you Rees for that warm introduction. Dean
Jeffries, parents, faculty, and new graduates
of the University of Virginia Law School.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to
be with you on this occasion. It is an honor.
To Dean Jeffries and the members of the faculty:
Thank you for your dedication and service
to this school and to these new lawyers. The
prestige of this school is due, in large part,
to your scholarship and accomplishments.
To the parents, spouses, friends and family:
Congratulations on your new lawyers. It is
indeed important that you participate in this
ceremony today. Because in no small part,
it is the sharing of your values, and your
support and encouragement, that has made this
day possible. I applaud you for the many sacrifices
you have made these last three years -- and
in many cases, much longer than that.
And now, to those graduating today: Congratulations
to each of you.
Let me start by pointing out that you graduate
at a unique time in our history. You come
out of UVA Law School to a changed world;
a world transformed by new digital technologies,
cell phones and the internet; a world transformed
by the events of September 11th. As lawyers,
no matter what sector of the profession you
enter, you will confront these realities.
From the perspective of law enforcement, I
will tell you that we in the FBI face a world
where terrorists, narcotics traffickers, and
other international criminals traverse borders
with impunity relying on the inability of
nation states to bridge their conflicting
legal systems. This global reach of crime
-- particularly terrorism -- is transforming
the law enforcement environment in which we
operate, and will change the legal environment
in which you will operate.
We in the FBI understand that our first priority
is to protect the country from another terrorist
attack. We understand that in the future we
must expand to address cyber and other transnational
criminal threats, while we must also continue
to investigate white collar and violent crimes
here at home. Most importantly for us, we
must continue our evolution from being a paper
driven organization to being a modern institution
operating effectively in the digital world.
The FBI of today bears little resemblance
to the FBI of J. Edgar Hoover.
Responding to the threats of the modern world
is a complicated undertaking requiring not
only the efforts of the FBI, but also the
coordinated efforts of our state, local and
foreign counterparts. In today's world, the
FBI and its sister law enforcement agencies
must work together to be successful, and we
must do so using all of the modern technologies
As law enforcement and the FBI are changing
to meet the new threats of terrorism, transnational
crime and cyber attacks, so too will our legal
system evolve to meet these threats, and each
of you will be called upon to play a role
in that transformation.
So then, we face a changed world. How have
we been prepared, and what thoughts should
we keep in mind as we embark on a career in
this transformed world?
Let me begin by pointing out that today you
graduate from one of the best law schools
-- and I would argue the best law school --
in the country. I say that remembering what
I found unique about this school thirty years
ago. Then as now, UVA was different than other
law schools. It sought to provide the foundation
for future leadership. As Rees has pointed
out, I came to the Law School from the Marine
Corps, with a tour in Vietnam. As you all
know, the Vietnam War was deeply divisive
for our country, and there were a number of
law schools that were not receptive to veterans
of Vietnam. Not so UVA.
The University was looking for a range of
experiences, understanding that a true legal
education is an amalgam of the law, and of
values, with the goal of preparing its students
for service -- service to the country, service
to Virginia, service to the poor, service
to others. Then, as now, a variety of views
were represented. Many of my fellow students,
good friends, opposed the war in Vietnam.
Some had been conscientious objectors. But
then, and as I presume now, our debates fostered
mutual respect and a sharing of vision.
That is not to say that such debates do not
occasionally suffer from misunderstandings.
I have it on good authority that while John
Jeffries was teaching a civil rights class,
John went to the blackboard and drew what
he thought was a peace sign. Only to be informed
by one of his students that what he had drawn
was not a peace symbol, but the Mercedes-Benz
With your legal education, what might you
keep in mind as you embark on your new careers?
Thirty years ago I was sitting where you are,
a little nervous as many of you may be, wondering
whether I could, or would, be successful once
I left law school. Since then, my legal career
has traveled, some -- including my wife --
might say "meandered", through private law
firms, prosecutors offices and courtrooms
in a number of cities, finally landing where
I am today. So I have asked myself: What in
my journey may be relevant to your future
careers as you graduate? What has served me
well over the years? What have I learned that
may be worth passing on to you?
First, we should not fear taking on new challenges
or exploring new opportunities. I remember
a piece of advice I was given during my last
year at UVA. The Speakers' Forum had invited
one of the nation's premier trial lawyers
to address us. If my memory serves me, it
was Percy Foreman from Houston. I remember
to this day the core of his presentation,
as does my wife who was also there. He told
us to select a community and to stay in that
community for the duration of our careers.
For only by doing so would we be able to develop
the reputation to enable us to be successful
This was sound advice, and when my wife and
I were thinking of moving from San Francisco
to Boston six years out of law school, we
recalled this advice. But because I loved
investigating and prosecuting criminal cases
above all else, we chose another path. At
last count, my wife tells me we have moved
17 times. What I have learned in those moves
is that no two prosecutors offices, no two
law firms, no two courthouses do things the
same way. Moving expands your horizons, teaches
you new ways of doing things, and presents
new challenges. Do not fear change.
Second, integrity is the bedrock of one's
reputation, and thus one's career. Whether
it be in conversations with your client, negotiations
with opposing counsel, or in argument in a
courtroom, you are only as good as your word.
You can be smart, aggressive, articulate,
persuasive. But if you are not scrupulously
honest with fellow counsel, the court, the
jury, and yourself, your reputation and your
career will be worth naught. At the heart
of being a good lawyer -- and I would argue
a good spouse, parent, or citizen -- is integrity.
At no point in either the largest or the very
smallest decisions should you sacrifice your
Third, fulfillment comes from service to others.
And what do we mean by service to others?
It is putting others before yourself. It can
be done in ways both large and small. Most
importantly, it should mean devotion to your
family. But it should also mean service to
your clients, individual or corporate. It
can mean service to the accused, or to those
who can least afford it. Or it can mean other
The rewards of public service are often difficult
to measure, to quantify, to adequately describe.
But for the FBI agent, or for the prosecutor,
fulfillment comes from bringing justice to
the families of victims of terrorists, other
killers or other criminals.
will never forget a visit I made to Lockerbie,
Scotland, during the investigation into the
bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. As you may remember,
shortly before Christmas in 1988, Pan Am 103
exploded over Lockerbie, killing the passengers
and the crew. The constables in charge of
the Scottish end of the investigation had
constructed a small wooden warehouse in which
were stored the various effects of those who
were on the plane when it broke apart in the
skies: a white sneaker never again to be worn
by the teenager; a Syracuse sweatshirt never
again to be worn by the Syracuse student,
and other such everyday pieces of clothing
and personal belongings. These ordinary items
brought home to me, and came to symbolize
for me, the pain and the loss felt by those
whose family, friends or colleagues died that
Bringing to justice those responsible for
Pan Am 103, or those responsible for the events
of September 11th, offers rewards without
measure. The fulfillment comes from bringing
closure to the victims of these terrorist
incidents and transcends the monetary rewards
often available in our profession.
We also must not forget that we all have a
national responsibility. Democracy is a form
of government that thrives only by the interest
and the actions of its citizens. Thomas Jefferson
said, "There is a debt of service due from
every man to his country, proportioned to
the bounties which nature and fortune have
measured to him."
Each of you is unique and has his or her own
contribution to make. Do not be afraid of
turmoil. Or of failing. Make your career your
own. To get through law school you had to
meet the expectations of your professors.
Now, you will create your own expectations
for yourself. Let them be guided by your values
and your character. Put your fears aside,
take your unique abilities and do something
What do I mean by "special". As you may know,
all FBI agents are called "Special Agents."
With that in mind, let me tell you a story
that was told to me at my confirmation hearing
by Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. He said
that when he was a United States Attorney,
he was trying a high-profile corruption case
in federal court. One of our FBI Special Agents,
who had "worked her heart out" on the investigation,
was on the witness stand being grilled by
the defense attorney. The attorney said to
her, "You call yourself a Special Agent. Who
are these Agents? Are they all special?" She
replied, "Yes, they are." The lawyer said,
"Well, then being an agent is not really so
special, is it?" She did not hesitate for
a second, but looked the lawyer in the eye
and said, "Sir, it's special to me."
I hope that each of you will find a career,
an avocation that is special, special to you,
special to your family, special to the country.
Good luck and God bless!