Rashida Manjoo, Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on Vio­lence Against Women for the United Nations Human Rights Council, urged North­eastern Uni­ver­sity School of Law grad­u­ates at com­mence­ment this after­noon to rec­og­nize the enor­mous impact that public ser­vice and social jus­tice work can have in the world.

As young grad­u­ates, you have a role in shaping the lives of your fam­i­lies and your com­mu­ni­ties in social jus­tice work,” Manjoo, an inter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized expert on women’s and human rights, told some 200 grad­u­ates at Matthews Arena.

The South Africa native, who was con­ferred with an hon­orary Doctor of Laws degree at the cer­e­mony, also encour­aged grad­u­ates to embrace the chal­lenges ahead and value their own voices along the way.

Manjoo is an asso­ciate pro­fessor of public law at the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town, and a member of the advi­sory board to the Inter­na­tional Crim­inal Court’s Women’s Ini­tia­tives for Gender Jus­tice. At North­eastern, Manjoo is a prin­cipal advisor to the Pro­gram on Human Rights and the Global Economy’s Due Dili­gence Project, a two-​​year research and advo­cacy project on state oblig­a­tion with respect to vio­lence against women.

Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun com­mended grad­u­ates for using their class­room and co-​​op expe­ri­ences to chart their own dis­tinc­tive paths toward lives filled with accom­plish­ment. Aoun told grad­u­ates they will be called upon to use these skills to master the chal­lenges of a global age — a world in which the spread of global com­merce, tech­no­log­ical advances and strug­gles for freedom are raising new legal ques­tions about inter­na­tional trade, intel­lec­tual prop­erty, pri­vacy and human rights.

Let your intel­lect and cre­ativity enable you to chart bold new paths as legal prac­ti­tioners, scholars and engaged cit­i­zens. Let your tenacity and resilience enable you to answer the com­plex legal chal­lenges of our age, no matter how daunting they may seem. Let your pas­sion and com­pas­sion enable you to improve the lives of your fellow men and women. Finally, let your work and your schol­ar­ship embody our mis­sion to meet our society’s needs throughout the world,” Aoun said.

Before a beaming crowd of family and friends, com­mence­ment speakers echoed a sim­ilar mes­sage to grad­u­ates — that they be proud of their achieve­ments, but remember the impor­tant respon­si­bil­i­ties they now carry.

Emily Spieler, dean of the School of Law, said the Class of 2011 leaves a strong legacy and a tra­di­tion of excel­lence for future grad­u­ates to follow — adding that their North­eastern edu­ca­tion has helped them under­stand not only how to prac­tice law, but also how to think about law.

You are poised to be both great lawyers and great leaders,” she said.

In her fac­ulty address to grad­u­ates, law pro­fessor Rashmi Dyal Chand told stu­dents their degrees confer upon them not only a new status in society, but also a duty that will last a lifetime.

Each of you now has both ability and respon­si­bility to engage when you encounter injus­tice, not to stand pas­sively by,” she said.