2019 Baccalaureate Ceremony

2019 Baccalaureate Ceremony


– [Announcer] May I have
your attention, please. For your safety, please note the location of emergency exits. They are identified with illuminated signs and are located in the lobby
and the upper sitting level at both ends of the building. In the event that an alarm sounds, please exit immediately
and calmly as directed by staff and ushers. An automated external defibrillator
is located in the lobby. State law prohibits smoking
and the display of open flame. Thank you for your attention. The program will begin momentarily. (bells ringing) – Welcome all. Welcome to the 2019
Baccalaureate Ceremony. Welcome to parents, family,
friends, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, our
honorands and anyone else who snuck in the door here. And welcome to the class of 2019. Baccalaureate… (everyone applauds) We may do that a few times. Baccalaureate, and
commencement tomorrow marks the end of your formal
education at Bowdoin. A time to reflect on your four years here, and you should be very, very proud of what you have accomplished. We absolutely are. We have three wonderful
speakers this afternoon; Dean Tim Foster in his
last official commencement as our dean with Readings
from Bowdoin’s Past. (everyone applauds) Our student speaker, Gerlin Leu Fang, the winner of the DeAlva
Stanwood Alexander First Prize. And, we have the great
good fortunate today to be joined today by Dr. Earl Lewis who will receive,
tomorrow, at commencement, an honorary degree,
Doctor of Humane Letters. Dr. Lewis, whom I will
introduce later in the program is the former president of the
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is currently on the faculty and the director of the
Center for Social Solutions at the University of Michigan. Our other honorary degree
candidates and their families are here as well; Nadia Rosenthal, world-renowned geneticist and
director, scientific director of the Jackson Laboratories. Sir Paul Ruddock, philanthropist, who began his career in finance
and has made preserving, celebrating, understanding
and accessing art part of his life’s work. And Sheldon Stone, Bowdoin Class of 1974, co-founder and principal of one of the most prominent investment firms as well as a significant philanthropist whose very quiet but remarkable generosity has made it possible for
generations of amazing students, past, present and future
to come to Bowdoin. Without Sheldon’s support, it is not clear that we could be need-blind or no loan. (everyone applauds) To open our proceedings, I’d
like to invite George Beckwith, George Beckwith, George Lopez, our Beckwith Artist in
Residence and our singers, Rowan Etzel, Nolan Roche, and Kevin Yu, all of the Class of ’19 to the stage to lead us in the singing
of America the Beautiful. You will find the words on
the back of your program and I would us you, if
you can, to please stand. (“America the Beautiful”) ♪ Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, ♪ ♪ For amber waves of grain, ♪ ♪ For purple mountains majesties ♪ ♪ Above the fruited plain ♪ ♪ America, America ♪ ♪ God shed his grace on thee, ♪ ♪ And crown thy good with brotherhood ♪ ♪ From sea to shining sea ♪ ♪ Oh, beautiful for pilgrim feet, ♪ ♪ Whose stern, impassioned stress ♪ ♪ A thoroughfare for freedom beat ♪ ♪ Across the wilderness ♪ ♪ America, America ♪ ♪ God mend thine ev’ry flaw, ♪ ♪ Confirm thy soul in self-control, ♪ ♪ Thy liberty in law ♪ (audience applause) – Thank you, George,
Nolan, Rowan and Kevin. So class of 2019, here
we are, four years later. And after beginning our
time at Bowdoin together, you’re headed off, you’re leaving me, which is great and as it should
be but bittersweet for me and I will have more to say about that tomorrow at Commencement. For now, I’d like to ask
you to hold three thoughts in your hand; bowling, community and Iris. First, about bowling, about 20 years ago, the noted political
scientist, Robert Putnam, wrote a rich empirical study, became a book called Bowling Alone. And in it, he observed that
we are becoming more isolated, that the traditional bonds of community were diminished or disappearing
and the institutions of community in America were eroding. Now, we are very lucky. Bowdoin has very strong,
very powerful senses of community here. Think, for a moment, about
your greatest accomplishments. Who was there to help make
those moments possible, to push you, to challenge
you, to share them with you. Think about your moments
of greatest struggle here. Who was there to comfort
you, to cry with you or just to be with you? It was your teachers, the
staff members you came to know, your classmates, your
friends, your host family and all the others make up the communities that you are a part of here. They were here for the
good and the great times and for the difficult moments as well. And this is what community is. It builds us up, it cheers
us on, it makes us better, it reminds us that it will be okay. And it helps us find a way through. In the good times, and the
great times and the difficult and the terrible moments,
you found communities here, resilient and vibrant communities. Each of you drew strength from them and each of you made
them sturdier and better. At Bowdoin, we have to work
pretty hard to bowl alone but in the world beyond
campus, the phenomenon that Putnam described continues at pace. And the idea of community, the value of community is at risk. And the more we allow it to
erode, the less we achieve, the more we are diminished, we struggle and we are less happy. But it does not have to be this way and you can make it so. And I wanna share a story with you about a Bowdoin alumni, Iris Davis. Iris was 1978 and a trustee of the college and she passed away last
year, far too young. Iris came from Martha’s Vineyard not the Martha’s Vineyard, I think, that many of us think about. The island has a rich
African-American community and rich heritage there
and she and her family were part of that. Her parents were school teachers,
and Iris came to Bowdoin at a time when women had just
started to arrive in numbers and there were few black students here. Just over five-foot-three,
Iris was a gifted athlete on field hockey, women’s
basketball teams, and on our track. And as a senior and co-captain,
the basketball team, she was described as the spark plug and the top defensive player. As field hockey goaltender,
she led the state, allowing only seven goals in eleven games. But she was much more than
an outstanding athlete here. She was also a scholar
and a leader on campus, a history major, active in
the Afro-American Society. And she found significant
time as well to volunteer at the Brunswick Recreational Center and mentored many, many
of Brunswick’s kids. After graduation, her passionate concern for public health guided her career. She earned her masters in public health with a concentration in
environmental science and epidemiology at
Boston University in 1984. She then joined the,
sorry, she then joined the Department of Environmental
Quality and Engineering for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and worked there as an
environmental scientist, a position that put her on the front lines of protecting public health. She was in charge of compliance
for environmental clean-ups on the famous, or infamous, Big Dig, a massive undertaking that,
because of its sheer size and scope, presented every
aspect of public health issue. She monitored the capping
of Spectacle Island in the Boston Harbor, which
was once the Boston city dump. And in 1990, she was the
Massachusetts state project manager for the Environmental Protection Agency’s residential lead removal project. She had considerable skills,
interpersonal and scientific and years of experience
which could have easily led to positions in the private sector, but Iris felt that, for her,
she could do the greatest good for the largest number of
people as a public servant and as an agent of change. Iris did serious work, but she never took herself seriously. Before grad school, she
went back to the Vineyard and worked for the Board of Health as the sanitarian for the
towns of Vineyard Haven, Edgartown, and Chilmark. And it was reported that,
quote, she handled everything from restaurant inspections
and septic system approval to costal water management and wetlands. One assignment involved a dispute between a pig farmer and his neighbor. The neighbor complained
about the odor of the pigs. Iris’s assessment: pigs
are pigs and they smell. Throughout these years, Iris
stayed close to Bowdoin, volunteering for admissions,
serving as president of the Alumni Council,
working to advance diversity and inclusion at the college. As a trustee, she was deeply engaged in considering our future, asked insightful and thoughtful questions, provided wise counsel,
approached the work with realism, warmth and a sense of fairness. I attended her memorial service
on the Vineyard last fall. She left behind her sister and her mother. As the hour approached for
the start of the service, the room filled and then
filled beyond capacity. Then speaker after speaker rose to talk about this remarkable woman, from her life growing up on the Vineyard, her Bowdoin years, her work
in environmental protection, her coaching and mentoring and
her many, many, many friends. It was something to behold
and the tears flowed. Iris was not rich or famous. She seemed to shun the spotlight. But she had an immense impact
on those who came to know her. It was so clear to me,
sitting in that room, on that sunny, warm fall day, just what she had done
for everyone around her. She is a person that built community. She was a source of strength,
bringing others together, usually for something fun or positive, but also in the deepest
and darkest moments. Iris never let anyone bowl alone. And I share this with you
because you should know just a little about Iris. She devoted her life to
improving the lives of others through her leadership and her
commitment to public health, her service to Bowdoin,
but maybe most importantly, in the way that she built community. And she was something
special because of this. So to our graduates, as
you begin your journey beyond Bowdoin, I suggest that you think about everything that you have gotten from your communities here. Think about Iris, take those experiences, spend time building your own communities wherever life is going to take you. They will make life more joyful, richer and they will touch
the lives of everyone that you come to know. And you can make it so. Thank you. (audience applause) I’d now like to invite Dean
Tim Foster to the podium for Readings from Bowdoin’s Past. – Bowdoin’s campus is
intimate and contained, but in the beginning,
it was just plain tiny. Back then, in the early
decades of the 19th century, the entire campus was just
a small corner of the quad we know and enjoy today, a
rectangle with Massachusetts Hall on the northern edge, Winthrop
and Maine on the east, and a small wooden chapel
out in front of Maine, its front door facing Mass Hall. Back then, students could
roll out of bed in Maine and Winthrop and be in Mass
Hall for meals and classes in less than a minute. And worrying about what to
wear didn’t slow them down! Now, many students have
lived in Winthrop and Maine over the years, including some of you but in all of this history,
only one student’s presence has been memorialized with a plaque. Standing with your back
to the door of Adams and looking up toward Winthrop,
you can make out a rectangle of white marble just
below a third floor window on the northeast corner of the building. Step closer and you can
read the inscription: College Room of Longfellow 1823-1825 Henry Longfellow was one
of the first students to occupy New College,
as it was called then. He lived in room number 37
with his brother, Stephen, during his junior and senior years. Living in Winthrop was a very
new and exciting experience for young Henry, and I do mean young. You see, Henry was
already a published poet when he began his studies
at Bowdoin at the age of 14! During his freshmen year, he
lived at home in Portland. For his sophomore and junior year, he lived with his brother
at the Titcomb House on Federal Street, which we know today as the recently renovated Stowe House. So it was only when he was a junior, that Henry experienced true campus living for the first time. In September, he wrote to his parents: I feel very well
contented and much pleased with College life. Many of the students are
very agreeable companions and, thus far, I have passed
my time very pleasantly. The students have
considerably more leisure time than I expected, but
as the season advances and the days grow shorter, our leisure moments must necessarily be considerably diminished. Henry was excited, about
simply being a student at Bowdoin and living on campus. In October of his junior year,
Henry wrote to his brother: I feel far better contented
here, far more happy, and far less inclined to be low-spirited, than has ever been the
case in any former period. You must not be surprised when I tell you, I wish to not come home. No, not yet, not for weeks, months! Well, guess what parents? Many of them will be coming home, tomorrow! As Longfellow approached the
midway point of his senior year at Bowdoin, he was beginning
to feel the pressure every college student
before and since has known. Yes, Class of 2019, this is a constant; the pressure associated with questions about what comes next. Parents and family, be gentle. It turned out quite well for Henry, and for the generations
of Bowdoin students who came thereafter, and it will work out for your graduate as well. Henry had a pretty good idea about what he wanted to do after college. But, probably, like some of you, he wasn’t so sure that
it was gonna fly at home. Even in 1825, and even with
a talent as immense as his, one had to negotiate with
parents about future plans. My dear father, he wrote, I take this early
opportunity to write to you, because I wish to know
fully your inclination with regard to the
profession I am to pursue when I leave college. For my part, I have already hinted to you what would best please me. The fact is, and I will not
disguise it in the least, I most eagerly aspire after
future eminence in literature, my whole soul burns most ardently for it, and every earthly thought centers in it. The response from home was, well, not what Henry wanted to hear. Imagine that Class of 2019! But he persisted, writing again, my dear father, from the general
tenor of your last letter, it seems to be your fixed desire, that I should choose the profession of the Law for the business of my life. I believe that I have
already mentioned to you that I did not wish to enter immediately upon any profession. You must acknowledge the propriety and usefulness of aiming high, at something which it is
impossible to overshoot, perhaps to reach. I have a most voracious
appetite for knowledge. To its acquisition I
will sacrifice anything. This year, America and Bowdoin celebrated the 212th anniversary of the birth of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Looking back on his life, and especially at his accomplishments
at such an early age, it might seem that his
success was preordained. But as he sat where you sit,
even with all that success, even with all that confidence,
nothing was certain. Longfellow wrote to his sister, Ann: In five weeks we shall
be set free from college. Then comes Commencement,
and then, and then, I cannot say what will be after that. Henry Longfellow, who would
go on to be, arguably, the most popular literary
figure in 19th century America, was at his Commencement clearly
already a gifted writer, able to convey detail in vivid ways. Tomorrow, as you pack your
rooms, say your goodbyes and linger just a bit longer,
reflect on the following words that Henry penned in
a letter to his father during his junior year. The term is about closing,
and many of the students, at least, have gone. Now and then there is a
solitary footstep at the entry, a solitary rap at the distant door, the noise of the falling latch,
and then, all still again; the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a member of the Bowdoin Class of 1825. Thank you for listening. (audience applause) – Since our first commencement in 1806, seniors have competed for oratory prizes and for the honor of
addressing their peers, here, this afternoon and again,
at commencement tomorrow. It gives me great pleasure to introduce this afternoon’s speaker, Gerlin Leu Fang, the recipient of the DeAlva
Stanwood Alexander First Prize. Gerlin, an Asian studies
major, born in Hangzhou, China. Houston is her hometown. During her time at Bowdoin, she, for the first time in her life, immersed herself in student
theater productions, Not knowing stage left from
stage right when she began, but mastered many technical skills, from lighting to sewing. She says her theatrical
experience has taught her to always have a sense of humor, even when the pressure is on,
good advice for a president. And she’s tried her hand also
at playwriting and directing. She served as a senior
interviewer for admissions, a tutor with the America
Reads and Counts program, and a member of the Common Good Grants development committee. She was co-leader of Cash Coalition, a group that helps families
file their income tax returns. Gerlin is a gifted linguist
and has studied overseas on multiple occasions,
spending a semester in Japan, a semester in Sri Lanka
as a Gilman Scholar, and a summer in Indonesia with the Critical Language
Scholarship Program. And after Bowdoin, she
will to return to Japan to take part in the JET, the Japanese Exchange and Teaching program where she’ll be working
in local government and cultural exchange programs. Please join me in
welcoming Gerlin Leu Fang. (audience applause) – President Rose, members
of the college, and guests. Assalamualaikum. (chuckles) The response is Mualaikumsalam. Thank you all for being
here this afternoon to celebrate your loved ones
and the Bowdoin community. Before anything else, I
would like to invite you to join me in giving acknowledgment to and appreciation for the
historical Wabanaki Land that we’re all gathered on. To the land, air and
water that nourish us, support us and enable us
to be here, thank you. (audience applause) I am beyond grateful to
be given this opportunity to share with you today: a
journey of personal growth through language learning. However, sitting in the
audience, the one person that I want to share this
message with the most may not fully understand me because of her barrier in English. So to my mom, (speaks in foreign language) As you can see, English has not always been my language choice to express myself. I was born in Hangzhou,
China during the time of the Mandarin-only education initiative while my family and neighbors communicated in our local dialect. While Mandarin united China, it separated me from my background. At school, I was taught
that speaking Mandarin, marked being educated and of
higher socioeconomic status while our local dialect indicated an older, outdated generation. I honed my Mandarin
pronunciation excessively, became proudly monolingual,
and took great pride when the teacher told other students to mimic my pronunciation. However, those glory days soon ended. In 2005, spring of second grade, my family moved to Houston, Texas and I became mute at school. We lived in a predominantly
Hispanic neighborhood with many children
learning English at school, but they would speak in
Spanish with each other while I couldn’t. I couldn’t even distinguish between the two foreign languages nor could I muster up the
sentence to ask for permission to go to the bathroom. My parents insisted on
speaking only Mandarin at home, both out of necessity
and out of determination, so I could keep up my Mandarin skills and not lose my connection
with my family and culture. I learned English from
books, from television, and from making phone calls to companies on behalf of my mom, who
does not have the privilege of learning as I do. The divide between the languages and my personalities in them widened. English existed for formal communication and the battle of the outside world, where I needed to speak up for
myself and make myself heard. Mandarin provided a
shelter for my delicate, fragile feelings, where I had the luxury to continue to act like a child. Until coming to Bowdoin,
learning a new language had been out of necessity: whether the English I needed
to function in society, or the useful Spanish I
absorbed through hearing my neighbors discipline their children. Every language had to prove itself useful before I would give it attention. However, at Bowdoin, under the freedom of the liberal arts education
and the general cluelessness of a first-year student,
I began learning Japanese, the language of China’s
historical and political nemesis. I didn’t have a specific goal, such as wanting to work in Japan or to watch anime without subtitles. I joined simply because I felt an immediate personal
connection to the professors and my classmates from day one. My senseis began class, not
by drilling us with grammar or vocabulary, but by
teaching us how to turn in our homework or enter an elevator under Japanese cultural norms. While stumbling through conjugations and pronunciation mishaps, I
delved into Japan’s history and the complex
interpersonal relationships, embedded in the language. I started to reflect on
my own misconceptions and learned to respect my elders. As I formed my family in the
Bowdoin Japanese Program, I also found another personality, another outlet, and another perspective. Just like how I had to leave
the multilingual Houston to feel appreciation
for home, I had to leave the United States to find
my connection with English. During my semesters in
Japan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, I learned to alter my spoken English to become grammatically incorrect and skipped over ostentatious
adjectives and idioms in order to communicate better. In doing so, I began to
appreciate the beauty in the fluidity of languages,
from creolization and slang to the ability to code-switch seamlessly between multiple languages in order to communicate
more nuanced connotations. We even had our nonverbal
cues to fall back on when all else failed. I became more aware of
the cultural differences and how much I did not yet
know but eagerly sought out. I listened to my hosts
share nostalgic tales from their youth and offer life advice. They spoke with such emotion and wisdom in their native languages. I became addicted to those stories and I worked harder to
learn their languages so I can hear more. In return, they put up with my attempts, successful or not, and
unceasingly cheered me on. The more I listened, the more I began to question the limits of language, in particular that of English. While English has allowed
me to travel across borders to meet so many people, it is
loaded with hegemonic remnants and incomplete inclusiveness. For example, in Houston, we
don’t really have seasons, at least not the four
distinctive ones like in Maine. Yet, my friends and I tried so hard to make words fall and winter fit because those were the
only terms we were taught. In the Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka, those terms fit even less appropriately. Children only learned
about the four seasons through English-medium science
textbooks and Western media. While terms such as dry or rainy may be much more
applicable in the tropics. Although I had plenty of thoughts to share with my host family,
I once again felt mute, as I did in my second grade English As A Second Language class. I did not have enough vocabulary
to recount my own story or to fully understand theirs. I realized that I couldn’t
encapsulate their experiences in the very few ways I knew. I needed to learn their languages and their forms of expressions. I needed to truly listen to their voices. Over our four years at Bowdoin,
we are constantly taught and pushed to find ways to
express ourselves and our ideas. From our academically
intense first-year seminars to our exploratory art
forms, we learned to develop our own voices and use them creatively to initiate a difference,
no matter how small. Yet, caught in the fervors
of self-expression, we must remind ourselves to consider our audience and their backgrounds beyond the Bowdoin context. Would the elementary school students we tutor find contemplations of postcolonial literary
theory interesting or would they prefer a chat
about cats versus dogs? Would the families coming in
for income tax assistance want to be boggled down by tax terms or can we rephrase everything in a more accessible way? Without first listening and
understanding the position that my students and my clients are in, I cannot fully communicate with
them from their perspective. Therefore, Class of 2019,
friends and families of the Bowdoin community, I
urge you, in addition to finding and exercising your
voice, to also listen to and learn to speak the
languages of the people that you will encounter in life. I hope that we can carry
forward the common good through our most fundamental human trait, to communicate with each other and to appreciate the value
of the stories you will hear, to take a genuine interest
in what others have to say and to reflect on our own perceptions. I want us all to find our languages and ways to showcase our voices to create change without
forgetting to listen to one another while keeping in mind that
someone on this beautiful and changing planet will
appreciate your humor, your voices, and your stories. Congratulations once again. (speaks foreign language) And thank you. (speaks foreign language) – Thank you, Gerlin, that was fabulous. A nationally recognized
leader in higher education, a noted social historian, prominent scholar in the field
of African-American studies, Earl Lewis is the founding director of the Center for Social Solutions and a professor of history at
the University of Michigan. He was president of The
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, perhaps the most important
institutions supporting the humanities in our country
today between 2013 and 2018. And before that, he spent
more than eight years as provost and executive vice
president for academic affairs and the Asa Griggs Candler
Professor of History and African American
Studies at Emory University. Under his guidance as
Mellon’s sixth president, the Foundation reaffirmed its
commitment to the humanities, the arts, and higher education. And while he was president, the Foundation made grants
totaling more than $1.2 billion in support of these causes. Dr. Lewis spearheaded the implementation of Mellon’s first strategic plan, reshaped key program areas, expanded the number and types
of grantees receiving support and implemented a range
of important initiatives, including the Mellon Research Forum and a book series called
Our Compelling Interests, that investigates how diversity
and social connectedness are imperative to our shared
success and prosperity, work he now continues at
the University of Michigan. Dr. Lewis is a native
of Tidewater, Virginia. He earned an undergraduate
degree in history and psychology from Concordia College
in Moorhead, Minnesota, and a PhD in history from
the University of Minnesota. He has held faculty appointments at the University of
California at Berkeley and the University of Michigan. And indeed, when he returned
to Michigan last year, it was something of a homecoming, having served on the faculty
and administration there for 15 years, during that time, he was deeply involved in
the university’s legal battle over its use of affirmative
action in admissions. While the university was
involved in defending itself in court, Dr. Lewis led a
campus dialogue on diversity and helped to marshal
the academic resources that bolstered the case
for the university. He’s a fellow of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences and the coauthor or
co-editor of seven books. He has championed the
importance of diversity and inclusion in the academy,
enhancing graduate education, re-envisioning the liberal arts, exploring the role of
digital tools for learning, and for the essential
nature of the humanities, he has said, “There is a
certain kind of knowledge, “a wisdom that is timeless
and universally valuable “to the human spirit, and
humanists have access to it.” Please join me in
welcoming Dr. Earl Lewis. (audience applause) – Thank you for that
very lovely introduction. It’s at those moments
that I reflect and thought my late mother would have
deeply appreciated it. Good afternoon students,
faculty, staff, alumni, co-honorands, friends, all. I’m honored and humbled to be delivering today’s
baccalaureate address. To the Class of 2019, let me start by saying congratulations. (everyone applauds) This is a campus and
community I have known but until now, did not know. Through my children, Suzanne and Max, I have filial ties to this place. You see, their maternal
grandfather, Jack London, was a Bowdoin alum; as so
their uncles, Steve and Howard; and their first cousin, Andrea. In fact, their late mother, Jayne, was to have attended
Bowdoin, but she rebelled and went to Colby instead. (members of the audience laughing) In London lore, be it in the
years just before World War II, or during Vietnam, or the 1990s, Bowdoin offered a way forward. Its setting and deep commitment to the liberal arts honed
intellectual skills, to be sure, but the campus taught each of them about membership in community. For the son of a Lithuanian,
Jewish immigrant, Bowdoin offered Jack multiple
lessons about the bonds and boundaries of
communities and community. His father, my kid’s great grandfather, had survived pogroms in his native land, only to embrace the grace
of hard work and sacrifice in his adopted land. As, first a rag seller, and
eventually a small businessman, he worked to provide an
alternative for his children. That Jack followed him into the family-owned
furniture store business begs its own telling. Jack survived D-day, when his mates died on either side of him; he endured PTSD, as he struggled through survivors’ guilt. And I’m sure he never shook the sense, but for the grace of
God, he may have died. Now I’m not prepared to give Jack’s life the full treatment it deserves, but I do want to expound upon one thread; the idea of grace. A couple of weekends ago I
traveled to my alma mater to chair its governing board. While there, I was reminded
of the importance of grace. You see, as the school
year came to a close, a video surfaced on social media of a Concordia student saying
hateful and racist things in an alcohol-induced haze. When it first surfaced,
we had no way of knowing its vintage; yesterday, a
year ago, two years ago? An investigation found the video featured a high school sophomore rather
than a college freshman. We learned that when it first surfaced, the student apologized profusely and soon thereafter
withdrew from social media, hoping to distance herself
from an act she protested she deeply regretted. Unfortunately, a young man became angry with the young woman’s male
companion in the video; he rebooted the old screed. That act re-anchored her to a moment she had wanted to escape. Some might argue such is the
price to pay for egregious, outlandish and offensive behavior. Others might ask, how
do we learn to forgive? Is there not room for restorative justice? If we can rehabilitate the incarcerated, must we forever imprison an adolescent whose behavior to date
implies the actions that night were aberrant; that is singular
in occurrence and behavior. This incident, in fact, may
have died quietly with the end of an academic year, save for
the local newspaper’s decision to retell the story a
week after graduation in a top of the fold account. As I reflected on their treatment
and decision to publish, I found myself drawn, over and
over again to the word grace. Is it possible for a community
to gracefully forgive a member who made a mistake, apologized and seemingly has made amends? Is it reasonable to expect humans to err, repent, learn and move on? It would be a horrible mistake, for me, a historian of the modern
age to begin to expound upon deeply held theological
debates about grace, especially ones with
rich scholarly traditions like divine grace. But in a world that is ever more connected or inter-connected, we
must ask about grace and the relationship
between grace and community. In fact, our growing diversity
has to be understood, in this context, as an
asset to be defined, leveraged and valued. In that video, one can
find profound evidence of bonding; perversely
so, as the speaker asserts the primacy of her racial group while denigrating all others. A community emboldened by
grace recognizes the importance of intragroup bonding but
invites, no, encourages, intergroup bridging. This story, sad in its
particulars, asks us to consider, how in this highly fractionated age, do we build not just vibrant, or good, or inclusive communities, how do we build grace-filled communities? How do we build grace-filled communities? Humans first formed communities as a way of marshaling
sufficient resources and as a means of
guarding those resources. A hunter traveling alone
was always susceptible to injury or death, thereby endangering a family who depended or his or her resourcefulness. The coming together of several individuals insured continued survival if one succumbed to unfortunate events. This active multiplying of individuals into communities helped produce kingdoms, empires and today’s nation states. Along the way, we created new ways of marking insiders from outsiders. In simpler times, language,
lineage or color told the tale of who was in and who was out. Larger aggregations and more
formal state systems required ever more complicated apparatuses. Today; passports, birth certificates and governmental requirements determine and regulate the boundaries
of formed communities. History has shown, at their worst, such regulations spark deadly nationalism, even as we pray they do no more than spawn feelings of national pride. Graduations remind us that we too have our rituals of inclusion. We don our caps and gowns to signal our place within the academy. Different-colored robes
acquaint the casual viewer with a hint of previous connections as well as the ways in which
we entered this community. Baccalaureates, like convocations, call us back together after periods apart. They serve to punctuate,
in a temporal sense, the continued forming of community. But on this day, as you
prepare for graduation, I invite you to ask have you done enough to build a community known for its grace? What are the tenets of a
grace-filled community? Let me suggest four. We begin with responsibility. A grace-filled community is not consumed with rank or status. It practices the principle
of open communications and structured actions. This means that hierarchies are flattened. All are invited to speak,
but if action is to follow the conversations, they do
so through the structures of the College; committees, departments, faculty and staff senate
or its equivalent, administrative officers, the board. In a grace-filled
community, no one dares say it is not my job so I don’t
have to worry about it. Members of a grace-filled community own the process to the end. In a grace-filled community,
no one gets a pass. Such a community demands
multiple architects. That new student graciously
accepts his or her place among their elders, always
expecting the best and the most. They enter fully cognizant
of what they have achieved and what they are still to learn; they enter with confidence
but not arrogance; they enter expecting as much of themselves as they expect of others. For them, there is no
sense of entitlement, for they know what they did yesterday in no way, in no way, guarantees what they will accomplish in the future. While they pursue their
degree and degrees, they promise to stop
long enough to be noticed and to try to improve the
community now called home. A grace-filled community, after all, seeks institution builders. Students understand that
a grace-filled community does not begin or end
at the campus’s edge. They seek out those neighborhoods
rich with aspirations but not material possessions. Where others see the dispossessed, they see young and old who dream, who dream of a world never
seen but one that’s sensed; who dream of a world where hard work and perseverance inoculate you from life’s miserable
underbelly of poverty, crime, incarceration, drugs and death. These students understand
that becoming a prisoner need not mean the end of one’s humanity. It is a community in which new
students are taught to talk to their older classmates, for they are expected to
become mentors and friends. A grace-filled community requires a staff that understands the
difference between a job, a career and a calling. If getting out of bed five days a week, 48-50 weeks per year only
translates into a job, you are failing yourself
and those around you. Nor is it simply a career that offers unbounded
opportunities for advancement that should be your sole motivator. Members of a grace-filled
community understand that they, too, are institution builders, and that the smallest gesture,
when no one is even looking, is what’s expected of them. So if they see a piece
of paper on the ground, they don’t walk by it just
because that is not their job. They pick up the paper,
toss it in the receptacle, hoping all along that others
will take heed and do the same. Members of a grace-filled
community exhibit the patience to embrace each encounter
as another teaching moment, no matter how many times you
have heard the question posed or how off putting the questioner becomes. Remember, some people
mask their insecurities by seeming exceptionally entitled. An abundance of privilege is no virtue in a grace-filled community; in such a community, we
often find out how dependent we are on the good graces of others. Faculty have a
disproportionate role to play in a grace-filled community. Students come to campus to work with us. Often our books or articles
have captured their attention. They see themselves as
would-be scholars in our image. Some may have heard us lecture, and found themselves
moved by what was said and what they heard; they
are here now to emulate. Never assume that your
fame is all they seek; in fact, I suspect many are intimidated by your accomplishments. While here, you will be
accessible and you will challenge their orthodoxies, to be sure, but they want more than
that; they want a connection. Of course, you’re not to accept
silences in the classroom because a grace-filled community requires every voice to be heard. It requires us all to listen well. In a grace-filled
community, faculty help them and help students to
comprehend the difference between student and scholar, and that irrespective
of the degree they seek, Bowdoin produces scholars. In this community of grace, faculty, in partnership with
administrators, remain ever alert to the challenges and
opportunities of the day. Rather than plotting strategies to react, they design plans that anticipate. Such faculty and
administrators own the college. They are the first to say, we need to diversify our curriculum, update our pedagogical approaches, anticipate digital delivery systems, reduce our reliance on
traditional means of revenue, and support our students generously. They’re the ones that
say we’re to reach out to alumni frequently, celebrate our intellectual
accomplishments fully, and remind all we must
mold an ethical world. Finally, a grace-filled
community is peopled by those who care about others as much as they care about themselves. Returning to the story
of the Concordia coed, in a grace-filled community, we slow time and ask what we know before
jumping to conclusions only partially informed. Perhaps it is our age, when so
many confuse fast and quick, expedient and prudent. How many times, how many times
have we all sent an email, when, in hindsight, a phone call, would have worked better although
it may have taken longer? Colleges, you see, are
enduring institutions, inhabited by a variety of people. Both the schools and their
inhabitants need care and nurturing. They need the gift of grace. In closing then, my wish
for you, the Class of 2019, is this: leave this place
with hope and drive, determination and humility, purpose and playfulness, and a commitment to bringing grace to whatever community you enter next. Remember, building and
sustaining a grace-filled world should become your legacy. I believe that Bowdoin
has prepared you well. Without question, we count on it. Congratulations again and thank you. (audience applause) – I’m sure it was not lost
on anyone in this room some of the intersecting themes
that remarks this afternoon, which speaks, at least,
to me as I was reflecting on this, listening to Dr. Lewis on how important these themes are and need to reflect
and act on all of them. So I wanna thank Dean Foster,
Dr. Lewis and Gerlin again for remarkable remarks this afternoon. Thank you. (claps) I’d now like to invite George Lopez and our senior singers, Rowan Etzel, Nolan Roche, and Kevin
Yu back to the podium to lead us in our Alma Matter, Raise Songs to Bowdoin. The words, again, on
the back of your program and I would ask you, if
you’re able, to please stand. (“Raise Songs to Bowdoin”) ♪ Raise songs to Bowdoin,
praise her fame, ♪ ♪ And sound abroad her glorious name ♪ ♪ To Bowdoin, Bowdoin lift your song ♪ ♪ And may the music echo long ♪ ♪ O’er whispering pines and campus fair ♪ ♪ With sturdy might filling the air ♪ ♪ Bowdoin, from birth,
our nurturer and friend ♪ ♪ To thee we pledge
our love again, again ♪ ♪ While now amid thy halls we stay ♪ ♪ And breathe thy spirit day by day ♪ ♪ Oh may we thus full worthy be ♪ ♪ To march in that proud company ♪ ♪ Of poets, leaders and each one ♪ ♪ Who brings thee fame
by deeds well done ♪ ♪ Bowdoin, from birth,
our nurturer and friend ♪ ♪ To thee we pledge
our love again, again ♪ (audience applause) – Thank you all again, that was beautiful. Congratulations again to our seniors and soon to be graduates. We look forward to seeing
you all tomorrow on the quad for our 214th commencement. And I, now, would like
to invite our seniors, family and friends next door
to the Farley Field House for the Down East Lobster Bake. (members of the audience cheering) (calm music)

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