Sauvageau: Be a Blessing, Despite Our Differences

Emily Sauvageau, Gonzaga Law Commencement Speaker
Emily Sauvageau, Gonzaga Law Commencement Speaker

May 16, 2019

Gonzaga School of Law 2019 Student Speaker Emily Sauvageau urged her classmates to be a blessing to others as they enter the post-graduate world. Following are her remarks:

"To my husband, and to all of the spouses, parents, kids, and friends & family here with us, this celebration belongs to you. You pulled us through many late nights. You fed us when were hungry.  Most importantly, you reminded us why we chose law school in the first place, and you encouraged us to push through the tough days and weeks.  Thank you.  

To our professors, Dean Rooksby, and Gonzaga Law family: bless you. This class is a lot to handle. We ask questions. We fight back. We have given you many headaches. But you engage with us, encourage us, and teach us through it all. Thank you. 

To my classmates: Congratulations. And thank you for choosing me to be your student speaker. I am humbled and honored. 

When I think about our class and what it represents, two things stand out: our uniqueness, and the many changes we have been through together.  And with those two things come two challenges: a challenge to always be a blessing to others, and to embrace the many changes that are coming. 

First, let’s talk about us. Think back to law school orientation. The courtroom buzzed with excitement. On the third day of orientation, we walked across the road and sorted through furniture, clothes, and dishes. Many of the friendships in this room formed while we were sweating and volunteering together – I cannot think of a better foundation for friendships.

As we worked together over the next three years, our differences emerged.  Some of us are serious; others are comedians.  Some of us are liberal; others are conservative; and many are somewhere in between.  Some are loud, others, are quiet. We all have different passions, and our views cover the entirety of the political spectrum.  

Because we are a small class, we confront our differences frequently.  We call each other out in class, and we debate each other often.  Go out to dinner with two students from this class and you’ll quickly end up in a conversation about gun control, education policy, or the First Amendment. 

But what I love about this class is our ability to recognize that we are more alike than we are different.  We are all human, and we all have something to learn from one another. This recognition allows us to use our differences to sharpen each other – to make each other better.  Rather than sticking to like-minded people, we chose to welcome controversy and to learn from one another.

As we move on to the next step, it’s important that we retain this quality. In the words of Maya Angelou, we should prepare ourselves to be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you, may not call God the same name you call God – if they call God at all. They may not eat the same dishes prepared the way you do, may not dance your dances, or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. Because we are more alike than we are different. 

And so my first challenge for us as we move forward is just that: be a blessing to somebody, every day, regardless of our differences.
Second, our class has been through many changes together. We watched the 2016 election unfold.  We cheered Gonzaga on to the final four.  We welcomed a new Dean and new faculty members.  We hosted many successful events and made them better than ever before – including Heidelberg, the Human Race, and Objection!  Our moot court teams and Journal performances raised the bar for classes that follow. We also experienced major loss when our classmate Heidi Keele tragically lost a short battle to cancer. Heidi was and always will be a rainbow in the clouds.

We learned and we grew from each change, and now we face even bigger ones. The end of law school feels like the end of the road.  Many of us really have no idea what’s coming.  While we can make plans and chase goals, we will always encounter changes and obstacles.  It’s part of life.  But when we embrace change, we experience growth. We refine our values and beliefs. We become stronger, more compassionate, and more flexible. 

So my second challenge is that we would embrace the unknown.  Run toward what scares you.  Ask “why” more often, and do not be afraid to quit a job, to shift careers, or take a leap of faith.  The moment we become complacent is the moment we should move on.  Because by embracing change, we will uncover new opportunities and will continue to grow, in order make the world around us a better place.

May we never stop learning, and may we always strive to be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud.