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12/16/13: John L. S. Simpkins addresses graduates at December Commencement

Release Date: 12/16/2013

John L. S. Simpkins gave a powerful speech to approximately 40 graduates of the Charleston School of Law at the December Commencement ceremony at Sottile Theatre on Sunday, Dec. 15. As a former assistant professor at the School he embodies the spirit of public service rooted at Charleston Law. Simpkins’ speech recalled his friendship with Nelson Mandela and the importance of love.

“If it is so that we are to love, then we must approach our project with all the energy, passion, and intellect that you began your journey here at the law school,” he said. “With a clear head and open heart, it is our time to stand shoulder to shoulder in the service of human dignity. Just like Gandhi. Just like Madiba.”

Simpkins is now deputy general counsel of the White House Office of Management and Budget. He received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College then spent two years in South Africa, the first under apartheid where he taught and coached at one of the country’s first non-racial schools and the second as a teacher at a different school after a hero, Nelson Mandela, became the president and ended apartheid. From August 2005 through May 2011, Simpkins taught constitutional and international law in Charleston and served as director of diversity initiatives at the School.  From June 2011 until this year, he was the School’s first law fellow on comparative constitutional law.

“If ever there was a model for an academic in public service, it’s John Simpkins,” said former S.C. Governor Richard W. Riley. “His calm intelligence, commitment to practical solutions to our most vexing problems and passion for working with today’s and tomorrow’s leaders for better communities is why so many people call on him for his counsel, advice and ideas.”

President and Dean Abrams also congratulated the students.

“If you continue to hold true to the leadership, professionalism and most particularly compassion you demonstrated over the past three years, you will accomplish great things, not only for yourselves but for your community,” Abrams said.

For a complete list of graduates and their honors, view the program here.

Written by: Kat Drerup
Pictures by: Jeb Brigman