On November 1, the Maine Community Foundation’s inaugural summit “Working Together” took place in Portland, Maine. Dighton Spooner, senior associate director of Bowdoin’s Career Planning office, chairs the board of directors of the Maine Community Foundation, which is an influential philanthropical organization focused on state issues.
Bowdoin provided a shuttle for students, staff, and faculty to attend the summit. After Spooner introduced the event, Steve Rowe, the Foundation’s president and CEO, spoke on the organizations’s new strategic plan. Keynote speaker Allan Johnson then addressed “power, privilege, and difference” to a crowd of more than 650 Maine community members, including nonprofit workers and donors. The Foundation manages over 2,000 funds and more than $25 million in grants and scholarships.
Johnson focused on one of the five strategic goals of the Foundation: ensuring that all people of color in Maine have access to opportunities and life outcomes that are not limited by race or ethnicity. Johnson, who is a nonfiction author, novelist, sociologist, and public speaker, urged the audience to take responsibility for eradicating racism. He encouraged them to think about themselves as existing within a set of social systems that determine the way they act, and to act in a way that challenges this social order. “Silence,” he said, “is one of the most common forms of racism.”
“If we are going to thrive and grow here as a state, we need people to be coming into the state from other places. One of the things that we have to do is become a welcoming state for diverse populations of people.”
Spooner, in a separate interview, said that the need for Maine to be an accepting and non-discriminatory is greater now than ever as the state’s population is shrinking. “If we are going to thrive and grow here as a state, we need people to be coming into the state from other places,” he said. “One of the things that we have to do is become a welcoming state for diverse populations of people.”
In many ways, Spooner said, the summit’s theme reflects the principle that drives much of Bowdoin’s conversation and action. “The same issues of privilege—creating an open and inclusive society—are exactly the same issues that we have been discussing and President Rose has been discussing here on campus,” he explained.
Spooner has been working with the Maine Community Foundation for nine years and spent two years as vice chair before stepping into his current role as chair.
“I think the Maine Community Foundation is trying to do at the state level many of the things that the administration of the College wants to do on campus and in the community…inviting a community in which everyone feels that they have a place and everyone is able to develop their full potential as human beings,” he said.
Spooner added that Bowdoin students’ community service shouldn’t end when they say goodbye to the McKeen Center for the Common Good and step into the real world.
“When students graduate and they begin their careers, finding some way to give back to the community that they are in is an important thing,” said Spooner. “I think it can be an important way to develop a deep knowledge of the community and society in which you live…and I think it’s a natural extension of the Offer of the College.”