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Pragmatic Idealism: navigating passion and the law in the 21st century

TULIP Consulting's Founder and Director, Colette van der Ven, was invited to deliver a commencement address for the 2021 LLM class at the Graduate Institute. The address, which can be watched and read below, established nine principles of pragmatic idealism for the 21st century:

  • Principle 1: Never cease questioning whether what you are doing is actually benefiting the people this system is supposed to reach. Stay emotionally connected to these people.

  • Principle 2: Don't lose sight of reason: the art is to discover that fine and often elusive balance between the two - reason and emotion, the head and the heart, and sometimes, passion and the law

  • Principle 3: Most jobs have a margin of discretion that allow you to develop and undertake different types of activities. Be proactive and leverage these opportunities. And where opportunities do not exist, take the initiative to develop your won. Submit that paper; speak at that panel; connect your boss to that interesting person you want to work with.

  • Principle 4: You are never too young, too old, or too imperfect to make a difference. You do not need perfection to build your dream. What you need is a willingness to take a calculated risk, the courage to face failure, and most important, just wanting it badly enough.

  • Principle 5: George Bernard Shaw once wrote: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." Whenever you can, try to be that unreasonable man or woman.

  • Principle 6: Rather than buying into mainstream notions that equate success with fame, prestige and money, define what success means to you. Developing your own parameters of success will set you free from the judgment of others, thereby opening up innumerable new possibilities.

  • Principle 7: Never lose your critical lens. The law can provide security and predictability, resolve disputes, and deter crime. Yet the law is a social construct, and therefore imperfect. International legal frameworks and institutions are the result of politics, power relations, ideology and compromise. Many of them are monuments to the world of yesterday - a world that no longer is. Dare to challenge the dominant narratives you have been taught.

  • Principle 8: Don't lose sight of the bigger picture. Use your talent, expertise and drive to contribute to resolving the daunting environmental, economical, social and political emergencies of the 21st century. The future of our plant depends on you.

  • Principle 9: Don't forget to nourish the soul.


18.6.2021_Commencement speech (5)
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