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Lynch tells NCCU Law grads to make a difference

By Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / May 9, 2024

Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch

Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the first African American woman in U.S. history to hold the post, told graduating students during North Carolina Central University’s School of Law’s May 3rd commencement that they will face many obstacles during the course of their legal careers, but despite all, stand strong, and make a difference.

“People may seek to challenge your right to your place in this world based on your race, based on your gender, where you went to school, or your southern connections. Never let them do it, never, never,” Lynch said. “Class of 2024, you did not come this far to make small-minded people comfortable. You came here to this place to make a difference.”

Lynch, a Greensboro native, is the daughter of the late Lorenzo and the late Lorine Lynch of Durham. A graduate of Harvard College in 1981, and then Harvard Law School in 1984, Lynch joined the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District in Brooklyn, NY as a prosecutor in 1990, fighting racketeering, drug smuggling, public corruption, and other high profile federal crimes.

One of her most notorious prosecution cases was for the sexual assault of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima by uniformed New York City police officers with the wooden end of a bathroom plunger at a Brooklyn Police precinct in 1997.

After being elevated to lead the Eastern District U.S. Attorney’s Office by Pres. Clinton in 1999, Lynch left in 2001 for private practice, only to return to that office under Pres. Barack Obama, and then be nominated to become U.S. Attorney General in April 2015. Lynch, the country’s 83rd U.S. Attorney General, remained in that post until 2017.

As commencement speaker for NCCU School of Law’s 85th Anniversary, Lynch reminded graduates of the school’s historic legacy.

“You were founded 15 years before Brown versus Board of Education was even decided,” said Lynch. “You were founded 26 years before anybody even heard of Miranda rights. It was a world of Jim Crow, it was a world of poll taxes, it was a world of literacy tests, but the leaders of this school stepped out on faith and began the bold and the daring and the audacious mission of training Black lawyers.”

Lynch told NCCU School of Law graduates that they live in a world where the law is being used to justify injustice, but that they must fight against that, and never give up.

“I know it’s especially painful to see the opponents of equality and inclusion actually use the law to roll us back to the last century, the law which has made an imprint on every one of us in this room, the law which has been our sword and shield in some of the most important fights in our history, we have used the law to open our society, to level the playing field, to unlock our greatness. Now, we see it being turned around and being used to close opportunity and even to close minds,” Lynch opined.

“The lesson we take from this is that the pendulum has swung this way before, it likely will again, but we have not lost this fight, as our gains and our progress have struck a chord with those who fear our power,” she continued. “It’s not that our values are not true, and our efforts aren’t strong, but it comes to every generation to defend those values in their own time.”

“We have pushed even when the law was not on our side, there was a time in this country when the law didn’t even recognize our humanity, and we didn’t give up then, we will not give up now.

Former U.S. Attorney General Lynch added, “We worked to change things then, and we will do so now.”


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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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