Address by Thomas Jefferson "T.J." Anderson

Presented for Doctor of Music by Barry A. G. Greenfield ’56, Trustee

unedited transcript

President Hansen — I say that because you are now truly my president — members of the Board of Trustees, distinguished platform guests, members of the faculty, members of the graduating class, families and friends, ladies and gentlemen: Greetings on this significant occasion, and thank you for this honor from this illustrious college.

You entered Bates as freshmen and were soon traumatized by the events of 9/11. Its shadow extended over this class and over the entire world as well. We were forever changed by this tragedy. Yet there is hope. This phenomenal alteration in the way we live and interact with peoples makes us focus on the importance of the arts.

Recently, at the PEN “World Voices: The New York Festival of International Literature,” 125 writers from 43 countries gathered. Wole Soyinka and Salman Rushdie addressed the subject “The Power of the Pen: Does Writing Change Anything?” I paraphrase this to ask, “The Power of the Arts: Does Art Change Anything?” And of course, since I am a composer, I would mention the power of music. I believe all artists are documenters and interpreters of the human experience. They are re-creators of culture. This unique paradigm enables humanity to experience the depth of our existence through poetry, literature, music, dance, art and architecture. All of us are cultural anthropologists.

About 20 years ago, a Russian goodwill ship docked in Boston. Local citizens were invited to view the ship, and my wife and I with many others took advantage of the invitation. When we arrived on one of the decks, to my surprise, a band was playing “Mack the Knife.” I took out a piece of paper and wrote a variation of this particular tune. When the band stopped I presented the music to the trumpet player. He recognized the manuscript immediately and we both began to sing from this manuscript. After we finished we both smiled at each other. He took a medal off his jacket and gave it to me. I have often thought about the way people of different cultures communicate, not only with words, but also with the language of music.

Not only do we transmit cultural ideas through our art forms, but there is power to effect peace. You, the Bates Class of 2005, have inherited a great legacy. From the songs of Pete Seeger to John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” (sung at the Music and Peace Conference of the World in 1969); from Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, with its focal point on “a prayer for inner peace and outer peace” — Dona nobis pacem — to Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, to Arnold Schoenberg’s Friede Auf Erden (Peace on Earth), the emphasis is on human aspirations towards peace. From the Negro spiritual, “I ain’t gonna study war no more” to John Coltrane’s recording in Japan, “Peace on Earth,” in 1956, to my former student Tracy Chapman, to Sting, to Bono — the human cry continues. The message is clear. I urge you all to tune in.

Whatever your discipline may be, and whatever your dreams, if life is to be fulfilling, the arts must play a part of it. In a global society, what better way to communicate?

In your lifetime, you will make a significant choice. If you cling to the “emancipated education,” the concept developed by Dr. Benjamin Mays, an illustrious alumnus of Bates College, that you have received, I’m sure that the elements of truth, understanding, love and justice will prevail. I wish you the blessings of all the world’s religions. I also sincerely hope that the joyous celebration that comes with understanding be with you forever. Peace.