Commencement Speech: Ryan Quinn '03
Story posted May 24, 2003
Senior Class President Address
by Ryan Quinn
I would like to begin by asking the class of 2003 to stand up and face their families and friends that have joined us here today. Please help me in welcoming them by giving them a round of applause, because if it were not for their support and encouragement, we would not be standing here today!
Allow me to take you back to the first day we arrived on campus. It was pretty crazy, a bunch of clueless freshmen running around, trying to get themselves oriented, wondering where they would fit in, asking random upper classmen where Hubbard Hall is, only to be answered with a knowing laugh and a finger pointing to that enormous building, while they repeat in their head a little Mark Twain: "Kid, it's better to appear ignorant than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."
Everyone was rapt with various conflicting emotions: Anxiety, fear, anticipation, happiness. We were prepared, fired up, and ready for success. And oh, yes, we finally had that sweet, sweet feeling of independence. It was obvious that we were preparing to begin a new phase in our lives, just like we are doing here today. After the initial panic subsided, we acknowledged these sentiments and dealt with them accordingly. After all, we considered ourselves bright high-school phenoms (perhaps I'm exaggerating) with our own individual goals and aspirations. I thought that I was going to be valedictorian and then shoot right off to Med School. Well, the valedictorian part didn't work out so well and the Med School idea quickly turned into "I hate chemistry." Freshmen year taught me that my goals were going to be constantly evolving, and sometimes, as in my case, changing completely. I knew that I was prepared for this journey, and I promised myself to work hard, but to also have fun along the way. And, as the last four years unfolded, I realized how lucky I was to be living that journey here, at Bowdoin.
I know of no other place that is so rich in personality and talent as is evident in the student produced play Into the Woods, our favorite band the HasBeens, and the countless Senior Art Shows. I know of no other place where every student is extremely intelligent but still knows how to have a great time. Need I remind you of rocking out to J-5, Stowe 202, 100days party with WPP, and any Ivy's or Halloween we survived. I know of no other place where everyone is beautiful (superbly demonstrated in the ASA fashion show) and generous with their time and efforts. Although the academics are rigorous here, professors go out of their way to help the students, even when that student is halfway around the world immersed in a study abroad program. We have learned a lot from our classes and peers (I can now tell you the location of Hubbard Hall and any other building for that matter), and we will only continue to learn more from the outside world, so keep your eyes open.
There is no other place that is so welcoming, challenging, and maintains a sense of enthusiasm that pervades and characterizes the spirit of this campus. In all these aspects, Bowdoin is a very rare place, as it has nourished us and encouraged us to follow through with our ambitions, and no matter how our goals may have changed along the way, the people who comprise our college have been there to see us through.
And so, despite the struggles and changes that life has thrown at us these last four years, we have endured and adapted. The Bowdoin community did not falter during the tragic events of 9/11 and the current war with Iraq. Instead we became stronger and utilized the close relationships we developed with our peers to support each other. This is why we are here now, feeling those same emotions we had from day one as we start the next stages in our lives. We have enjoyed the journey, but we are ready to leave; we are prepared to leave. We will walk away from this campus later today or tomorrow, but we will take with us our academic experiences and the comforting memories that we have formed here at Bowdoin. There is no doubt in my mind that we have succeeded by being here today and we will only continue to succeed with every personal endeavor and every challenge we seek to pursue or that happens to come our way. Our graduation inherently links us to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Longfellow, Joshua Chamberlain, Joan Benoit Samuelson and other accomplished alumni. As we begin our commencement into the rest of our lives, we now become part of this esteemed lineage. It is now our turn to make our marks on the world.
I wish to thank every one of you for helping me along the way. The friends that I have made here are lifelong and have forever become part of my family. As we part ways, I am not going to say that I have no fears and no regrets, because it is only natural that we do as we continue to question our actions and wonder about the future. But I am certain that wherever I go, all I have to do is look back on my time here at Bowdoin, and I'll have the faith and confidence I need, which is a very reassuring feeling. If I find myself struggling, I'll look back at Bowdoin and smile. I encourage you to do the same.
In closing, I would like to quote from the Offer of the College:
"To lose yourself in generous enthusiasms
and cooperate with others for common ends -
this is the offer of the college"
-William DeWitt Hyde
With this offer in mind, Bowdoin College Class of 2003 refurbished a school in Masaya, Nicaragua, to help spread the gift of education. A plaque will be erected in front of Hawthorne and Longfellow Library commemorating our sister school. This gift, along with all the other Senior Sponsored events, would not have been possible without the dedicated help of the other class officers, Bill Day, Tim Riemer, Ti Gierke, Adriana Schick and Andy Miness. I thank you all for giving me the opportunity to serve as your president and I wish you all the best of luck in your future endeavors.
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