Litany for the Class

Jeffrey D. Critchlow, Kirstin C. McCarthy, Shazrai O. Meikle, Jared T. Olson, Matteo A. Pangallo, Alake Pilgrim, Andrew J. Rahedi, Jessica S. Thomashow, Ryan J. Weaver, and Katherine M. Yang

We came to Bates in one millennium, and we are leaving in another. We all came to Bates expecting something. We engaged with the unfamiliar, anticipating a certain progress within ourselves. This was our autumn, walking across campus when it was new to us, our branches grasping leaves that were on the verge of color, sensing change. This is how we all started here—initially independent, in search of the same thing: a transformation and an affirmation of ourselves. We painted the weather ahead with our hopes and potential. We predicted that we would become more intellectual, more unique, more aware, more focused, more grown. And we were right. Bates was and, in some ways, will always be our soil, allowing us to be at once grounded and growing. This soil has encouraged development in us, accepted and supported us as academic, emotional, and social learners. And out of this rich soil, we have grown to become poets and playwrights, biologists and baseball players, debaters and social activists, and, of course, friends. We have grown to become friends.

Our experience here has been shaped by both local and global events. Voting in our first presidential election proved to be a white-knuckle affair as we watched with the rest of the nation while the closest presidential race in decades was decided by some hanging chads. Nearly a year later, whether we were here in Lewiston, Maine, or continents away, we will never forget where we were on that early September morning. We waited as the dust settled, we watched as the numbers climbed, and we wondered as the strikes in Afghanistan began. We let our voices be heard on Iraq. Whether we listened, protested, or hung an American flag, our convictions and our hearts were tested. And many of us have also come to know loss in a deeply personal way during these past four years. This, in turn, has shown us how to overcome adversity and revealed the power of friendship and family. The world has forced us to grow up, forced us to lose some of our innocence; but through talking and listening together, through the strength and resilience of our collective spirit, and through the love and compassion of friends and family, we have survived emotionally, intellectually, and politically trying times. Though we may never have the exact answers to our many questions, we must keep asking them. Whether through art or activism, writing or music, sports or dance, we continue to seek meaning in the rhythm of our daily lives.

We are both local and global. From ushering in Bates’ seventh President to standing with neighbors and fellow Mainers in support of diversity at the Many and One Rally; from passing a resolution against U.S.-led military action in Iraq to organizing the College’s annual Take Back the Night rally; from starting newspapers to creating a new space for ideas to be heard, from studying Italian art in Florence to reading Frost on the Quad, from trips to the pub to a classic Sox-Yankees game at Fenway, from senior theses analyzing U.S. foreign policy to those documenting Lewiston’s history, from research into the far reaches of space to studies of microorganisms, our experiences have indeed been local and global.

For the last four years, we give thanks. To those who challenged us with their questions, gave us room to find answers, and inspired us to make our own inquiries, to the faculty, thank you. To those who fed us when we were hungry (chicken patties, anyone?), who tirelessly kept Bates looking beautiful, who thanklessly helped to keep us safe, and who quietly kept this place running every day, we thank you. Finally, to those who are an indispensable part of us, to those who gave us the direction and freedom we needed, to those without whom we would not be here and to those who could not be here today; to our families and friends, we offer words of thanks and love. Without your support, guidance, strength, and laughter, we would not be who we are today. Thank you.

As we had hoped on that first day when we entered college, we have changed, but our changes have come from places we never anticipated. They came from the balance between where our dreams were realized and where they fell, between the times when we knew exactly where we were and when we were more than lost. The changes we have experienced come from the constant stream of negotiations we make between our selves and the world, between our selves and those who have forever affected us—our professors, our friends from Bates, our friends from Lewiston. We have learned to shape the world as we meet it; and out of this has come the shaping of our lives. Our experiences at Bates have brought us to a season that is new again, where we have discovered an intuition for the weather. We have gained a consciousness of how to grow individually and as part of a larger community.

And so it is up to us to carry this consciousness forward as we move beyond Bates, to remember that the leaves we find opening at our fingers are connected to the roots that we have sunk in the rich soil here. We have learned, in the space between the fall and the spring, between our faults and our flights, our successes and our failures, to stay committed to our growth as we move into the future.