Vanderbilt University Law School professor Ganesh Sitaraman discussed three paths to leading a valuable life in his commencement speech at the school earlier this month.
The first path was "the integrationist model," according to a transcript of Sitaraman's speech posted on Medium. Sitaraman brought up the 2014 Hobby Lobby case, where the Supreme Court ruled that corporations do not have to provide their employers with contraception if it is against a corporation's religious beliefs. Regardless of how grads feel about the provisions of the case, Sitaraman said, they should recognize that Hobby Lobby "wanted to integrate their most cherished values with their professional lives." This, he said, is a way to do what you love and love what you do.
The second method was to find value outside of your office. This is especially important, he said, for people who are working for a necessary paycheck rather than a passion. He said to find meaning "whether it’s friends and family, faith and philosophy, or culture and trips to the countryside."
"Whatever your sources of meaning," Sitaraman said, "they will give you purpose when you're in a job that has lost its excitement -- or worse yet, never had any."
In the final way of working was to have sincere appreciation and commitment for the profession itself. Sitaraman brought up John Adams defending British Redcoats and Jewish lawyers defending Nazis in Skokie, Illinois to demonstrate that sometimes you have to work for values you don't believe in to uphold a profession you do believe in.
"As lawyers, you make a commitment to serve others, uphold the rule of law, and promote justice," Sitaraman said. "And that commitment ... that courageous commitment to serve is just as noble and just as worthy as living a fully integrated life."