On May 20th, LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill gave New York University’s 183rd Commencement speech at Yankee Stadium in front of an audience of approximately 8,000 people.  Ms. Ifill also received a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa, at the ceremony, along with Lang Lang, internationally renowened pianist, Peter D. Lax, Abel Prize-winning mathematician and Graca Simbine Machel, political leader and humanitarian, amongst others.   

“Many of you are doing just fine. But you recognize and accept willingly your obligation to concern yourself with the state of our democracy.  You cannot ignore that there are an increasing number of states where there are hundreds of thousands of voters do not have the newly required identification demanded by ever-increasingly stringent voter id laws.   You have never been to prison, nor has anyone you know. But you know that the prison population of our country has reached unsustainable and shameful proportions. You know that incarcerating 2 million people is a sign of American failure, not American success. You know that violent crimes levels are today as low as they were in the 1960s, and yet our prison population is 8 times the size it was in the 1960s. You are living in a nation of staggering income inequality and of revived and entrenched racial segregation.”

Past commencement speakers have included former President William Jefferson Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and actor Alec Baldwin.

Read a transcript of the speech below: