Campus News

"Delivering the Goods": Mike Micciche's Baccalaureate Speech Part I

Story posted June 19, 2001

Mike Micciche III, Class of 2001, died on June 12, 2001, in a car accident in Hudson, Ohio. Mike was beginning a cross-country journey with several of his Bowdoin classmates when the accident occurred.

A graduate of Reading Memorial High School in Reading, Mass., Mike’s accomplishments at Bowdoin are both impressive and inspiring. He graduated from Bowdoin this year with a major in English. He was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, graduated summa cum laude, was the recipient of the DeAlva Stanwood Alexander Prize, and planned to attend Harvard Law School in the fall.

While his academic accomplishments are remarkable, so too was his involvement throughout the Bowdoin community. Mike was a Station Manager at WBOR, senior admissions interviewer, and Writing Project Coordinator. It was precisely this very energy and spirit that touched so many lives around campus.

Mike delivered this year’s Baccalaureate Address on May 25, 2001. The text of his inspiring speech is below.

Delivering the Goods; or, So What’s a Bowdoin English Major Really Good For Anyway?
by Michael F. Micciche III

Part I (Click here for Part II)

President Edwards, Members of the College, and Guests, thank you all for being here on this special day. It is truly sad to think that by the time we adjourn [tomorrow], our four years of learning together, living together, and enjoying the fleeting last days of our communal youth together will have drawn, all too quickly, to their end. Hopefully, we will all be able to take solace in fond memories and enduring friendships. I know I will. Nevertheless, as comforting and profound as these can be, memories and friendships are not exactly (or certainly not entirely) what we and our parents have spent countless hours of hard work and almost unspeakable sums of money hoping to cultivate.

We are here today to honor the fulfillment of a commitment that this class made four years ago—a commitment to work hard in developing our minds and bodies; a commitment to consistently challenge ourselves and to raise ourselves up in order to meet those challenges in all areas of our education; and most importantly of all, a commitment to prepare ourselves for responsible and conscientious world citizenship. Hopefully, we have all made good on President Hyde’s “Offer of the College,” and as we graduate, truly will be able to feel “at home in all ages and all places.” But when it comes right down to it, what does all that rhetoric really mean? As my consulting-bound roommate Drew might simply ask with his trademark deadpan pragmatism and razor-sharp corporate acumen: where's the deliverable? What else is it that we all carry away from this podium today besides our diplomas, our tassels, and roll after roll of photographs? I’m sure that many of you would answer this question vaguely, with terms such as “education” and “opportunity,” but what I’m interested in is pursuing whether or not there isn’t something more tangible, more concrete, that we all hold in common as we go off to face the world, armed with a Bowdoin degree.

Whenever I go home, or really, whenever I go anywhere further than a short walk away from this campus, I find myself bombarded time and time again with the same series of questions, mostly as ice-breakers and almost always innocuous, yet I’m still made to feel uneasy as I’m unable to respond succinctly when making someone’s acquaintance. Since I already know most of you, however, you’ll have to indulge me as I explore these answers in a little more depth and a little more detail.

It always starts the same, whether the inquisitor is young or old, whether I’m at work or at play, and almost always develops in the same logical procession. The first question, of course, (once my detachment from the “real world” has been established) is, “So, where do you go to school?” My answer, “Bowdoin College,” at least when uttered outside of this great state, unfortunately but usually only inspires blank stares or moments of awkward silence, which I usually fill by attaching the disclaimer, “Ah, it’s a small school in Maine.” Sometimes then there’ll be a sort of vague recognition, as if they drove past Exit 22 once in a past life, and usually this’ll be punctuated, depending on the season, with either a comment about how beautiful Maine is (you’d be surprised how many people’s cousins have vacation homes in Boothbay or Bar Harbor) or about how cold and snowy it must be (I used to take offense to this one—explaining how we’re right on the coast, how places like Waterville, now that’s where the winter gets bad. After this past season, though, I’ll reluctantly admit that they told me so.)

In any case, once it’s established that I go to a tiny school they’ve never or only vaguely heard of, the next question is usually not far off: “So, what are you studying up at Bowdoin?” This is where things tend to get a little messy. Somehow I imagine that this happens a lot less if your answer is “biochemistry” or “economics,” and I’m pretty sure that it’d happen a lot less if like many of my friends from home, your answer could be “engineering” or “accounting,” but my response, “English,” usually manages to elicit restrainedly contorted facial expressions that practically scream out: “How could your family be paying $140,000 for that? Clearly, you have been misguided.” Usually, though, people manage to be a little more decorous with their words than with their subtle, perhaps involuntary biophysical reactions, not-so delicately concealing their disbelief or even disdain by asking, almost immediately and almost piteously, “So, what’re you going to do with that?” The implication, of course, is that whatever it is, I probably won’t be breaking into that top tax bracket any time soon. And while it’s nice to finally have a specific answer to the question personally, even that answer seems somehow inadequate. Whenever anyone asks me this question in this tone, “What are you going to do with your education?”, as if I have to justify not only what I’ve been doing here, but what the school itself has been doing so successfully for the last couple hundred years or so, it makes me angry, as it should you, and your “plans” whatever they may be, are not necessarily the answer. This speech, on the other hand, is my modest attempt at providing that answer, from my perspective, once and for all.

My brother attends a vocational high school in Massachusetts. Many of my friends from home, as I’ve mentioned, attend what essentially amount to vocational schools in college, and a large percentage of you, my classmates and my friends, are either proceeding onward like myself to a vocational graduate school (though by this point it gets dolled up a little by being called a “professional” school) or directly into a vocation (excuse me, profession) that you hope will prove stimulating and fruitful. Relatively few of us, however, as far as our future vocations go, will be directly applying much of the specific information for which we are so often held accountable at this place. Other than maybe pompously strutting my stuff at a particularly highfalutin cocktail party, I may never again have the opportunity to discuss the metaphorical underpinnings of Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room as a novel about World War I or be compelled to regurgitate the hybridization of the carbon atom in a molecule of methanol, yet having gone through the process of preparing myself to do either will prove to be invaluable for as long as I continue living and continue thinking.

Click here to read Part II.

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