Campus News

Bowdoin Graduates Encouraged to Retain Creativity and Commitment, Defeat Injustice Through Perspective and Shared Leadership

Story posted May 29, 2004

Commencement 2004
Saturday, May 29, 2004

Click below for Commencement remarks by:
Alison A. Rau '04
N. Joel Moser '04
President Barry Mills '72
U.S. Representative Tom Allen '67

During Saturday's commencement ceremony, the Bowdoin College Class of 2004 was encouraged by a pair of classmates to retain their creativity and commitment, and to work toward defeating injustice through perspective and shared leadership.

As has been tradition since 1806, Bowdoin's commencement addresses were delivered by graduating seniors. This year's speakers were Alison A. Rau of Burlington, Conn., and Norman Joel Moser of Northport, Maine.

Rau gave a speech titled "Food for Thought," in which she pointed out three major common bonds between Bowdoin students and the college's acclaimed dining service: creativity, commitment, and quality of life.

"There's something special about food and the experience of food at Bowdoin," she said. "The part that Bowdoin food plays in our everyday lives is evocative of how Bowdoin students approach life in general."

Just as Bowdoin dining displays an impressive capacity for innovation and creativity in culinary offerings and presentation, "I have never yet encountered a Bowdoin student who wasn't passionate about some aspect of their College life, be it studying amoebas or singing a cappella," Rau said. "One's personal creativity is rewarded here; just as the tomato-basil-mozzarella panini gathers rave reviews, your original research, writing, art, or athletic performance is recognized and relished."

Dining service demonstrates a commitment to principles ranging from sustainability, good taste, and traditions, she said. Similarly, students demonstrate a commitment to "the common good, their principles, and to the things that matter.... Bowdoin students take their activities as seriously as they do their preference for macaroni and cheese and Maine-grown carrots, which is to say very seriously indeed."

Bowdoin food is inseparable from students' quality of life, she said. "I'll bet that Bowdoin students spend at least half an hour more time at meals than any other student population in the entire country.... Meals at Bowdoin provide good food, stimulate the production of good ideas, and allow people to share the experience."

The parallel between Bowdoin's food service and its students will continue past graduation, Rau said. "I would urge Bowdoin students to continue to imbibe, offer libations to, and consume that wildness of mind, emotion, body and spirit that empowers us all, in whatever fashion we choose and for which we are best suited."

Moser gave a speech titled "In This Time and In This Place" in which he addressed how working for the Common Good - one of Bowdoin's guiding principles - demands perspective and shared leadership in harmony with the needs of our particular land and era.

"It is in order that we might grasp at this Common Good that we engage in the challenges of education," Moser said. "Education for me is a gift of perspective, an understanding of the many elements that contribute to social progression and individual liberation from ignorance.... The promotion of the Common Good is very much a collective enterprise, guided through shared leadership and multiple perspectives."

True leadership "values an integration of multiple perspectives in each time and in each place," he said, and demonstrates "the ability to motivate and empower others in an effort to attain common goals."

Moser recounted seeing sunlight shining on a small garden, visible through a hole in the Berlin Wall - an "opening" which gave him perspective. Education, he said, brings the necessary perspective "to find our own hole through what others view as a structure too daunting and too monumental to approach..., the ability not only to see the injustice for what it has become, but also for what lies behind and ahead of it. There is power in perspective."

Moser concluded, "The Common Good can never be a fixed act or idea, and it never must be an ideological concept. It is our responsibility to allow our definition of the Common Good to adapt and to change, to allow its powerful symbolic force to guide our strive for integrity."

Bowdoin President Barry Mills presided over the ceremony. In his welcoming remarks Mills told the graduates, "I can assure you that the lessons learned here on this campus over these past four years have prepared you well to be leaders in communities across America and across the world.... Your legacy as a Bowdoin graduate is demanding, your responsibility to lead with principle is vital. I have confidence in you and your commitment to these bedrock principles of our College."

Congressman Tom Allen, Bowdoin Class of 1967, offered the graduates greetings from the State of Maine and said, "Wherever today's graduates go, whatever you do in life, you will always have something of Maine within you.... Maine is a special sense of community."

Senior Class President Ivan Lucuk of Naugatuck, Conn., addressed his classmates as a group for the final time. He reminded them that in the four years they have been at Bowdoin - they arrived with one presidential election and depart on the verge of another - they have "witnessed events that will fill the textbooks of the students who will follow us.... We've been a part of history, and we've created history."

He stated, "The unity of our class is distinct.... Our classmates become the bricks upon which we build the foundation of the rest of our lives.... The question is not if we will change the world, but how."

Bowdoin awarded 413 bachelor of arts degrees to students from 40 different U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and 15 foreign countries during Saturday's ceremony, the college's 199th commencement.

Bowdoin awarded five honorary degrees. Honorands were Eavan Boland, Irish poet and Stanford University professor, Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree; Richard Goldstone, former South African Constitutional Court Justice and champion of international justice and human rights, Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree; Shulamit Ran, composer, pianist, educator, and 1991 Pulitzer Prize winner for music, Honorary Doctor of Music Degree; Dorothy Schwartz, executive director of the Maine Humanities Council and education advocate, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree; and Torsten N. Wiesel, president emeritus of The Rockefeller University and Nobel Prize winner in medicine, Honorary Doctor of Science Degree.

Student speakers:
Alison Rau, of Burlington, Conn., majored in environmental studies and economics, with a minor in Asian studies. As a junior, she was the first ever Bowdoin student to win a national Morris K. Udall Foundation Scholarship, awarded to students in fields related to the environment. She has worked as a part-time satellite researcher and environmental intern for the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., researching state policies on climate change and urban sprawl. She also worked with the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, where she examined the land for Maine's future program. In 2002 she studied in Kenya, and she completed an honors project in environmental studies comparing land conservation tools in Maine and Kenya. At Bowdoin she revitalized the debate team and hosted a political debate show on the college cable network. As a senior she was awarded Bowdoin's Class of 1868 Prize, entitling her to speak at the commencement ceremony. She will pursue a career in international environmental policy and law, and in the fall begins a master's program at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

N. Joel Moser, from Northport, Maine, majored in German and government and legal studies. Last year, he was the first Bowdoin student since 1996 to receive a prestigious Truman Scholarship, a national award given for leadership and the likelihood of "making a difference." During his junior year he studied in Berlin, Germany, where he researched European perceptions to President Bush's "War on Terror." For six years he interned with former Maine State Senator Susan Longley. He has recently founded the not-for-profit Aspire Foundation with the goal of providing scholarships for first generation college students in Maine. While at Bowdoin he sang with the Bowdoin Chamber Choir and Bowdoin Chorus, was a member of the College Democrats, and wrote columns for the college newspaper. He was a Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholar and Book Award Winner, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and earned his degree magna cum laude. As a senior he was awarded Bowdoin's Goodwin Commencement Prize, entitling him to speak at the commencement ceremony. Next year he will work for the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., and develop his non-profit organization. His future plans include working for the Office of Naval Intelligence and pursuing a law degree. Since Maine is a strong part of what Joel is about, he looks forward to coming back to the state to live, work, and give something back.

« Back | Campus News | Academic Spotlight | | Subscribe to Bowdoin News by Email