On Friday, May 13, 713 graduates from 42 places around the globe joined faculty, family, and friends for the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s 2022 convocation ceremony at the Chicago Theatre.
Just Mercy Screening Serves as Important Reminder: “Fighting The Good Fight Is Always Worth It”
Students, faculty and staff gathered at the AMC River East theater in late November for an advance screening of Just Mercy, donated by Courtney D. Armstrong (JD-MBA ’96), executive vice president of worldwide business affairs for Warner Bros. Pictures. The film, based on Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson’s bestselling book of the same name, depicts the true story of the author’s quest to appeal the murder conviction of death row inmate Walter McMillan.
Armstrong says he was eager to get the film in front of future lawyers. “Creating an opportunity to share this important film with the Northwestern Law community was a goal of mine,” he says. “I know that we sometimes primarily focus on the intractable issues that don’t seem to change, such as long-running racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Doing so can make us lose sight of the important ways lawyers—including the brilliant faculty members and students representing clients in Northwestern Law’s Bluhm Legal Clinic—can make an impact in individual clients’ lives. This film helps remind us of the difference a deeply committed lawyer can make in the lives of so many, and I am glad to have played a role in bringing this incredible film to the Northwestern community.”
For many students, the screening had the intended effect. “One of my favorite quotes is the following by Robert Kennedy: ‘Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.’ Seeing Just Mercy brought those words to life,” says Walter Garcia (JD ’21). “Though law school is far from an easy ride—for all people, but especially so for folks of color—Bryan Stevenson reminds us that lawyers can help to fight the good fight. And fighting the good fight is always worth it.”
Shannon Bartlett, associate dean of inclusion and engagement, says events like this movie screening can provide the entire community with important opportunities to connect over a common goal. “It was a uniquely powerful moment to watch the movie in a theater surrounded by Law School students, staff, and faculty. The shared camaraderie between all of those present was palpable, and it was gratifying to watch Crim Law faculty members chatting with their students, and staff members from the Bluhm Legal Clinic engaging with students and faculty alike before and after the movie,” she says. “The film is a palpable reminder of the critical importance of lawyering in the public interest, and I know from my conversations with students that the film resonated deeply with them at a moment when some question the wisdom of seeking change through the legal system.”
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