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USC Gould School of Law

Monday, May 14, 2007

Speaker Charles Munger encourages a lifetime of learning

Charles Munger praised the benefits of lifelong learning during his commencement speech to nearly 300 USC Law graduates May 13.

Charles Munger speaks at USC Law Commencement 2007
Charles Munger addresses the Class of 2007

Munger, vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., encouraged the Class of 2007 and friends and family in the audience to “go to bed every night a little wiser” than they woke.

“Wisdom acquisition is a moral duty,” said Munger, 84, noting that he and business partner Warren Buffet spend the majority of their time learning through books or from other people. He urged students to not view the end of their legal educations as the end of learning. “You’re not going to get very far in life based on what you already know. You’re going to advance in life by what you’re going to learn after you leave here.”

Munger addressed 194 Juris Doctor, 89 Master of Laws and three Master of Comparative Laws recipients during the ceremony held in USC’s Alumni Park. A founding partner of the prestigious firm Munger, Tollles & Olson, Munger also is chair and CEO of Berkshire subsidiary Wesco Financial Corp. During his speech, he offered insights into the personal practices that have contributed to his success and standing as one of the wealthiest people in the world.

“The safest way to get what you want is to try and deserve what you want. It’s such a simple idea – it’s the golden rule, so to speak,” Munger said. “You want to deliver to the world what you would buy if you were on the other end. There is no ethos, in my opinion, that is better for any lawyer or any other person to have. By and large, the people who have this ethos win in life.”

USC Law Class of 2007While attending law school, Munger said, he realized that the best road to success in life and learning would be a multi-disciplinary one.

“It wasn’t at all hard for me to pick up all the big ideas in all the disciplines and make them a standard part of my mental routines,” Munger said. “[If] you don’t practice, you lose it. So I went through life practicing that multi-disciplinary approach.

“Well, I can’t tell you what that’s done for me. It’s made life more fun, it’s made me more constructive, it’s made me more helpful to others, it’s made me enormously rich — you name it.”

Dean Edward J. McCaffery speaks at Commencement 2007USC Law Dean Edward J. McCaffery and Associate Dean Gregory Keating also spoke during the ceremony. USC Law Professor and University Vice President Elizabeth Garrett conferred the degrees.

In honor of Mother’s Day, McCaffery recognized all the mothers among the graduates, law faculty and audience members. Mothers provide a love at the beginning of life that should continue to serve as a guide, said McCaffery (pictured right).

“Find love and meaning in your work,” McCaffery said. “If you can’t love your job, then do your job for the love of others: do your job for family, for others, to give back to the poor and the needy. And if you can’t do that, get another job, because life is too short to live without love.”

J.D. recipient Ryan Oliver, Class of 2007 president, referenced Plato’s Allegory of the Cave as he spoke to his classmates of leaving the initial study of law to embark on the practice of law.

“We may be the best and the brightest of the citizens trapped in Plato’s allegorical darkness, but today, as we are being forced to leave our cave and look directly into the light of our future, it is blinding,” Oliver said. “Our education has thrust us out from our cave into a world of infinite possibilities. Our talents and education have given us the possibility to do so many things, and this chance can be overwhelming.”

Graduating LL.M. studentsGraduating international students selected LL.M. graduate Rosemary Mwanza, a native of Kenya, to present remarks on their behalf. The Master of Laws (LL.M.) and Master of Comparative Laws (M.C.L.) graduates hail from 19 countries, including Japan, Taiwan, Korea and others. Lawyers hold a hallowed place in society, Mwanza said.

“As Earl Warren, chief justice of the United States, said: ‘It is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive,’” Mwanza said. “We are the bearers of that spirit, no matter where our lives shall lead us. And society looks upon us and depends upon us to do so.”

The entire commencement ceremony was web cast live and may be viewed by clicking here. Photos from the ceremony may be purchased from Lee Salem Photography by visiting; the official graduation photos of each student were taken by Bob Knight Photography and will be mailed directly to students.

J.D. recipients at USC Law Commencement 2007J.D. recipients at USC Law Commencement 2007

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