May 29, 2004
Good morning and welcome to this joyous occasion and to our beautiful campus in this glorious state of Maine. This is a special day for our graduating seniors and for their families and friends. I congratulate you all.
Before I hand out any diplomas, I want to ask our graduating seniors to rise.
In what has become a tradition of respect and appreciation at 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 these past four years.
I would like to welcome our representative in Congress -- The Honorable Tom Allen -- of the Bowdoin Class of 1967. Congressman Allen, thank you for taking time out of what is surely a busy weekend meeting with your constituents all over the district to join us this morning and offer the traditional greeting from the state.
I want also to welcome and congratulate our honorands, each a magnificent example of what we value here at Bowdoin: a commitment to excellence, to thoughtful examination and inquiry, to creativity, to principled leadership, and to good deeds.
Eavan Boland, Richard Goldstone, Shulamit Ran, Dorothy Schwartz, and Torsten Wiesel. We are proud to welcome each of you to Bowdoin and we are grateful for your willingness to help us launch a new tradition of honorand participation in our Commencement activities during the past two days. We have learned much from each of you. Thank you.
As you seniors sit before us today, I am sure many of you are thinking about the past four years at Bowdoin and many are also thinking about that future that awaits you. Having something to do after you graduate today isn't a bad thing -- and I am sure that you and your parents wouldn't mind you finding a job or something else to keep you gainfully occupied over these next few years. But, how do you think about that future in the context of Bowdoin and your experience here. Well, frankly you need some time for perspective -- but 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.
As you think about your careers, I ask you to remember the words recently spoken by Ken Chenault, Bowdoin class of 1973, and the CEO of American Express:
He said, "I think that at the end of the day, that it is a mistake simply to pursue a job. Instead, you should pursue a way of life. The opportunity for me is to make a fundamental difference in people's lives..." He continues, "To lead a very successful enterprise that is not just focused on achieving a business success. You cannot be a successful CEO (and, I might add, a teacher, doctor, lawyer, professor, artist and on and on) in the short, moderate or long term if you don't have the passion for what you're doing. Because the challenges and the issues are so substantial that if you don't have the passion, you're going to wilt."
The historic commitment of this college to the Common Good continues in Ken and in each and every one of you. A wave continuing through time -- over 200 years -- of people who have spent time on this campus and then gone off to do important work as leaders in their communities. 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.
And now, I would like to add a final word to my friends, our graduates.
Look around you. You are surrounded by people who will be your friends for your life. Not only your classmates, but also the faculty, staff and maybe even a president. Bowdoin is grounded on yet another essential principle -- the fundamental value of enduring personal friendships. My best friends in life are people who sat where you sit over thirty-two years ago. I am confident that in 30 years, when you return for reunion, you will say the same.
In about an hour, you will become alumni of Bowdoin. In doing so you will join the most loyal and enthusiastic group that any college would be proud to call their own. Among these alums you will find old friends, and you'll meet new ones. You will discover mentors and supporters ready to reach out and assist you throughout your lives. Take advantage of these relationships and stay connected and devoted to each other and to your college -- Bowdoin.
And finally, let us return to where we began - The Offer of the College by William DeWitt Hyde - seventh president of Bowdoin.
To be at home
In all lands and all ages;
to count Nature
a familiar acquaintance
and Art and intimate friend;
to carry the keys of the
world's library in your pocket,
and feel its resources behind you
in whatever task you undertake;
to make hosts of friends
who are to be leaders in all walks of life;
to lose yourself in generous enthusiasms
and cooperate with others for common ends--
this is the offer of the College
for the best four years of your life.
Congratulations to the Bowdoin College Class of 2004, and Godspeed to you all.