“We searched the world for you.”

That was the message delivered by Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow to this year’s class of incoming law students at a welcome reception at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre on August 31.

“You are here, each of you, for a good reason. You’re here because you’re talented, you’re passionate and maybe a little driven. You are the strength, the center of the Harvard Law School. It is a privilege, truly, of every one on the faculty to get to teach you and to know you. You each will lead lives of meaning and accomplishment and we picked you because you have the gifts to pursue your dreams and because your dreams can change the world,” she said.

In her first address of the academic year, the dean welcomed the more than 700 students who make up this year’s group of LL.M., J.D. and transfer students. Calling this year’s group “extraordinary,” she offered examples of the talent and accomplishments they bring. (Watch Minow’s speech.) 

Among the members of this year’s class are: 165 LL.M. candidates, from 65 countries, 56 of whom already have advanced degrees; 559 J.D. candidates from 21 countries and 159 undergraduate schools; and 39 transfer students from 24 schools. They include international law professors and judges, a member of the U.S. national gymnastics team, a cellist who soloed with the Honolulu symphony, a veteran awarded the Purple Heart, the founder of a real estate and foreclosure prevention company, and the co-founder of a website that offers bluebook citations.

Minow also offered examples of alums who were once members of each group, including transfer student Caleb Weaver, ’08, who is now senior advisor to the Congressional Oversight Panel, assessing TARP bailout funds; Sandile Ngcobo LL.M. ’86, who was recently named chief justice of South Africa; Rebecca Hamilton ’07, founder of the Darfur Action Group and the Genocide Intervention Network, who spent last year as a communications aid to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; and Michelle Robinson ’88, former executive director of a nonprofit and head of a university hospital community affairs office, who, Minow said, recently took “a leave of absence to help her husband, another HLS grad she met when she was his law firm mentor, in his successful bid for the US Presidency. (You may know her as Michelle Obama).”

“Past and present, we have extraordinary students. The Chief Justice and 4 other Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court; the President of the United States, seven US Senators, CEOs, managing partners of law firms, directors of foundations, creators and leaders of local and global nonprofits. These are not bragging points (or at least they are not JUST bragging points). Instead, these are reminders of what you can do with the help of this institution—and therefore what responsibilities you and we have together,” she said.

After Minow’s speech, there was a reception for this year’s students at the Harkness Commons. Pictured above.