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Remarks from Founding Dean Jeffrey Lehman at the 2021 Commencement Ceremony

Jeffrey Lehman
Founding Dean, STL
Vice Chancellor, NYU Shanghai

Members of the Peking University School of Transnational Law, Class of 2021.


Your 4 years at STL have in some ways been just what you expected when you began back in 2017. But in other ways, they’ve been very different.


When you arrived on campus you are already smart, talented highly accomplished and motivated young adults. You expected that a 4-year long STL education would give you the opportunity to develop a deeper, more sophisticated understanding of the law. And in truth, that expectation has been fully satisfied. Your understanding of the law today is entirely different now from what it was 4 years ago.


You now understand how legal rules use imperfect ambiguous words to promote larger social goals. You understand how good and reasonable well meaning people can disagree about the best way to interpret those ambiguous rules. You understand how the rule of law enables people to resolve their disagreements fairly in ways that promote important values like equity, equality and efficiency. That is what you expected you would accomplish as STL students. And through your dedicated efforts, you did it.


On the other hand, today’s world is in so many ways not at all what we expected it would be when you start it out back in 2017. Back then we all thought that globalization was a progressive force that would continue to move forward promoting economic prosperity and cross cultural integration. We thought the arc of history was bending towards an ever stronger rule of law under which no amount of wealth or political power could enable a person to escape accountability to universal norms of behavior. We thought that the nations of the world were joining forces to confront common threats to human well being like climate change.


That is not exactly what our world looks like in 2021.But we should not be discouraged. If anything, STL graduates, we should appreciate even more the special qualities that you developed during the past 4 years and the difference that those qualities can make in the years ahead.


Each of you is now embarking on a very personal quest to craft a life of worth and purpose. For some people such a life mostly involves helping one or more other people, or one or more other living beings. For others, it involves serving an important cause. For others, it involves exploring and understanding the complex, beautiful, surprising, and frustrating world that we share.


Whatever kind of life you might wish to craft, you could follow either of two different strategic paths. One path relies on work that pays you to provide service to others. You could do that by being an employee in the public sector, the private sector, academia, civil society, or an international organization. Or you could be an entrepreneur, someone who creates a new organization that produces a genuinely useful goods or service; or you could be a creative artist producing work that enhances the lives of those who experience it.


A different path uses paid work to acquire the resources that you need to live comfortably but manages that work so that you have time and energy for more important activities relating to friendship, family, charity, creativity, intellectual exploration or community service. Most people probably combine the two paths. They pursue one strategy for a few years, then switch to the other. And then maybe they invent a third strategy that somehow blends the two together.


But no matter what path you may end up pursuing, the qualities that you developed during your time at STL will serve you well. Just be sure to keep reading to keep finding new sources of intellectual stimulation. Be sure to stay connected with one another and with the other members of the ten classes of STL alumni and be sure you stay alert to new possibilities that will present themselves to you from time to often when you least expect them.


Members of the class of 2021,


You are about to embark on lives, in which you will provide invaluable service to a society that desperately needs you. As you go, let me conclude by stating a few hopes that all of your STL teachers hold for you.


May you enjoy the special pleasures of craft the private satisfaction of doing a task as well as it can be done.愿你们享受专业技能带来的特殊乐趣——一种既能参与,又能让事情办成的自我的满足感。

May you enjoy the special pleasures of profession the added satisfaction of knowing that your efforts promote a larger public good.愿你们享受法律专业带来的特殊乐趣——一种知道自己的努力能够让社会受益的强烈满足感。

May you be blessed with good luck and also with the wisdom to appreciate when you’ve been lucky rather than skillful.


May you find ways to help others under circumstances where they cannot possibly know that you’ve done.


May you be patient, gentle, tolerant without becoming smug, self-satisfied or arrogant.愿你们戒骄戒躁,耐心、有涵养、心胸宽广。

May you know enough bad weather that you never take the sunshine of Shenzhen for granted, and enough good weather that your faith in the coming of spring is never shaken.愿你们所经历过的坏天气足以让你们学会珍惜深圳明媚的阳光;也经历过足够多的好天气,使你们对春天来临的坚信不移。

May you always be able to admit ignorance, vulnerability, and uncertainty.


May you always have listeners who find your words persuasive.


May you frequently travel beyond the places that are comfortable and familiar the better to appreciate the miraculous diversity of life.


And may your steps lead you often back to Shenzhen, back to the Peking University School of Transnational law.


Class of 2021,

2021届的同学们 ,

The STL story is very much your story. And STL will always be happy to welcome you home.