Legal advisor to the U.S. Depart­ment of State Harold Hongju Koh urged the grad­u­ates at North­eastern University’s School of Law com­mence­ment to serve the public good in their future careers — using both their global expe­ri­ences at North­eastern and the vast emerging tech­nolo­gies their gen­er­a­tion has avail­able at its fingertips.

You live in a global cen­tury. [You must] use the tools you’ve mas­tered to become global cit­i­zens,” said Koh, citing oppor­tu­ni­ties such as fur­thering inter­na­tional law and lifting others out of poverty and disease.

Koh, who spoke to nearly 200 grad­u­ates and their fam­i­lies and friends during the Friday after­noon cer­e­mony at Matthews Arena, was awarded an hon­orary Doctor of Laws degree.

A leading expert on public and pri­vate inter­na­tional law, national secu­rity and human rights, Koh joined Yale Law School’s fac­ulty in 1985 and later served as dean from 2004 to 2009. He has served two other U.S. pres­i­dents — from 1983 to 1985 in the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice under Pres­i­dent Ronald Reagan, and from 1998 to 2001 as assis­tant sec­re­tary of state for democ­racy, human rights and labor under Pres­i­dent Bill Clinton.

Speaking after the degrees were con­ferred, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun urged the class of 2010 to con­tinue asking ques­tions as they follow their indi­vidual paths — not only about the law, but also about their own lives and beliefs, because that is the “sign of intel­lec­tual courage.”

If your ideas are built on rigid ide­ology instead of thoughtful nuance, you will miss out on the inter­esting con­tours of life. Instead of nav­i­gating the world with a nimble mind, you run the risk of becoming intel­lec­tu­ally brittle—of being one-​​dimensional. This can only limit you and your aspi­ra­tions,” Pres­i­dent Aoun said.

So be coura­geous and humble. Chal­lenge the way things are. Be guided by jus­tice, moti­vated by a sense of pur­pose. And be relent­less,” he con­tinued. “This is how you will reach deeper levels of under­standing about your pro­fes­sion and the higher pur­pose it serves. It is how truth and jus­tice will best be served. But more impor­tantly, it will allow you to live a life of per­sonal ful­fill­ment as well as pro­fes­sional accomplishment.”

Thosethemes of seeking the greater good in their careers and knowl­edge in their lives res­onated throughout the cer­e­mony. School of Law Dean Emily Spieler lauded the grad­u­ates for their hard work — in par­tic­ular their efforts to pre­serve human rights — through expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­ni­ties that took them to 28 states and 13 coun­tries. “You are poised to be great lawyers and great leaders,” she said.

In the fac­ulty address, Pro­fessor of Law James Hackney Jr. said Northeastern’s proud tra­di­tion of training law stu­dents to act in the public interest, as well as to pro­mote entre­pre­neur­ship, will allow the class of 2010 “to thrive in a time of uncertainty.”

With beaming family mem­bers looking on, the stu­dent speakers fondly recalled their time at North­eastern. Phil Han­cock pointed to the “unpar­al­leled” pas­sion his grad­u­ating class exhib­ited in its work, while Noah Kaufman recalled being struck by how strongly Northeastern’s stu­dents and fac­ulty value “col­lab­o­ra­tion, com­mu­nity and collegiality.”