Thursday, March 18, 2010

Professor Fagan's graduation poem

We've been telling our friends how funny the speech delivered by Professor Anton Fagan at the UCT law graduation was. So, to avoid any more painfully bad and inaccurate re-tellings, we're cutting out the middle man (us) and just posting it directly:

"Final Year 2009

It is my great pleasure to welcome one and all
Gathered here today in this lecture hall.
Many of you have sat here many times before
In a determined effort to learn a little of the law.

In this lecture theatre and the two nearby
You have sat through many lectures, most of them dry,
Most so dull, they would have made you weep
Had you not, in self-defence, fallen asleep.

But that, I’m afraid, is the nature of the beast
Upon whose flesh you have chosen to feast.
Had you not the stomach for the law’s monotony
You should have studied something interesting, like maths or botany.

Of course, a few of your colleagues were so enthralled
By the study of the law, that they have stalled
Their emancipation from this Faculty until 2010
Just so they can see Mr Bradfield again.

And there are some who by causation were so delighted,
Who by wrongfulness had their passion so ignited,
Who thought the course-and-scope requirement so sublime,
That they’ve decided to do delict for a third time.

But to mourn dear comrades, fallen along the way
Is not the reason for our meeting here today.
We’re assembled here for a graduation
And that is cause for a major celebration.

To get a law degree from UCT
You have to be as clever as clever can be.
You have to be conscientious and hardworking too
And have an ability to see things through.

You need to have worked out the rules of the game
And have realised that your lecturers are not all the same,
That while public-law lecturers genuflect at the Constitutional shrine,
Private-law lecturers think the common law does just fine.

Your cutting-and-pasting you need to have perfected,
So that your multiple plagiarisms would remain undetected.
You need to have mastered paraphrase and word-substitution
So you could pass your many assignments without prosecution.

Admittedly, you also had to learn the odd legal rule,
But only well enough so that you could fool
Your examiners into thinking that you did comprehend
Enough of the law for them to send

You out into legal practice, where a single mistake
Could have the result that you never make
Partner in the big law firm in the big city.
Yes, practice can be hard, practice can be . . . without pity.

Of course, you also had to learn theories so abstruse
That they could not possibly have any practical use.
Will Hart’s rule of recognition or Dworkin’s constructive interpretation
Really help you to pass the attorneys’ examination?

But though jurisprudence will not bring professional success,
It is very handy if you wish to impress.
Indeed, the pick-up line: ‘Baby, let’s deconstruct’
Is guaranteed to get you instantly . . . .

But that’s enough of this salacious chatter.
The law, after all, is a serious matter.
Anyway, lawyers are not known to be flirtatious.
They’re known, rather, for being sagacious
– not to mention loquacious, vexatious, mendacious and rapacious.

So let us shift our gaze instead
To the future which – by definition – lies ahead.
Let us reflect on what may be in store
For those embarking on a career in law.

Will you emulate my old class-mate Brett
Who professional ethics was inclined to forget;
Who was moved exclusively by avarice and greed
And thus morality and the law seldom did heed?

Yes, dear old Kebble started as one of us.
But now he’s very much an ex-alumnus,
An ex-attorney and ex-businessman too,
A predictable end for one so lacking in virtue.

My class-mate Willie Hofmeyr I knew less well.
He preferred the solitude of his Pollsmoor cell.
But though Willie, like Brett, disobeyed the laws,
Willie, unlike Brett, had a noble cause.

So when in practice you receive those visitations
From the little horned fellow whispering sweet temptations,
Do not be daft, do not be silly.
Don’t be like Brett, be like Willie.

But now it is time to make a small confession,
Lest you receive the wrong impression:
The reason for subjecting you to this interminable rhyme
Isn’t really to caution you against a life of crime.

Nor is it to try to be wise or funny.
The bottom-line is: We want your money.
We want you, the minute that you start earning,
To give something back to this place of learning.

Give us your money, give us your gold,
Not to replace my car, which is 12 years old,
But because academic excellence costs a pretty penny
And because the needs of this Faculty are great and many.

So before you purchase your eco-friendly 4x4
Spare a thought for this Faculty of Law.
Think about the kids who cannot pay our fees
And for that reason alone cannot get our degrees.

Reflect upon the need for legal transformation.
Then reach into your silk pockets and make a donation.
Give us your money, give us your lucre.
Help us to build a better future.

To conclude this poem I must draw your attention
To the people who deserve the final mention.
It is not today’s graduands that I have in mind.
But rather all those who stood behind.

I mean the fathers and the mothers,
The grandparents, the spouses and the lovers.
Without their pecuniary and sentimental aid,
Far fewer today’s graduation would have made.

So it’s two cheers for the graduands and one for their teachers,
For they indeed are marvellous creatures.
But for their families and partners, for Mama and Papa,
It can be nothing less than: Hurrah, Hurrah, Hurrah!"

1 comment:

  1. every poor soul to have been bludgeoned by Fagan's self-regardSeptember 6, 2011 at 9:30 PM

    Fagan should stick to poetry and not delict.