Attorney General Offers ABCs for a Successful Life & Career

Martha Coakley


In a speech filled with literary and historical references, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley advised 446 graduating Suffolk University Law School students to be active and courageous and to always bring integrity to their endeavors.

She acknowledged that this is a “tough year to be graduating from law school,” then used the alphabet as a guide to life as a lawyer in her commencement address Sunday at the Bank of America Pavilion on Boston’s waterfront.


“A is for activism … the best way for you to stay in shape and … the best way for you to keep the issues that you care about in shape,” Coakley began.

She then encouraged the students to “Be somebody … who makes a difference.”

Using humor to bring home some serious points, she quoted Mark Twain and made an association between the letter D and dogs, which she said could teach simplicity and “doggedness with a bone.” 


For the letter I, she focused on integrity.  “The only thing worse than an incompetent lawyer without integrity, is a competent lawyer without integrity.  …  If your reputation for integrity is impaired, set that diploma on fire.”

She used John Hancock, Thomas Moore and Don Quixote as examples of courage, adherence to the law, and living life “as it should be.”

In the end, she said that, while lawyers are trained to sound good when they speak, it’s important to have something to say that matters.

The College of Arts and Sciences and Sawyer Business School ceremonies were held in the afternoon, with award-winning journalist Ted Koppel speaking.

Honorary degrees

Suffolk University awarded the following honorary degrees during its 2009 commencement exercises:

  • Coakley, honorary Doctor of Laws
  • Koppel, honorary Doctor of Journalism
  • Hon. Robert L. Carter, U.S. District Court Judge, Southern District of New York, honorary Doctor of Laws
  • Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, honorary Doctor of Laws
  • U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Newton, honorary Doctor of Laws
  • Peter Brooke, Advent International Corporation chairman and CEO, honorary Doctor of Commercial Science
  • Angela Diaz, MD, MPH, director of Mt. Sinai Adolescent Health Center and Jean C. and James W. Crystal professor of Pediatrics at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, honorary Doctor of Science
  • David Hoberman, Mandeville Films, honorary Doctor of Humanities
  • Josh McCall, chairman and CEO of Jack Morton Worldwide, honorary Doctor of Commercial Science

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Transcript of Martha Coakley's Address