Written by members of the Senior Class, the litany recalls both the distinct and shared experiences of the Class of 2008 and speaks of their common values and hopes.
The litany is meant to be the word of the class, rolling all of our collective feelings, memories and experiences into one cohesive speech. Most people would say this is impossible because we’re all so different, and they’d rattle off all the different categories we fall into: the athletes, the musicians, the artists, the actors. I think this kind of thinking is flawed, though. Of course we all do different activities, but rather than thinking about the differences of what we each did in our time at Bates, when we look back over our four years we should focus on the little things that we all did, the common ground that we’ll always stand on.
Coming into freshman year we were assigned a “common read” so that we could start our Bates careers on the same page. For some of us, Soul of a Citizen represented the rare opportunity to blow off our first college assignment before we even set foot on campus. But whether you read the book or not, the principle of the “common read” has lasted. Even if we haven’t all read the same book or didn’t choose the same majors or live in the same dorms, all of us share a common set of experiences and memories, some of which you may even think you’ve forgotten for a few weeks or months or even years, and you’ll hear some word or phrase that brings it all back. Maybe it’ll be as simple as someone using the phrase, “call on me.”
We all tried to get into our classes on time and were forced to write shameless petitions after randomization. During exam week we all crammed into the library and lurked over people who were taking too long on a computer. We all ate in Commons and stayed for hours, talking about nothing at all. Throughout the winter we put our friendships aside and fought viciously for a spot in one of our tiny parking lots. Every one of us wrote a thesis, whether it resembled a full-year marathon or it was more like a one-week sprint. We all withstood a four-year barrage of announce e-mails, ranging from vaguely informative to downright ridiculous. Thanks to the incessant tabling outside Commons we’ve all mastered the fine art of ignoring people. We’ve all been subjected to a poorly-timed fire alarm and have seen some poor soul trudge outside in a towel. Each of us has rolled the dice with the housing lottery, and most of us have lost.
These are all things that all Batesies can relate to, though, just like any alum will remember a Halloween dance and the Puddle Jump and the Pub Crawl, but the Class of 2008 is unique in many ways. We came through Bates during a time of great transition and flux; when we return for a visit in ten years we may not even recognize this campus. We’re in the midst of the Master Plan and our campus is growing and improving with leaps and bounds, and we’re one of the few classes that has enjoyed some of the new and can also remember the old. We remember when Alumni Walk was a street. We remember when you could fit two plates on a tray and there was only one Rand. We remember when the only flat screen in a dorm common area was on someone’s laptop. We remember when there was only one Commons, and we’ll always be able to explain which group sat where. We remember when Hedge was a freshman dorm that bred frightening, cultish behavior, and we remember when the Bill was chem.-free. We remember when the Den was the late-night destination. We also remember the diversity rally and the turning of the tide in the struggle to bring more diversity to campus. In ten years Bates will likely look very different than it does now in ways that don’t involve new buildings or walkways, and that’s a great thing.
Some of the memories we share have little to do with Bates in particular and have more to do with timing. We came into college at the same time as Facebook, and subsequently spent four years poking, wall posting and frantically de-tagging. We remember the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 and standing around the celebratory trash barrel fire outside of Smith. We’ve spent our Thursday nights riveted by “The O.C.” and “LOST,” and as a class we’ve murdered at least 100 hip-hop songs. We remember when driving home wasn’t more expensive than flying home and when a year at Bates cost less than $40,000. We remember when there was no such thing as YouTube, and we wonder how we ever procrastinated without it.
What’s really funny is that despite all this common experience and memory, we’ll all remember these times and places and events a little differently, with a personal slant. Think of the library: some will remember spending seemingly endless hours there all semester long, and some will remember making a social sweep to distract their friends. Others will remember desperately begging people for a Mac-Gray card to photocopy a reserve reading. What about when someone mentions Commons? Will you picture the new or the old? Will you see yourself in the big room, the little room, up on the Mezzanine, browsing the salad bar, trying to smuggle your friends in during Short Term? Were you a dedicated fan of make-your-own-omelets or did you not even know that Commons opened before noon? Will you think of late-night breakfast or crispitos? Will you wonder what a crispito actually is? Maybe you’ll think of Harvest Dinner or Adventures in Dining.
Even certain places and things around campus that seem completely neutral hold unique meanings to us all. When you think of a sunrise at Bates, will you picture yourself admiring it from atop Mt. David or from a computer lab in P-gill? When you want to remember our Quad, will you see yourself crossing it on a bright and sunny fall afternoon, or during a light snowfall late at night, or at 7 a.m. in the clothes you wore the night before? Will you picture kids walking a tight-rope between two trees or a long-boarder careening out of control? Will you remember sleeping out in the bitter November cold to raise awareness for homelessness?
How about the Puddle? Will you remember walking around it or jumping in it? If you jumped in, was it a polar bear plunge through a hole in the ice or a swan dive in a borderline-offensive costume during the Pub Crawl? Will you think of how disgusting the bottom felt as it squished between your toes? Or the rash you had for the next four days?
When someone asks you about a party at Bates, what will you see? Everyone decked out for some ridiculous theme, or just a regular night? What building do you see? Village? An off-campus house? Smith? Page? Do you see yourself crammed into a muddy basement or a filthy kitchen? How about jammed into a one-room double with 20 of your closest friends on your first weekend of college, announcing that everyone in the room is invited to your wedding?
Ours is a story that can’t be told neatly or linearly because that’s not how any one of us remembers our time here, it’s all a blur. And it’s all the little things that will stick with us through the years. It’s the day-to-day nonsense that made these years so amazing and forged these friendships that have changed us forever. You probably can’t remember exactly which classes you took each semester, but you can surely remember the time you got called on while you were sound asleep. You won’t remember the details of every big party, but you’ll remember how fun it was trying to piece them together over a table full of chicken patties the next morning.
The lightest moments are often the most impressive when considering the quality of a Bates student. Some would be most impressed by the overwhelming Mt. David posters or publishable theses or unbelievable voices and athleticism, but our real strengths are far less glamorous. This is a place where you say hi to everyone you see, unless of course it’s awkward, in which case you pretend to read a text message and never lift your head up. But really, these have been four years of saying “good morning” and asking “how was your night?” and “how was your break?” and honestly caring about the answer. This is a place where everyone has best friends but we all move seamlessly from group to group, house to house, table to table. We welcomed each other everywhere and we didn’t lock our doors or our mailboxes and we didn’t hesitate to leave our laptops in that pile outside Commons.
You’ll often look back on these years we spent here and hopefully you’ll always look on them fondly. Some people have likely been telling you, and will continue to tell you, that these have been the best years of your life. I disagree. As great as these years have been I think that you will look back someday and be forced to admit that these years were only the beginning and that things just kept getting better. You’ll take everything you’ve learned here, in and out of the classroom, at home and abroad, and you’ll head out into the world and succeed in everything you set out to do. Remember: Princeton needs a two-week reading period before their exams and we apparently only need one day. So, that means we’re all ten times smarter than a Princeton grad, so we’ve got that going for us.
Your lives will be filled with a richness that has nothing to do with the six-figure salaries that we’ll all inevitably earn. You will be compassionate and generous and you will approach your lives with the same dauntless spirit that helped us have a blast every weekend despite literally going to the same party for four years, usually trudging through snow to get there. You will stay in close touch with many of your friends from Bates, speak sporadically with some others, and yes, there are some friends who you will never see. But they’re a part of you, just the same. The people sitting around you have, in ways large and small, made you the person you are, and no matter where you go or what you do you’re always a Bates grad, Class of 2008.