Theodore B. Olson

Prominent attorney Theodore B. Olson '62 will address graduates at the 155th Commencement at University of the Pacific.

  • Print

Proposition 8 Attorney to Speak at Pacific’s Commencement

Attorney Theodore B. Olson ‘62 is a Pacific Graduate
Apr 9, 2012

Prominent attorney Theodore B. Olson '62 will address graduates at the 155th Commencement at University of the Pacific. Olson is one of two lead attorneys who successfully convinced a federal judge to overturn Proposition 8, a voter-approved law that banned same-sex marriage in California.

He previously made national news when he represented George W. Bush before the U.S. Supreme Court during the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election.

"I cannot think of another person so accomplished, so full of personal conviction, and who better embodies Pacific's values," said President Pamela A. Eibeck. "It is a tremendous honor and treat for our graduates and their families to be able to hear from Ted Olson they begin the next chapter of their lives."

Ted Olson
Watch Ted Olson's
Commencement Address

The 2012 Commencement exercises begin at 9 a.m. May 5. In addition to delivering the keynote address there, Olson is being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest honor society, as an honorary member. He also will be attending his 50th class reunion at Pacific, held that same weekend.

Olson is a 1962 graduate of the College of the Pacific on the Stockton campus. He received his bachelor's degree cum laude with awards as the outstanding graduating student in both journalism and forensics. He later received a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley.

He served as assistant attorney general of the United States in the Office of Legal Counsel in the Reagan White House and defended President Reagan during the Iran-Contra hearings. He returned to private practice in 1984 and subsequently argued numerous cases before the United States Supreme Court.

In 2000, he represented Bush in the U.S. Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore, which asked for a delay in certification of the national election until a recount could be conducted in Florida. Olson successfully convinced the Court that the recounts in Florida violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because there was no statewide standard that each county board could use to determine whether a given ballot was a legal vote. He also argued that the Florida Supreme Court decision to allow the recounts to continue violated Art. II, § 1, cl. 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which requires each state to appoint electors "in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct." The Supreme Court agreed in a 5-4 decision, making Bush the next president.

In 2001, Olson was appointed Solicitor General of the United States, a position he held until 2004 when he returned to private practice. During his time in the Bush administration, Olson was rumored to have been one of the finalists to be appointed to the Supreme Court when Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement.

In 2009 Olson teamed up with attorney David Boies, the person who represented Al Gore in the Bush v. Gore case, to challenge the recently passed Proposition 8. After successfully convincing a federal judge to overturn the law, Olson was named by Time magazine as one of "The 100 Most Influential People in the World" in 2010. In 2011, both Olson and Boies were awarded the ABA Medal -- the highest award of the American Bar Association.

Olson wrote a cover-featured essay for Newsweek magazine ( arguing that "true conservatives' would support same-sex marriage because it supports commitment to families, is an equal rights issue established in the U.S. Constitution, and that the government has no right to force moral values upon consenting adults."

Olson previously was the Commencement speaker for Pacific in 2004, when he also was awarded an honorary degree.

Pacific's commencement is believed to be the longest-running annual event in California because the University was the first institution of higher learning founded in the state. The event is not open to the public. Instead, graduates are given tickets to pass out to family and friends. The event will be held in the Alex G. Spanos Center on Pacific's Stockton campus.

For more information on Pacific's Commencement, visit