Remarks by Kenneth Irvine Chenault '73, Doctor of Laws, delivered at Bowdoin's Commencement May 25, 1996
Story posted May 25, 1996
President Edwards, Governor King, and members of the Bowdoin family,
It is particularly pleasing to receive this most prestigious honor from my College. It was a very special moment for me when President Edwards told me that I had been selected to receive an honorary degree. Bowdoin has had a profound impact on my life. It contributed powerfully to my growth, intellectually, and to the development of my leadership skills. I can vividly remember the headmaster of my high school, Peter Curran, Bowdoin Class of 1946, bringing me up to Bowdoin for an interview. He strongly believed in my potential and was absolutely convinced that the Bowdoin experience needed to be an essential part of my development. Peter passed away last year, but I am pleased his wife, Louise, could be here this morning to represent them both. I am very, very grateful to Peter Curran for his confidence in me and for pushing me to go to Bowdoin.
I'd like to leave you with two key messages--at least from my standpoint:
First, I believe we all must be strongly committed to creating a more inclusive society. In this regard, I applaud the College's commitment to creating a more diverse student body. As recently stated by Neil Rudenstine, the president of Harvard, and I quote: "We need to remind ourselves that student diversity has for more than a century been valued for its capacity to contribute powerfully to the process of learning and to the creation of an effective educational environment. It has also been seen as vital to the education of citizens and development of leaders." I am most thankful that President Edwards and Bowdoin are committed to the importance of diversity as a vital part of the educational experience at Bowdoin.
Second message: In the pursuit of opportunity and success, we all need a greater adherence to principles and values in guiding our behavior and actions. I owe a great part of my success in business to a simple, personal philosophy: I believe you can be the most determined competitor, totally focused on winning, which I am, but you can do it with integrity, grace, and always treating people with respect and dignity.
On a personal note, I would be remiss if I did not thank my parents, who imbued me with a thirst for knowledge and a strong commitment to making a positive difference in our society. And, of course, my co-partner, my wife, Kathryn, who continues to expand my horizons in every way possible. Most importantly, it is her birthday today, and I thank her for sharing this day with Bowdoin.
Lastly: Congratulations to all the graduates. This is your day; you have a dynamic and fascinating future ahead of you. I wish you success and hope you will remember and act on your responsibility to contribute to the betterment of our society.
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