen profession or our individual way of life – we have an obligation to help our fellow citizens and our community.”
Joan Biskupic, veteran Supreme Court journalist and author of American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, also received an honorary Doctor of Laws from Law Center, which awarded 645 J.D. and 492 LL.M degrees to its Class of 2014.
Mitchell London (L'14), who was among the graduates listening to Feinberg during commencement, said he believes he and his fellow graduates will strive to embrace future challenges in the same way they embraced challenges in law school.
"[Georgetown] has a way of pushing its students to learn more, produce better work and refine their views,” said London. “Every step along the way, my classmates have pushed me to be a better student and thinker – by setting a high standard, by challenging my views and by being open about their beliefs."