Katharine M. Nolan
On behalf of the Class of 2006 I would like to welcome President Hansen, Trustees, Deans, Parents, friends, and siblings to our class’ baccalaureate. The ceremony today highlights all of the creative and imaginative energy within our class, and I’m excited to be a part of it.
I have been thinking about what I’d like to say to all of you since the day John and I were elected. This short speech has been the hardest piece of writing I’ve ever done, maybe a close second to thesis. Partly because there are so many things I want to express, and mostly because as I write the bleachers for graduation are being erected on the quad, making tomorrow more real than ever.
One of the uniting characteristics of our class is that we defy generalities and categories. Yet, there is one thing we all do share. One of the reasons we chose the idea of passion as the theme for today is because the motivation and effort we put into our myriad and unique undertakings is something that does define us all. From my perspective, I can see the faces of leaders and intellectuals, of comedians and artists, people who excel in the classroom, people who excel only in video games, and people who seem to excel in everything. It is because I know that our class is brilliant that I hold every one of us to the highest of expectations.
It is amazing that we have learned so much, from Bates and from each other. Yet, we still have a ways to go, so much more to learn about ourselves and our world, and most importantly how we’ll grow into our own lives. The bias incidents of this year have taught all of us to step back and look more closely at who we are and who we mean to be. We have learned that it is not enough to simply sit back-passive participators in our own comfortable niche each of us have carefully carved out. As we leave this place of comfort we will be forced to make many decisions about who we are, what we want to stand up for, and what we will live for.
While I was searching for a job this year, I was struck by the freedom of that question. What do we want to live for? Inherent is the implication that we may chose, a luxury of great worth and great responsibility. We are allowed freedoms and choices many are not , and we must therefore give great thought to our decisions and realize the implications of our choices. What will we allow to define our lives and ourselves?
Here at Bates we have lived for many things:
Long tables full of friends at every meal, a warm cup of coffee and the Ronj with the Strange Bedfellows, two drinks for the price of one on Tuesdays, a game winning shot or limit busting time, the achievement of a well earned grade, warm afternoons lying out on the quad, cold ones riding the lifts at the River, Loaf or Valley.
We’ve lived for the insanity of the Halloween dance, gluttony of Harvest Dinner, and elegance of Gala.
We’ve lived for the encouragement and smiles from commons employees, the support of friends through exams, applications, successes, and losses, our own deeply held ideals about life being challenged, torn down and rebuilt.
We’ve lived to be inquisitive and thoughtful, yet impulsive and uninhibited.
We’ve lived from day to day, making lists to remember our tasks, toiling in the stacks of George and Helen, fingers flying gracefully on keyboards.
We’ve lived for each other, for ourselves, for our parents, for our team, for our futures, for our community and for our school.
Now we must take all of that with us to start our lives in a new place, our uniting class characteristic- passion for our lives and goals, supporting us and guiding us. We are up to the challenge of the freedoms we are gifted.
When I think back to my time at Bates I will think on many things. Surely this weekend will be up high on the list. But I think I will always remember walking back to my room at the end of the day across this beautiful campus, with snow or sun or rain on my back, remembering my day and extracting the parts I’d need for the next. I usually found myself smiling by the end of that walk, and when next year I need something to smile about I will remember this place and our time here. I hope all of you can find a similar moment to look back on when we’re on our own. I hope, when you’re deciding how you’re going to shape your lives, you can remember the best parts of the way we lived here.