Friday, August 31, 2007

Founder's Day Dinner

Every year, BYU law school alumni and their spouses/guests are invited to a fancy dinner at the Little America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City for a celebration called The Founders' Day Dinner. It is one of the highlights of our year. We never miss it. When Kulani was a student in law school, we could go for $10 a plate, because generous wealthy law firms helped cover the cost so students could also attend. Now we're part of a law firm, so we get in free thanks to the firm. The first three years we went, they served filet mignon. The last few years it's been not as good, but the speakers have more than made up for it.

BYU law school does a very good job of bringing you into the circle and giving you a big hug. The Founder's Day Dinner, in a way, is about remembering the old timers; the ones who started the school; the fathers. And rather than having us forget about them, they retell stories that make you somehow feel a part of something bigger. BYU in general tries to make their students feel at home by offering devotionals, etc. But BYU law school, with its smaller classes, can do a little better job at it. And last night was no different. Elder Bruce C. Hafen spoke on his memories of the founding of BYU's law school and why the church board okayed such an endeavor. Elder Hafen was only 31 when he and Rex Lee (then 37) tried influencing prominant LDS attorneys and law faculty to take a chance on teaching at BYU's newly formed and not-yet accredited law school. His stories were endearing and personal. I'll share one with you here. He and Rex Lee were on the high council together in a BYU student ward, and during one of the meetings, President Lee had fallen asleep. Elder Hafen leaned over to Lee and said, "They just announced you're supposed to give the closing prayer." President Lee opened one eye and softly said to Elder Hafen, "The first amendment to the Constitution says we have the freedom to choose religion. You worship your way, and I'll worship mine." After being dean of the law school, President Lee went on to be solicitor general to the United States and argued cases before the Supreme Court. After that, he returned to BYU as president of the university.

I didn't get into BYU the way most students do. My acceptance letter was kind of a backwards acceptance letter. It said, "Come to summer school, and we'll let you in for the fall." So I went to summer school. At the bottom of my acceptance letter was President Rex Lee's signature. I have always felt that it was him who personally allowed me come to BYU. Elder Hafen said Rex had a huge fondness for BYU. And in his last welcoming devotional in 1995 before he died, Elder Hafen said he still saw tears form in Rex's eyes when they sang the school song. That's how both Kulani and I feel about BYU.

The following are some pictures of the Founder's Day Dinner. We brought our friends Amy and Ben with us. Ben went to the Universty of Chicago Law School (the same law school Rex Lee and Dallin Oaks attended), and when Ben was there at Chicago Law, he wrote to Elder Oaks to ask if they could use his name in forming an LDS law school society. Elder Oaks gave him the okay. I think their society was called the Dallin H. Oaks Law Society. (BYU's is called the J. Reuben Clark Law Society.) Anyhow, he was able to talk with Elder Oaks last night about the letter, and Elder Oaks said he remembered getting it. I snapped the photo so Ben could send it to his fellow society members (it's dark and blurry because I still haven't figured out how to fix my camera, so sorry about that Ben). The other picture is of me and Kulani with cheesy smiles because we love this dinner so much. My sister Amy was supposed to be there last night, but I never saw her. So Amy, if you were there, sorry we missed seeing you.

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