President's Speeches and Remarks

August 19, 2002

Thank you very much for inviting me here today to speak with you.  I have been at Bowdoin for a little over a year now, and we are looking forward to the arrival of the Class of 2006 in just a couple of weeks.  

The summer has been wonderful here in Brunswick.  Karen and  I have tried to learn some more about Maine this summer and have found some time to do some sea kayaking on Casco Bay and out of Bar Harbor.  We also had a wonderful adventure climbing Mt. Katahdin in late July.  The Gods must have been with us, because the day was bright blue skies and cool temperatures.  It was great fun, but hard work.

But, now we are ready to settle in for the start of the school year, the school year for our boys too in the Brunswick schools.  We have enjoyed being part of the community and I can say that I look forward to all those Saturday mornings in the next few months shuttling between soccer fields to watch our boys play in the rec league.  This is a wonderful town and a great place to have a family. Karen and I are delighted to be here.

Let me make two brief points and then I’ll leave time for your questions.  First,  I remember back to my inaugural talk when I spoke about important issues for Bowdoin.  Among the points I made, was the importance for Bowdoin to instill and grow in our students the responsibility and the capacity to be leaders in their communities, in their chosen professions,  and in this nation.  But the point I focused on was our responsibility to encourage not just leadership, but moral and ethical leadership.  Now at the time, there were some people who questioned me about what I meant and why I raised the issue.

Well, the issue seems a whole lot more relevant, unfortunately, just nine months later as we look at the scandals coming from corporate America.  Now, given my background I am not a person who finds corporate America uninteresting.  However, who among us is not shocked by how some of our corporate leaders have behaved, all for personal gain or personal reputation.  As our country now creates more regulations and laws to govern these corporations, one wonders why these laws ought to be necessary. If I am sitting on a board of directors or acting as a CEO, does it really feel proper or correct  for me to take a $400 million loan from the corporation, or to use hundreds of millions of dollars for the my houses and hobbies or to allow the relaxation of conflict of interest rules to allow me to invest personally in the partnerships of my employer with the prospect and reality of making hundreds of millions of dollars for my personal account???.

I would suggest that at places like Bowdoin, we could be and should be as important to our future on these issues as these laws designed to regulate behavior, because one of the most important things we work to teach our students is how to think critically and make sound judgments.  Through our work in the classroom and through the interaction of our students with other students and faculty and staff in a residential setting, we work to instill in our students the critical analytic skills they will need to recognize when a sale is really revenue  and the common sense and sense of right and wrong that will make an alarm will go off when someone suggests using a public corporation for private gain in an entirely self-serving manner.  Colleges like Bowdoin⎯ with small classes and close student/faculty interaction⎯have the opportunity to instill these skills, values, and a sense of ethics in our students in ways that big universities or web-based education cannot. This is exactly the type of moral leadership I was speaking about a year ago.

Bowdoin has been committed to these values throughout its history as evidenced  by our often stated commitment to the Common Good.  Next week, our first-year students arrive and although nearly 300 of the 450 students will go off on pre-orientation trips to the Maine woods for a week to meet their new classmates, 25 of these students will spend the week getting to know their classmates by doing community service in Portland and Brunswick and the surrounding areas.  These 25 are a diverse group from  Vietnam, London, Ontario, Honolulu, LA, Harlem, Brooklyn, Boston, Washington D.C., Texas, Indiana, New Jersey and Maine.

The students will work with  the Georgetown Community Center doing coastal trail work. On August 29, Brunswick Day, the students will work with the Respite Care and Hospice Volunteers, Spindleworks, The American Red Cross, the Tedford Shelter and the Humane Society.  On Friday the 30th, the students will visit Portland and meet and interact with the groups in Portland supporting the new immigrant population there. More community work in Brunswick will continue throughout the week.

I am proud of what Bowdoin does in our community. This program will start another generation of Bowdoin students off in the right direction, to be followed by many, many members of their class participating in community services during their years at Bowdoin.

Thank you again for the invitation to speak with you today.  Questions.