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Graduate Schools

“Don’t Check Your Heart at the Door”: Class Day at Harvard Law School

5.26.10

Samantha Power

Samantha Power

Photograph by Kent Dayton

Whatever you do, Samantha Power, J.D. ’99, urged members of the Harvard Law School class of 2010 at their Class Day ceremonies, “Don’t check your heart at the door.” Power, the Lindh professor of practice of global leadership and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocidehas been passionately outspoken as a journalist, an academic, and now—as a public servant in the Obama administration—on human-rights issues.

Power did not commend one path over another, but urged the class to do work they cared about, and to try to be fully present when they did it. Citing a morally ambiguous case from her own law school days, in which a defense lawyer acquired information about a plaintiff that could mean the difference between life and death, and confronting the question of what that defense lawyer should do with that information, Power noted that reason is the scalpel that is sharpened at the Law School. But justice, she said, is what lies within you.

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