Valedictorian Michael Herman’s Speech – Fall 2008
To the 13th graduating class of the U of H paralegal certificate program, family and friends — it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Our wise teacher told us, this afternoon we celebrate a big accomplishment and reflect on the sometimes grueling, sometimes interesting and sometimes even fun journey we took through our class together. It was nine intense weeks and most of you know or have heard the stories and experiences. We were in class for a very short amount of time. In that roughly 144 hours, Jac instilled in us the skills, knowledge, resources, and thought-processes we need to become smart, essential, indispensable paralegals.
We would like to thank everyone who has supported us through this experience, our spouses, significant others, parents, children, friends, colleagues, bosses, and of course, our teacher, Jac.
During that nine week period, there were a multitude of major events that happened concurrently with our class.
We had just survived Hurricane Ike and some of our classmates still didn’t have electricity on Day 1 of class. We witnessed the U.S. Presidential debates, and the Vice Presidential debate, we met Joe the Plumber, we celebrated a very important American holiday, 2 Jewish holidays, a Christian holiday, and Halloween. Even the ground shook in north Texas with earthquakes around the Dallas area. We watched the economic landscape dramatically and permanently change with mega mergers and acquisitions. We watched as the $700 billion dollar financial rescue plan was voted down and then finally passed. We watched our neighbors to the north elect a prime minister. Even in our personal lives, we celebrated with family and friends at weddings, and baby showers and two of us felt the passing of loved ones.
In Houston, we saw a change in the political winds within our local government. A momentous change in our judges, from a republican to a democrat majority. We saw the Latin Grammies take place right here in the Bayou City at the Toyota Center. Towards the end of our class, our country elected our 44th president. And no doubt, we all knew who the Texans were playing every Sunday.
We’ve spent hours studying for tests, researching and doing homework and preparing for midweeks at Jac’s house. The majority of our learning was in the classroom; but we were also fortunate to able to benefit from ‘out of class’ experiences. Some of us observed a grievance hearing downtown, although someone thought it was a mediation, we voted, we watched and learned from The Practice and Michaels Moore’s movie, “Sicko.” We also attended weekly webcast and watched topics on Americans with Disabilities and other disability rights laws. A group of us attended the monthly Houston Metropolitan Paralegal Association luncheons.
Each of us has benefited from this program. For those who are already in the legal field, this class further increased their knowledge base. And for us from other fields, this program was an eye-awakening experience with all of its acronyms and nuances. Personally, I thought I was learning another foreign language, and you know what, I actually did!
Jac has broadened our awareness of our surroundings, both domestically and internationally. We brushed-up on our American History, memorized the U.S. Supreme Justices, and the presidents and prime ministers of several countries. Each of us gave 3 oral reports in front of our class. There were approximately 48 topics that we learned from each other. These topics ranged from specific law firms to global conflicts to companies who facilitate retrieval of documentation.
We covered a multitude of topics in class, wills and estates, criminal and juvenile law, business organizations, corporate law, family law, consumer law, torts, real estate law, hearsay, motions and objections, and many more. We had numerous, invaluable guest speakers including paralegals who graduated from this program, attorneys – some of whom were Jac’s classmates, a UH College of Law professor, and a judge. We interviewed a client for a mock will, prepared and presented a mock arbitration, and this morning we concluded our biggest class project, our mock trial.
Personally, I am extremely grateful to Jac. The work was challenging and Jac was always available for questions. Although I may not have gotten the answers I thought I wanted; she made me more self-reliant and more inquisitive of myself and my work.
I don’t know exactly how Jac manages to work fulltime, to maintain a large family, to manage several well-designed websites, including one for the paralegal program, to volunteer within the community and to establish and run a non-profit organization called “A Simple Thread.” A Simple Thread was created to help homeless individuals in a unique way. The volunteers prepare small kits, called simple threads, which are sort of like care packages. There are 12 different types of kits. For example, there’s a “Say Cheese smile kit.” It contains a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouth wash, lip balm and breath mints. A group of inexpensive products that we take for granted that mean a great deal to someone living on the streets. In honor of Jac, we’ve put together some kits to donate to A Simple Thread. They are on the back table.
In closing, the 16 of us have successfully completed the 13thedition of the paralegal program. It is now our ball to run with and make Jac proud.
Watch another YouTube video of pictures here.