Inauguration: Greetings from the State

By Joan Benoit Samuelson ’79

What a banner Maine day—certainly not like every day in our state!

This morning at exactly 6:46, the first sun to fall upon our country greeted some exuberant hikers in Acadia National Park. Approximately five minutes later, it began to smile on about 3,500 miles of the famous rock-bound coast of Maine and more than 3,100 coastal islands. And then, at 6:53 a.m., it struck Hawthorne-Longfellow Hall and President Safa Zaki’s office, only to find the Bowdoin sun already ablaze with a welcoming warmth that we all feel today.

President Zaki, it is with generous enthusiasm and joy that I can call you and Huff Mainers—or “Mainahs,” in the authentic Maine vernacular. I fervently believe that, as you and Maine become better acquainted, it will become obvious to you that your values, your character, and your steadfast approach are reflected perfectly in this great state many of us here today call home.

Like you, the Pine Tree State listens more than it talks. From the Great North Woods to the whispering pines here on our beloved campus, a quiet confidence. No need to boast—our state speaks for itself. And like you, Safa, when Maine does speak, it does so unpretentiously, and people naturally want to be a part of an uncommon good. Even with a formidable coastline, its many bays and inlets accommodate tides of change while protecting a state known for its resilience, openness, and broad thinking, just like Bowdoin.

May the moral and physical beauty of this great institution and this stalwart state be forever intertwined and rooted with ambition and strength to provide opportunities for those seeking to serve the common good. Your leadership at Bowdoin will assure that the Maine state motto, dirigo, meaning, “I lead” rings true here on the Bowdoin campus and echoes long and far.

Safa, Maine is tolerant and friendly—where professionals in Portland wear Bean boots and farmers from Bingham to Berwick take time to chat with their customers at farmers’ markets across the state. New Mainers are quickly becoming Mainers as our state grows, flexes, and nurtures.

Your proven ability to be at home in all lands and your wish to bring one’s whole self to Bowdoin opens up opportunities for a new chapter in Bowdoin’s rich and storied history. Let our hope be that the roots that are well grounded and nourished on this campus continue to branch out into the greater Maine community, helping to foster and assure diversity, equity, inclusion, and environmental justice for all.

May Bowdoin and Safa “raise songs” to harmonize with the voices of Maine that “proudly sing.” Together, Maine and Bowdoin comprise a guiding and shining light for students, alumni, and the people of this great state to do what's right.

It gives me immense pride to offer greetings from our state to Bowdoin’s first woman president. After 229 years, Safa becomes only the sixteenth president of this cherished college. How sweet it is!