Keynote Address at 2012 Graduation Reminds Graduates: See the World Whole and Brightly, No Matter the Circumstance
By Megan Russell
Eric S. Laschever, MMA ('80), JD, gave the Keynote Address at SMEA’s Graduation Ceremony on June 7, 2012. Mr. Laschever is a Partner at the Seattle law firm of K&L Gates, and has had a successful career in Alaska, Washington DC, and Seattle working in state government on fisheries issues and as an attorney. He focuses his law practice on land use, environmental, and hazardous waste law and has taught environmental law classes on topics such as climate change law, oil spills, and coastal zone management at the University of Washington Law School and at Seattle University Law School. Together with his wife, Eulalie Sullivan (also a 1980 MMA), Mr. Laschever has also been very involved in the leadership of Salish Sea Expeditions, a nonprofit organization that teaches marine science to middle and high school students using a 61 foot sail boat.
As someone with this extensive and accomplished professional experience as a Master of Marine Affairs, Mr. Laschever offered the graduates an important perspective on the career journeys that lay ahead of them. When he graduated from the School in 1980, it had a different name: The Institute of Marine Studies, or IMS. His class was the first class to graduate with the new MMA degree from this new Institute, and therefore, having survived unchartered academic territory, left the UW into further unchartered territory as Marine Affairs professionals. Since then, both the school and the field have evolved to address the scope and complexity of marine and environmental challenges. Mr. Laschever noted that, “At its best, this institution at the beginning and a generation later, has sought to help us—its students - to see the world whole.” After showing an image of the Earth from outer space, Mr. Laschever noted, “From this vantage point the planet as a watery world is apparent. The view conveys the need for many different perspectives to literally see the world whole.”
Despite his many laudable professional accomplishments, in which he stayed faithful to SMEA’s training for interdisciplinary thinking and problem solving, Mr. Laschever shared that he still feels “fundamentally unsatisfied.” As he prepared for this talk, he dug up his master’s thesis and saw, there on the title page, that 32 years ago he was already impatient with the pace of necessary change, since he had given as subtitle to his thesis the French expression for “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Yet, when he checked in with classmates, they were able to note that despite the continued existence of certain problems and new problems (e.g., climate change), there has been important progress on many key marine affairs issues, including the Law of the Sea Treaty, the health of fisheries worldwide and domestically, coastal zone protection, and sustainability in business and government practices. The source of his malaise, therefore, must be “that I have not accomplished nearly what I had hoped for and my generation has not completed the task that we undertook. For some of the reasons I noted above, the challenges we pass on to you are harder.”
Mr. Laschever then showed a precise drawing of the earth from the perspective of the moon, as drawn by a young man in 1942, far before any human had actually been in space to have that perspective. Mr. Laschever said, “The artist’s clarity is more impressive when understood in the context of his time and place. Peter Ginz [the artist] reached adolescence in the Theresienstadt ghetto where he drew this sketch a few years before losing his life in Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi concentration camp.” The point of this image, Mr. Laschever said, was not to darken a happy day, but instead, to demonstrate that despite the direst of circumstances, the most daunting of challenges, or the feeling of insurmountable obstacles in the path toward environmental sustainability, we can still see the world not only as the whole, but also as brightly as Peter Ginz did.
In closing, Mr. Laschever shared a story by way of a fellow 1980 classmate of his, Stacey Hall. She recounted a conversation with former IMS Professor Warren Wooster in early 2008 when he was in hospice and days from passing away. “He recounted how his illness had interrupted his work with his old colleague Bill Burke, the lawyer who founded and directed the law school’s marine program. Prompted by the thought of unfinished business, Stacey remarked how much still needed to be done. Professor Wooster—always the professor—said simply, ‘that, my dear, is why we have you.’”
As he looked out on the Class of 2012, Mr. Laschever said, “So as you go forward with your Masters of Marine Affairs to face the many challenges and the work that remains undone, take heart from Professor Wooster’s words. Although the tasks are hard and many and the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs’ work is incomplete, this my fellow alumni, is why we have you.”
Thank you, Eric, for your thoughtful and inspirational address to this Class and the SMEA community. We are grateful for the work you and the rest of the Class of 1980 have accomplished in this field over the course of your careers. Despite the challenges, you have paved the way for the next generation, who will take up this torch and carry it forth… brightly.