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"Law matters," Richard M. Daley to DePaul University law graduates

Richard M. Daley, who served as mayor of Chicago for 22 years, delivered the commencement speech May 19 at DePaul University’s College of Law. Daley earned his law degree from DePaul in 1968 as well as a bachelor’s degree in 1964. He cited his DePaul education as “the foundation on which my career has been built.” (Photo by Thomas Vangel)
In remarks to graduates from DePaul University’s 100-year-old College of Law, Richard M. Daley described the law as “the rulebook for society.”

The former Chicago mayor, who earned a law degree from DePaul in 1968, told graduates “When you change the rulebook, you can literally change how the world works.”

He noted that the law “is more than statutes and rules and regulations and proceedings. It is the architecture that determines how we interact with one another. Like any other kind of architecture, if you change the design, you change the outcome. Do you want to change the world? Then you change the law.”

Citing his 22 years of experience as Chicago’s mayor and nearly 10 years as the Cook County State’s Attorney, Daley used the issue of gun violence to illustrate that there are “intriguing legal questions” at the core of some of today’s social challenges.

“In the time since I received my DePaul law degree, over 100,000 children and teenagers have been killed by guns in the United States of America…. I’m not going to tell you that there are easy answers to the problem of gun violence. There are not. But I will ask you some legal questions.

“Should it be easier to buy a gun than it is to buy a car? Why is the gun industry shielded from liability when no other industry enjoys such protection? If some other product were killing thousands of children every year, would Congress and its citizens issue the manufacturers of that product blanket immunity? If a gun shop repeatedly sells guns that end up in the hands of criminals, should that be a criminal offense?” Daley posed.

“These are obviously difficult and divisive questions,” Daley said. “My message today is simple: How you answer these legal questions will affect who gets killed on our streets. The law matters.”

He continued, “Those of us who study law — including all of our new graduates here today — must recognize that laws have consequences. They shape society. They determine how we interact with each other and with the rest of the world.

“You graduate today as our nation is facing a new set of challenges…. You will leave here today with more than a graduate degree. You will leave here with an understanding of the most powerful lever that we have for improving America and the world,” Daley said. “And that is the law.”

Conferring law degrees on 314 graduates was the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, president of DePaul University. Introducing Daley was Gregory Mark, dean of the College of Law, which is celebrating its centennial.


Article reprinted from DePaul Newsroom. 

Click here for photos of the 2013 College of Law Commencement Ceremony, or view a webcast of Sunday's event.