ASIL annual dinner: a celebration of distinction and promise.

Author:Caron, David D.
Position:Proceedings of the One Hundred Fifth Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law

The Annual Dinner was held at 8:00 p.m., Friday, March 25.


Good evening, distinguished guests and honorees. Ladies and gentlemen, my name is David Caron. It is my distinct privilege to serve as President of the Society. Elizabeth Andersen and I are delighted to welcome all of you to our Annual Dinner, in which we celebrate both distinction and promise.

These Annual Dinners have a long lineage. This night for 105 years has featured great orators. Precision and elegance in language are not easy to combine. I would like to read to you a brief passage from the Annual Dinner held in 1931. Now, you might at this point feel pity for my wife, given that I read such dusty tomes, but there is a reason. Only a month ago was the 80th anniversary of the creation of the Office of the Legal Adviser at the State Department, and, indeed, tonight we have the Legal Adviser from the State Department with us, Harold Koh, and his wife Christy Fisher. Harold, thank you.


Harold is a mover of things both large and small, and he thought that a birthday party academic conference was in order to celebrate that 80th birthday for "L." Working with Georgetown and this Society, a conference was held earlier this month, and it was in that context that I went back to see what the Society 80 years ago on our 25th "annibirthday" thought of the creation of "L." Unfortunately, they did not mention that signal event--


However, I did serendipitously read this exemplar of precision and elegance in language at a time when people had time to be both elegant and precise.

So let me set the scene, which is the Annual Dinner of 1931. The President of the Society has been speaking, and he turns to introduce comments from someone on the floor. I won't give names to embarrass them even at this late date, and you have to realize that this is recorded in print because of its precision and elegance.

"Mr. President, you take me very much by surprise, exactly as old age has taken me by surprise. I remember with great pleasure, Mr. President, that a quarter-century ago when we were both much more fur-beating animals, we became fellows in what I ventured to believe was a great and noble cause." And then comes a very precise, elegant sentence: "We shared, with many others, in founding this Society which, under the indefatigable leadership of our honored President, whose labors have been those of a hundred men and whose accomplishments have been those of a thousand"--and that last phrase is italicized--"has gone on with publication to render, I believe, the very highest service not only to our own country but to the world. There may be those who differ, but I am not one." What I am particularly drawn to is that at this point, recorded again, another person stands up in the audience, and here I would just note the first word may be of interest to Lucy Reed, our last President who was awarded during this meeting the Prominent Woman in International Law Award.

His remark opens, "Gentlemen."


"Gentlemen, I am drawn from my seat by an irresistible impulse. I stand before you without knowing what I am going to say but with a strong feeling that it would not be inappropriate for me to say something."


Well, that's hard to follow up on. Those obviously were special days, and unfortunately they are most likely not gone. I hope you all agree with my perception that this meeting has gone very well. I suppose I could say that Betsy Andersen and I huddled together some three weeks ago and started planning this whole event, and the ridiculousness of that statement emphasizes obviously that a meeting like this does not just happen, and that Betsy and I have many to thank.

First, although some in this room may think that our fee for dinner is high, this meeting would not be possible without the support of our partners. And I will learn how to do this. Aha! In 1931, they would not have had this problem. I rise from my seat--


Thank you. This meeting wouldn't be possible without our academic partners, our law school partners, who grow every year and are much appreciated, as well as our publisher partners, and, in particular, our law firm partners. All three of these are key to the success of the meeting. Many of them are here tonight, and I ask that you join with me in thanking them.


And although Betsy and I no doubt could have done all of this by ourselves, we wish to emphasize our heartfelt thanks to our three co-chairs, Catherine Amirfar of Debevoise & Plimpton; Professor Tai-Heng Cheng of New York Law School; and Professor Chimene Keitner of Hastings College of the Law, as well as the 20 distinguished members of the Program Committee that they assembled. I'm sure that they would say that without the Program Committee, all of this would have been impossible, too.

May I please have the co-chairs stand as well as the Program Committee? Please join with me in thanking them.


There are many measures of whether a meeting is a success, and by everything I can think of, this meeting has been a fantastic success. There have been more attendees than ever, the first taping of a session by C-SPAN, and, most importantly, a buzz and intensity in the halls that is simply fantastic.

In my opening remarks on Wednesday, I mentioned that, as a community, a constant theme is that we recognize distinction in our community, and by honoring it, we engage in a process of identifying for ourselves what we value. As a learned society, each year a committee is formed to identify the finest examples of scholarship published over the previous year. That committee this year was chaired by Frederick Abbott of Florida State University, with Kenneth Abbott of Arizona State University, and Oona Hathaway of Yale Law School as members. It is my pleasure at this time to award those distinctions. There are three categories presented to the committee, and it's my pleasure to read those three and the citations that were given. I will go through the three awards and then ask our awardees to stand.

The first is the Certificate of Merit for Preeminent Contribution to Creative Scholarship.

For this year, that award goes to Jutta Brunnee and Stephen Toope for their book, Legitimacy and Legality in International Law. The Committee writes that Brunnee and Toope develop a deep and powerful theory of the nature of legal obligation, one that is both particularly applicable and particularly appealing in the international context. The authors draw on the legal theory of Lon Fuller. They also draw on a constructivist international relations theory.

Toope's approach situates formal criteria, such as consent, within broader social processes, spans the properties of rules and of legal processes, distinguishes laws from social norms, envisions law as more than a reflection of state interests and power, and accounts for legal obligation in a world of wide social and cultural diversity. It is a significant and highly creative contribution to our understanding of international law. May I have Jutta Brunnee come forward?


Let me add that the Committee did award an Honorable Mention for a Preeminent Contribution to Creative Scholarship, to Kal Raustiala for his book, Does the Constitution Follow the Flag?, published by Oxford University Press.


The second award is the Certificate of Merit for High Technical Craftsmanship and Utility to Practicing Lawyers and Scholars, and it is awarded this year to Gary B. Born for his book International Commercial Arbitration, published by Kluwer Law International. The Committee writes, "This two-volume work exemplifies the subject of and criteria for this award: high technical craftsmanship and practical utility to practicing lawyers and scholars.

The author has produced a masterwork on international commercial arbitration, drawing together international agreements, legislation, public and private arbitration rules, and many other elements that constitute the law in practice."

Could I ask Gary Born to come forward?


The third award in scholarship that is given is a Certificate of Merit in a Specialized Area of International Law. The Committee this year awards that certificate to Gary D. Solis for his book, The Law of Armed Conflict, from Cambridge University Press.


The Committee's citation in part reads, "The Law of Armed Conflict: International Humanitarian Law in War offers a remarkably detailed, informed, and cogent examination of international humanitarian law. The book is an excellent and important contribution to scholarship. It is comprehensive and detailed. It is accessible and will appeal. It is important."

Gary Solis. Thank you.


Let me draw your attention to the fact that the Committee gave an Honorable Mention in the category of a Specialized Area of International Law, that being given to Anne T.

Gallagher for her book, The International Law of Human Trafficking, published by Cambridge University Press. Please join me in congratulating Anne.


Now, please enjoy your dinner. We will return more with our celebration of distinction and promise in a short while.

[Applause] [Dinner]


My teacher was Stefan Riesenfeld. He passed away in 1999, and I find I constantly remember him, celebrate him, and appreciate having our times, our brief times, overlap. He made students work hard, using phrases like, "I can teach it to you, but I cannot understand it for you."


It is in this spirit of remembering and celebrating and appreciating that we have three very special sets of remarks that I want to draw your attention to. The first will be given by our beloved, our outstanding, our amazing Executive Director, Elizabeth Andersen...

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