Milton L. Lindholm
Commencement address: Milton L. Lindholm ’35
Greetings and congratulations. If I had entered Bates as a freshman directly from high school — instead, there was a two-year interval — it would have been the year of the big stock market crash and the onset of the worst economic depression in history. And it would also be, and I hate to admit this, 70 years since I sat where you are now sitting. Not literally, of course: Commencement then was in the Chapel, which accommodated the graduating class, the faculty, and family and friends. Bates was smaller, smaller by a half, and it was a strong academic institution, but still my class had its share of authors, poets, doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs.
I want to take this opportunity this morning to set the record straight: I am not one of a hundred or more graduates of those years who claimed to be roommates of Ed Muskie [laughter]. He was a friend, and he lived in a room next door on the top of Parker Hall, top of East Parker. There was an East and West, and never the twain shall meet. To go from one place to the other, you had to go outdoors.
Today, Bates is bigger and better, and you can be proud that you are graduating from one of the best colleges in the country. To quote Daniel Webster, referring to his alma mater Dartmouth, “It is a small college. And yet there are those who love it.” Referring to Bates, it is still a small college, and yet there are those of us who think of it as not one of the best, but the best.
And Bates is proud of you. Your accomplishments are noteworthy; you have learned not only how to earn a living — if the system will allow it — but how to live. You have been caught up in Matthew Arnold’s dictum to have learned “the best that is known and thought in the world.” My message to you this morning is to urge you, as you leave this place for places far and wide, to keep in touch with Bates. Bates needs your vitality, your enthusiasm, your imagination. And you have already demonstrated your willingness to support your college in tangible and concrete and, maybe I should say, bronze ways. I learned only yesterday from a member of the Development Office of your generous and concrete and imaginative gift.
Our good friend Peter Gomes tells a story to Harvard students on an occasion such as this, of the three men who are stranded on an island, in the middle of the ocean, with no help in sight. For his purposes, the three men are always from Harvard, Yale and Princeton. For us, the Bowdoin man scurried about picking up sticks and twigs and dry leaves to make a fire hoping it would attract attention. The Colby man, in big letters in the sand, wrote, “C-O-L-B-Y.” I think he thought he was spelling “Help” [laughter and applause].
The Bates man didn’t do anything, and when he was chastised by his colleagues, who said, “Here we are, stranded in the middle of the ocean, with no help in sight. Don’t you want to be rescued?” And he replied, “I’m a Bates College alumnus. I’m not worried. The Development Office will find me” [laughter].
And so it will! Bates now has your name, your number. You have crossed the threshold, never ever to return, but that would be unfortunate. You have deep roots here that need to be nourished. So cherish the memories of the four years that you have been here. Rejoice in the friendships you have made. Come back as often as you can. Keep in touch. We will want to know where you are, what you are doing, as you continue on the road to success. Best wishes, good luck. I am please, proud and honored to receive this degree. It comes much easier than a formal one! Now I, too, am a member of the Class of 2004. Thank you.