CONCORD - Two men who argued opposite sides in the U.S. Supreme Court case that decided the 2000 election offered life lessons - and their own example - to graduates of the University of New Hampshire School of Law on Saturday.
Attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies have become best friends and colleagues since the Bush v. Gore case that divided the nation. Most recently, they argued together before the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of marriage equality for gays and lesbians.
Both men gave addresses during the 38th commencement of the law school, during which 146 students from 30 states and nine countries received juris doctor and master degrees.
Olson, who was solicitor general for President George W. Bush, talked about how he and Boies became the so-called "odd couple" - coming together to argue against California's Proposition 8 banning gay marriage.
Even during the arguments in Bush v. Gore, he often caught himself nodding when Boies, who represented Gore, made an especially persuasive point, Olson said.
"We were professional adversaries in the presidential recount case but we were not enemies," he said.
"The practice of law can be strenuous, stimulating and rewarding," Olson said. But there is no place in it for hostility, rancor or incivility, he said. "Keep it out of our profession - your profession."
"Reach out to your colleagues on the other side of your cases," he urged the future lawyers. "They will be among your grandest friends."
Boies told the graduates they will have the opportunity to do "interesting, challenging and often exciting work," to make a "very good" living and to earn the respect of colleagues and the community. But more importantly, he said, "You'll have the opportunity to serve justice."
"You can make a difference in terms of whether people are represented or not represented, whether equal rights are protected or not protected, whether people are discriminated against or not discriminated against," he said. "And you can do that every day of your lives."
Graduate Jacob Sullivan of Raleigh, N.C., was welcomed on stage by the faculty brass band playing "Dixie," and kept his classmates laughing. He joked with former Gov. John Lynch, on stage to receive an honorary degree.
"He chose not to seek another term right after he vetoed the Legislature's attempt to legalize medical marijuana because he wanted to leave office on a 'high' note," Sullivan quipped.
He turned serious at the end, urging classmates to "take a moment to appreciate what we've accomplished here."
And graduate Rodrigo Moreno Gutierrez of La Paz, Bolivia, recalled the many small moments that made up their law school experience.
"We have endured long exams, memo writing and moot court, reading all those long books, waking up all those early mornings for class and the seemingly never-ending New England winter," he said.
"We are all one individual tile in this great mosaic. Now that we part ways, like a mosaic, the further we stand from the picture, the more the tiles blend into one another," he said.
Chosen by graduates to offer advice from the faculty, Prof. John Orcutt reassured them that the current depressed job market is merely "a blip." He said the demand for legal services is increasing "exponentially" around the globe.
"It is hard to automate what we do," he said. "We are here to stay."
And Orcutt urged them to remember why they decided to study law in the first place. "I'm assuming most of you are becoming lawyers for the same reason I became a lawyer: I want to change the world. I'd like to make the world a better place."
Olson and Boies received honorary degrees; so did retired Judge Arthur J. Gajarsa of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
And, in a bittersweet tribute, Margaret Rudman accepted a posthumous honorary degree on behalf of her late husband, former U.S. Sen. Warren Rudman who, law school Dean John Broderick said, "led a consequential life." It would have been Rudman's 83rd birthday.
Among the special guests at Saturday's ceremony were members of the Class of 1978, celebrating its 25th reunion.