Bowdoin College held its 2013 Baccalaureate ceremony Friday, May 24, marking the official close of the academic year and celebrating the College’s 208th Commencement (to be held Saturday, May 25).
President Barry Mills presided over the ceremony, and addressed access to higher education and affordability, and the value of a liberal arts education.
“It won’t surprise you to learn that I believe we must invest more in our four-year state institutions and community colleges in order to provide an opportunity for success to all of our citizens,” said President Mills.
“And, this includes an initiative that my wife, Karen in the public sector, and our trustee John Studzinski in the private sector, are working hard to achieve: providing access to education and an opportunity for success to our veterans — men and women who have sacrificed so much and who ought to be able to share in the ‘American Dream’ that they have protected for the rest of us.”
Mills says he recognizes the stark reality that our country has limited financial resources and must make choices, and that the competing priorities of health care, national defense, social security, social welfare, the environment, and many other needs compete with education for resources at the both the state and federal level.
“We are fortunate at Bowdoin to have both the resources and the continuing support of alumni, parents, friends and foundations that enable us to provide the very best education to our students,” said Mills. “The simple fact is that anyone who has the opportunity to attend a place like Bowdoin is a person of privilege, regardless of his or her background. But not everyone can or should attend a place like Bowdoin. There are other pathways, but only if we as a nation provide access to quality, affordable education and an opportunity for success to every citizen of any age who has the drive and ambition for education.”
Mills says he hears often the suggestion that were the College to cut expenses, it would become more affordable for more families.
“Bowdoin is expensive. We can choose to reduce our program substantially and what we deliver to our students, and thereby reduce our costs. But as you might imagine, and probably know best, this program readjustment is really difficult, especially as we seek to maintain and enhance the sophistication of the education at Bowdoin. The seniors who graduate tomorrow have taken advantage of all that Bowdoin has to offer, and they are not eager to see us reduce what we have to offer. And, that sense of a wonderful Bowdoin education is shared by all of you.”
Mills quoted predecessor William DeWitt Hyde, seventh president of the College, in defining that Bowdoin liberal arts education as an opportunity “to gain a standard for the appreciation of other’s work and the criticism of your own.”
From our perspective, what this means is that while it is important to have beliefs and opinions, it is also important to be able to support those beliefs and opinions with fact-based analysis and critical thinking,” Mills said. “This fact-based analysis, critical thinking, and expression are at the heart of what we do. Beliefs are only the starting point when you walk into a classroom; analysis and critical thinking are what follow, and they are what can either confirm or set those beliefs and opinions aside. This is what you have learned in the classrooms at Bowdoin.”
In closing, Mills thanked the faculty and staff for their dedication and wished the Class of 2013 “success and a life of learning and deeds well done.” Read the full text of President Mills’ address.
Voices from Bowdoin’s Past
Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster delivered “Voices from Bowdoin’s Past,” a Baccalaureate tradition, in which he spoke of “Bowdoin and Diplomacy” — highlighting career diplomats such as Chris Hill ’74, George Mitchell ’54, David Pearce ’72, Tom Pickering ’53 and Laurence Pope ’67.
Foster noted that foreign service has been associated with Bowdoin from the very beginning, sharing that in 1804, Thomas Jefferson named the College’s original benefactor, James Bowdoin III, Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of Spain.
Fast-forwarding to the present, Foster also spoke of the woman sharing the stage with him at that moment — former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a 2013 honorary degree recipient and keynote speaker at the Baccalaureate ceremony.
“Secretary Albright was the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State, and that meant many challenges her predecessors hadn’t faced, including the art of diplomatic kissing,” said Foster. “’This was more complicated than it sounds,’ Secretary Albright wrote in her memoir, Madame Secretary, ‘because different places had different styles.’”
Foster concluded by mentioning the work of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell ’54, who chaired the negotiations that eventually brought peace to Northern Ireland.
“He described that work as ’700 days of failure and one day of success.’ Sometimes, that’s really all it takes — one day. One day of success.” Read the text of Dean Foster’s “Voices from Bowdoin’s Past” talk in its entirety.
DeAlva Stanwood Alexander First Prize Winner Marissa Daisy Alioto ’13
Daisy Alioto, a government and legal studies major and English minor from Wrentham, Mass., delivered the address, “A Tent in Manhattan,” in which she examines how we live in what she says are tents of our own construction.
“Admittedly, some of these tents will look a lot like the financial district in Manhattan — but they are tents nonetheless. For all the literalists in the audience, these aren’t actual tents, they are spheres of thought and being, and we’re all entitled to have them — even if we believe we’ve ‘done nothing,’ even if we’ve ‘gone nowhere.’”
Alioto shared that she believes a Bowdoin education encompasses both individual struggles and collective solutions.
“I want you to remember, whether it’s years before you drive north on the Piscataqua River Bridge again, or experience vertigo staring down the escalator at the Portland International Jetport: individualism is the fabric of Bowdoin’s continued success and the longevity of the liberal arts — it sets us apart so that we can camp together,” said Alioto.
“Class of 2013, as we go off with our bag of tent stakes, swinging mallets and strutting into this new world, my wish for you is that you may come to rest in the sweetest tent of all — contentment. I’ve shared it with you for four years; I will see you here again.” Read the text of Alioto’s address in its entirety.
Keynote Address: Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright delivered the keynote address in which she empathized with the graduating seniors, allowing that the world they are about to inherit is a troubled one.
“You may believe that the class of 2013, more than any other, has been given a raw deal,” said Secretary Albright. “To those of you who feel that way, I offer my deepest sympathy and also three words of advice: Get over it. No one likes a whiner and besides, every generation has its burdens.”
Combining her unique perspective and experience with a “tough love” brand of maternal comforting, Albright used as an example anti-apartheid revolutionary and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela. She spoke of Mandela’s 27 years in prison and how he used that time to better understand those who had imprisoned him, so that when he was released he could find common ground with them, forgive them, and eventually lead them.
“Mandela knew that the surest way to defeat his enemies was not to make them do what he wanted; it was to persuade them to want what he wanted,” said Albright, explaining that Mandela led his jailers to a new understanding of their own interests. “In so doing, he reminded us that we are all in need of new understandings from time to time.”
Albright highlighted the choice each of us has — to live for ourselves alone, or to contribute in ways that make life better for all.
“We can seek shelter from responsibility by ignoring those outside our own familiar group; or we can — like Nelson Mandela — fulfill our humanity by demanding the best from ourselves while searching for the good in others,” Albright said.
“Above all, know that your actions and choices truly do count, and that every obstacle surmounted by your energy; every problem solved by your wisdom; every soul awakened by your passion; and every barrier to justice brought down by your courage will inspire others and enrich your own journey on this earth.” Read the text of Secretary Albright’s address in its entirety.
Music was provided by flutist Rachel Furo Lopkin ’13, bassoonist Christina Sue Jin Jang ’13, clarinetist Timothy M. Locke ’14 and oboist Vy Mai Nguyen ’15, who performed Eugene Bozza’s Trois pieces pour une musique de nuit. Later in the program, soprano Katarina Holmgren ’13 and tenor Patrick Michael Martin ’13, accompanied by pianist Linna Goa ’12, led the audience in a rendition of “Raise Songs to Bowdoin.”
Photos by Michele Stapleton