STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Phoenix School of Law presented Rep. Albert A. Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 2), with an honorary law degree at the school’s 2012 commencement ceremony. Hale provided the commencement address to more than 800 attendees in the Phoenix Convention Center on Saturday afternoon.
Hale shared his own story of striving to become a lawyer. He told graduating students and their guests that he aspired to be an attorney from a very young age.
“While riding a horse with my cousin I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told him a lawyer. When he asked why, I told him so I could find out how it is possible for a group of people to come across the big water, take all the land, the water, the resources and never be held accountable,” Hale said during the commencement address.
He explained that the Navajo people and other Native People were not included in the rights and protections supposedly afforded by United States Constitution to all citizens. He continued that their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were not acknowledged when their land, resources and livelihood were taken.
Hale praised the students for their accomplishment and remarked that they and their families and relatives made many sacrifices. He encouraged each graduate to take the time to research the origin of a law, to understand its meaning and be able to provide a true interpretation.
He further remarked that, as an attorney, he searched for answers to his question. Hale found that old European practices of claiming a land, regardless of current inhabitants, was the practice used when encountering Native peoples and their lands.
“Just by claiming the land in the name of a king, queen or pope gave that group ownership and extinguished the rights of people already living there. This is the Doctrine of Discovery, which later became the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny,” he said.
Included among the new graduates was the first Navajo woman to graduate from the Phoenix School of Law, Kanani S. Anderson.
“It is good to see a young Navajo woman in the graduating class of 2012. We are very proud of you. Continue your work and serve your people. You are a role model to our youth, and you have shown them it can be done,” he said.
Hale received his honorary degree in recognition of his many years of public service. He already has a juris doctorate degree from the University of New Mexico, School of Law which he earned upon graduation in 1977.