Campus News

Baccalaureate address delivered by Herlande Rosemonde '97 to Bowdoin's Class of 1997 May 23, 1997

Story posted May 23, 1997

"Titles and Testimonies"

President Edwards, Commissioner Albanese, Memebers of the College and Guests,

The pomp and splendor of this event definitely overshadows the meaning of graduation, for underneath the garb, decoration and the masks of assuredness, we are being dared and challenged to determine who and what we are. Right now, we are the class of 1997, sitting tall, proud and anxiously awaiting our chance to walk across the stage and receive our diploma--our title. But who are we really after today, and what testimony do we have behind this title. Today, we are moving away from Bowdoin and things we are comfortable with; we are launching into a new environment where we must now endure complete evaluation. An environment where we must define ourselves, and etch into the pages of history the testimony behind this degree--a testimony which defines every fabric of our identity.

Four years of work, stress and what seems like and infinite abundance of tests are over. We have endured all kinds of exams and we believe we have mastered the system. But one must ask the question: have we? After today no more pencils or papers, no notes or calculators, no tests, no retakes, and there is no bell-shaped curve to test our intelligence. Today our college career ends, and the true test--the test of life begins. Now, this is not to suggest that we walk away from Bowdoin empty-handed. On the contrary, Bowdoin has given us a wealth of knowledge which takes its greatest meaning when used for the betterment of others. And so, what will we do? Will we heal the sick, save the poor, or help build a community. In short, will we contribute to the common good?

Let us, for a moment, reflect on our first days at Bowdoin. When we entered Bowdoin we witnessed the college amidst a celebration--a celebration of the college's testimony. For 200 years, Bowdoin had distinguished itself as an institution committed to, as President Edwards once wrote, Reducating men and women in the expectation that they will become leaders in all fields of human endeavor. Though President Edwards words come from the New Century Campaign, they highlight and expand greatly those familiar words we heard during the Bicentennial that reminded us of the Offer of the College. But this offer only reminds of the college's commitment to its students. However, it was President Joseph McKeen, who at his first inaugural address articulated the moral philosophy of Bowdoin College. It ought to be remember that literary institutions are founded and endowed for the common good, and not for the private advantage for those who resort to them for education. It is not as he continued to say that they may be able to pass through life in an easy manner, but that their mental power may be cultivated and improved for the benefit of society.

Contributing to the common good will provide us with a testimony. Of course, notions of the common good vary according to individuals, but whatever path we chose in life it should always be a testament of this degree we will receive tomorrow. And like our predecessors--they too were once recipients of this title. On this very stage we have seen alumni return to Brunswick, Maine to speak about their Bowdoin experience and more importantly, how this experience has enabled them to contribute to the common good. Four year ago, we witnessed the awarding of the first Common Good Awards-- Albert L. Babcock, '52, William Christie '70, Geoffrey Canada '74, Ellen Baxter '75 and Barbara E. Hende '80. As these individuals spoke they all testified as to what it meant to give yourself completely to a cause. In other words, they told us how their Bowdoin degree has cultivated and improved their mental power to give back to the community in a sustained way without regard to personal gain or wealth. And so I ask you my friends, is this not the true offer of the college: a reminder of our civic responsibility to one another?

Our four years at Bowdoin have earned us a title, but what we do afterwards will be our testimony, for without which this title--this degree is meaningless. Indeed we have put great time and energy into laying the foundation for this title, our presence here today makes our dedication apparent. However, this is only the first step, and does not begin to capture our complete testimony. So as we proceed through this day, we must not let the pomp and splendor obscure the work that lies before us. Because unlike the lessons that we have learned at Bowdoin, this work will involve no lectures, no review sessions, no books, and most importantly no blue books. It will require us to endure complete evaluation by self and society of valor, intellect, spirit, dedication, and character to determine whether we have met the charge that Bowdoin has laid before us. And so today, I ask you my fellow classmates, what will be your testimony?

Thank You.

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