New York, June 3, 2009 – Paul A. Volcker, Chair of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, addressed nearly 500 Brooklyn Law School graduates yesterday at 2009 commencement exercises in Lincoln Center. One of history’s most lauded central bankers, he is widely credited with taming runaway double-digit inflation in the 1980s when he served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.
Mr. Volcker said that a full economic recovery is years away, and the U.S. must eventually cut back on borrowing from abroad. He said the recession, which began in December 2007, “is bound to be the longest recession since World War II and could turn out to be the deepest as well.” He also said “sweeping reforms are truly necessary, in banking, in markets, and in our regulatory institutions.”
“Never again in my lifetime—and much more relevant, in your lifetime—should we permit financial excesses to wreak so much havoc on the American and world economy,” he told the newly-minted lawyers. He said they would have an important opportunity to shape changes in financial markets, new laws and regulations. He hoped for a broad “change in national mood” away from an emphasis on monetary rewards, and that innovative programs to ease their debt burden would make public service an easier choice for new lawyers.
Stuart Subotnick ’88, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, conferred upon Mr. Volcker the law school’s highest honor, an honorary doctor of laws degree.
In her remarks, Dean Joan G. Wexler also spoke about the current economic climate and lawyers’ “unique role in making our system work.” She said legal training offers “the extraordinary potential not only to do well, but to do good,” and “the potential to make a life, and not merely a living, by influencing the course of private lives and public affairs.”
She added, “One of the great strengths of a legal career is the flexibility that it affords, and that, because of this flexibility, we lawyers are well-positioned to adapt to, and thrive, in difficult times. I know that many of you are worried because you are graduating in the midst of a serious recession. I don't want to make light of the situation, but I do want you to know that this is not the first, and certainly not the last recession that we will witness and that you, and the profession, and the species we know as lawyers will adapt and survive…It's important not only to be willing to adapt to change, but to welcome it, and to make the most of it, and to understand that there is an element—a very big element—of serendipity in achieving success, and you will achieve it.”
More news coverage of Mr. Volcker at Bloomberg.com.