‘Let them test you, but don’t let them defeat you’

Anoosheh Shaikh was the student speaker during Wednesday's School of Law commencement ceremonies.
By Robert C. Jones Jr.

Anoosheh Shaikh was the student speaker during Wednesday's School of Law commencement ceremonies.

‘Let them test you, but don’t let them defeat you’

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
Adalberto “Bert” Jordan, U.S. circuit judge and double University of Miami alumnus, urged School of Law graduates to persevere during his commencement address at the Wednesday afternoon ceremony at the Watsco Center.

As fate would have it, the death penalty case from California landed squarely on Adalberto “Bert” Jordan’s desk. It was the start of the 1988-89 U.S. Supreme Court term, and Jordan, a newly minted University of Miami School of Law graduate in his first week as a law clerk for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, had to prepare a memo on her recommendation for the case. 

But with no previous files to consult as to how O’Connor might rule—they were still packed away in boxes after she moved chambers—Jordan used a memo from her colleague, Byron White, as a guidepost. 

O’Connor was not satisfied, and Jordan was certain that his clerkship would end early. 

“But we figured out the problem,” he recalled. “I rewrote the memo. I had my co-clerks review it, gave it back to her, and everything turned out to be okay.” 

He survived the year, which, in the end, turned out to be “one of the best years of my legal life,” Jordan said. 

“Even in the best of jobs, you are going to have days, you’re going to have moments that are going to test you,” Jordan, who is now a judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, told graduates Wednesday at the University of Miami School of Law commencement. 

“Let them test you, but don’t let them defeat you. Keep going. That is part of what lawyers do, not only for their clients, but often for themselves as well,” said Jordan, a double University alumnus who was born in Havana, Cuba, and came to Miami with his family in 1968. 

Adalberto 'Bert' Jordan

In his remarks on Wednesday afternoon, he urged Miami Law’s newest legal eagles to persevere. 

“You’ve all been through adverse situations during your three years here at Miami,” said Jordan, referring to the pandemic. “I think those challenges have set you up well for the sort of world you’re going to enter. It’s going to be a world full of challenges and peaks and valleys. But continue to persevere no matter what the challenges are, no matter what the setbacks are.” 

He called their graduation a day of “accomplishment and celebration.” 

But, Jordan cautioned, “The careers you have in front of you, no matter what they are—whether they’re careers in law or in business or in academia or something else—will be difficult. They’ll be fun, they'll be exciting, but they will be tough.” 

During the ceremony, President Julio Frenk echoed many of the messages Jordan delivered to graduates. 

“Your path to a law degree has not been a straight line,” Frenk said. “You have experienced global crises, made changes in how you live and learn, worn masks in class, practiced social distancing, and made sacrifices for the sake of your education. But through it all, you stayed engaged and on course. 

“Living through these experiences while pursuing an advanced degree has given you the opportunity to learn—and practice—adaptability and resilience,” he continued. “No matter where your paths take you, I can guarantee you this: you will continue to use those skills.” 

Two graduate-degree commencement ceremonies will be held on Thursday, followed by three undergraduate exercises on Friday. 

Get updates at the 2022 Commencement Special Report.