2007 Commencement

Honorary Degree Citation
Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift
May 27, 2007

Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift, Mount Holyoke College is proud to honor you for your exceptional career as decorated naval officer, attorney, and defender of the rule of law.

You began your military career at the United States Naval Academy and served for seven years as a surface warfare officer. After earning your law degree from Seattle University School of Law, you joined the Judge Advocate General's Corps. You advanced quickly through the ranks, providing legal counsel on an array of contentious issues, from courts-martial to environmental cases. With a profound respect for the military justice system, you earned a reputation as a tenacious and skillful litigator, no matter what the assignment.

In 2003 you were tasked to represent Guantánamo Bay inmate Salim Ahmed Hamdan. Despite intense pressure from the government, the media, and the public to secure a guilty plea, you provided the defense to which your client was entitled under the rule of law, even though the execution of your duty put you at odds with the president and secretary of defense. In arguing the case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, you led a legal fight to ensure that the United States government lived up to its own judicial and moral standards in its prosecution of terror suspects. You argued that the special military tribunals convened to try the Guantánamo detainees were an unnecessary and indeed illegal deviation from the established justice system, and that their unstated purpose was to allow the submission of legally and morally problematic confessions obtained through physical and mental coercion. The case was finally decided in your client's favor by the United States Supreme Court, although, in a final ironic twist, the very act of performing your duty may well have cost you your military career.

Lieutenant Commander Swift, in service to your country you have demonstrated great moral courage by fulfilling your oath to defend the constitution of the United States. It is an honor to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Law, honoris causa.

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