Bowdoin College President Clayton S. Rose welcomed the Class of 2017, their family and friends, and members of the Bowdoin community to the College’s 212th Commencement ceremony May 27, 2017.
Good morning, and welcome to this glorious celebration.
Good morning, Class of 2017!
Welcome to our honorands and trustees. Welcome to our faculty, staff, and alumni. Welcome to our Brunswick neighbors, and welcome especially to family and friends who are here to celebrate this joyous occasion. Thank you for traveling from all parts of our country and the world to be here on the beautiful campus of the college we love. And to our graduates, one journey ends today and another begins.
In “The Offer of the College,” Bowdoin’s seventh president, William DeWitt Hyde, described these as the best four years of your life. For those who have come before you—those who have marched across these steps—these were among the best four years both because of the rich, wonderful, challenging, and rewarding experiences on campus, and because of the foundation of knowledge, skills, friendships, and deep sense of self that comes from these experiences—experiences that will make your life richer every day.
First things first: I would like to ask our students to stand up….now turn and face your parents, family, and friends—those who have supported you and who love you. Consider all that they have done to help you get here today, and thank them with your applause.
This is our 212th Commencement. In 1806, when our first Commencement took place on these grounds, Thomas Jefferson was in the White House, Congress was in only its ninth term, and it would be three years before Abraham Lincoln was born. While the design of this campus has changed a touch, these grounds were then, as they are now, the emotional if not physical center of our college. And Massachusetts Hall just over there, our first building, was standing. Very few institutions have been as durable as Bowdoin, a place that embraces both change and a steadfast commitment to our core values as essential elements in providing a great liberal arts education.
To our students, many congratulations. You have successfully completed a challenging and compelling course of study and taken full advantage of the cultural, artistic, athletic, and yes, the social aspects of Bowdoin. You are moments from leaving the world of a student and joining the ranks of our amazing and devoted alumni.
Let me ask you to stand again—last time, I promise—and give the faculty and staff at Bowdoin a round of applause for all they have done to make this rich experience possible.
I would like to recognize two students, in particular: Joseph Lace and Quincy Leech—both commissioned yesterday into the United States Marine Corps. Please stand. We are incredibly proud of you.
We’re proud of all of you. Julianne and I have enjoyed beyond words the opportunity to come to know you, and we look forward to seeing you as alumni of our College for many years to come, both back here on campus and in those places you will be calling home.
Thank you to our honorands, Tony Doerr, Hanna Gray, Fatuma Hussein, and Chuck Leavell, for sharing yourselves, your experiences, and your remarkable accomplishments with us.
This morning, I would like to share with you the insight I have gleaned in my almost fifty-nine years that is perhaps the most important for a happy life. It doesn’t have anything to do with your smarts, or the careers you’ll have, or the money you might make. It is about your heart and soul.
Find and nurture the special relationships that make you whole.
Find that person who will love you completely and without question—they are out there—and give them the same. It is magic and life changing. Should you have kids, love them completely and make your time and attention a top priority. And grow the friendships that draw out the best in you, with those who love you for who you are and who are there for you, as you are for them.
No amount of money, no fancy titles, no other goals can come close to the joy and intense satisfaction that come with these special relationships. Nothing else—nothing—will make you or your life as good.
Class of 2017, we honor you and celebrate all that you have accomplished. Many congratulations, and Godspeed.