May 21, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Addresses NYU’s Class of 2012 at Commencement

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the field of Yankee Stadium at commencement.

New York University's 180th Commencement exercises were held on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, in Yankee Stadium. President John Sexton and Board of Trustees Chairman Martin Lipton presided over the event, which presented honorary degrees to Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court; David Brooks, columnist for the New York Times; Patrick Desbois, President, Yahad-In Unum; and Charles Weissmann, Professor and Chairman, Department of Infectology, The Scripps Research Institute. Additionally, the Albert Gallatin Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Society was presented to philanthropist Sylvia Hassenfeld, and the Lewis Rudin Award for Exemplary Service to New York City was presented to Metropolitan Museum of Art President Emily Rafferty.

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor with student speaker Alexis Leigh Cohen (DEN ’12) and Sam S. Bae (DEN '12).

Justice Sotomayor addressed the graduates and their guests and shared her insights describing her emotions of the day as “humility, excitement, challenge, gratitude, and engagement.” She continued, “New York will always be a part of you,” and advised, “It is only in giving to others that you can find meaning and satisfaction in what you do.” She concluded with, “Congratulations, Class of 2012! Dream big and achieve much.”

A full house at Yankee Stadium.

For those who could not attend, Barb Leung (STEINHARDT ’12) kept up a lively stream of observations and memorable quotes as she live tweeted the ceremony as NYU’s own @NYU1831Fund. Her highlights of the day included: “Best opening line: ‘This is awesome,’” describing Justice Sotomayor’s remarks. She later noted, “This is a beautiful speech with universality, New York-ness, and anecdotes.” From John Sexton’s remarks, she tweeted the sentiment that received a round of applause from graduates, “And if you need it, ask for a hug.”

Following John Sexton, student speaker Alexis Leigh Cohen (DEN ’12) addressed her fellow graduates with a theme fitting for a dentist—the smile. “My message to my fellow graduates is simple: find what it is that makes you happy. Whatever the ‘it’ is that makes you smile, do it!”

Watch highlights from the 180th Commencement online.