May 24, 2003
Good morning and welcome to this joyous occasion and to our beautiful campus in the glorious (but spring challenged) state of Maine. This is a special day for our graduating seniors and for their families and friends. I congratulate you all.
It's been 17 years since a Bowdoin Commencement was forced indoors. And while each of us would rather be under sunny skies, none of us will let the rain dampen our enthusiasm and warm wishes for the Class of 2003. It may be dreary out there, but the Bowdoin sun shines on all of us here today.
Before I hand out any diplomas, I want to ask our graduating seniors to rise.
In a more recent tradition of the College, please face your parents, friends and family - those who have supported and nurtured you - and thank them with a hearty round of applause.
Now, a second round of applause for the Bowdoin faculty and staff who have been committed to your pursuit of learning.
I would like to welcome the Governor of Maine - Governor John Baldacci. Thank you for joining us today to offer greetings from the state. I want to assure you, governor, that as a new president of Bowdoin, I share your magnificent sense of timing in taking office in the midst of tough economic times. As one of my trustees recently said to me about my performance: "So Far, So Good." I hope you have been similarly encouraged!!
I want also to welcome and congratulate our honorands, each a wonderful example of what we value here at Bowdoin: a commitment to excellence, to thoughtful examination and inquiry, and to good deeds.
Grace Paley, a prolific writer, poet and teacher, an activist and an inspiration to us all.
Mark Morris, choreographer, dancer and founder of the renowned Mark Morris Dance Group. As I mentioned last night, when it was announced that Mr. Morris would be honored, a faculty member emailed me to ask if this is the Mark Morris, because she couldn't imagine Bowdoin could be so "cool."
Margaret Hamburg, physician, leader in public health, counselor and a strong and convincing voice for the world on the dangers of bioterrorism.
And Ray Troubh, Bowdoin Class of 1950, welcome home. Ray is a champion of business and industry acting as advisor, counselor and director for America's foremost business leaders and most important companies. A man of judgment and skill who is dedicated to advancing corporate responsibility.
We are proud to welcome each of you to Bowdoin.
Yesterday at Baccalaureate I spoke of two bedrock principles of our College: service to the Common Good and our commitment to the ideals of liberal education.
I congratulate the members of the Class of 2003 and offer my appreciation as a citizen of Brunswick for the differences you have made in our community. There are people all over this town and in surrounding communities who have come to know and appreciate the caring, enthusiasm, and energy of members of this class - school children, mothers and fathers, senior citizens, teachers, coaches, social service workers, municipal officials. To these grateful citizens and neighbors you embody Bowdoin's long-articulated dedication to service. For your help in our schools, our shelters, our homes for the elderly - for your participation in blood drives, in preserving and enhancing our environment, and in encouraging young athletes - even organizing a triathlon. For all of this and more you have the thanks and respect of this community and of your college.
In addition to service, Bowdoin's commitment to the ideals of liberal education remains resolute and strong. The students who sit before us have learned in this liberal tradition. They are, as James O. Freedman describes, "...independent of mind, skeptical of authority and received views, prepared to forge an identity for [themselves], and capable of becoming [individuals] not bent upon copying other persons..."
They are young men and women who, in many ways, satisfy what Woodrow Wilson held out as a goal of liberal education: "...to make a person [as] unlike one's father [or mother!] as possible."
I'm sure Wilson meant that in a good way!
We take pride in this and every class that has and will graduate from Bowdoin because we know this college is contributing to communities throughout this nation and the world liberally educated citizens prepared to engage the challenges of life and the world as leaders in nuanced, thoughtful, ethical and assertive ways.
And now, I would like to add a final word to our seniors.
Look around you. You are surrounded by your friends for life. Not just your classmates, but also the faculty and staff of this great college. Bowdoin is grounded on yet another essential belief - the solid belief in the value of enduring personal relationships. My best friends in life are people who I sat with thirty years ago right where you are sitting today. I am confident that in 30 years, when you return for reunion, you will say the same.
In about an hour - yes, it's a long list of names - you will become alumni of Bowdoin College. In doing so you will join the most loyal and enthusiastic group that any college or university would be proud to call their own. Among these alumni you will find old friends, and meet new ones. You will discover mentors and supporters ready to reach out and assist you throughout your lives. I know from experience. Take advantage of these relationships and stay connected and devoted to each other and to your college.
Congratulations to the Bowdoin College Class of 2003, and Godspeed to you all!
Now, on to the celebration!
In closing, I urge each of you to take with you something of what has been said here today and yesterday at Baccalaureate. Above all, go into the world with vigor and with purpose. Remember Bowdoin's call to service and put your talents to work for something bigger than yourselves. Pay attention to the world. It needs your energy and it needs your nimble minds. Congratulations to you all.