It is the July 4th weekend, the traditional start of summer in Maine, when people “from away” flock here in droves for vacations. I was in New York City on Wednesday visiting alumni and returned early yesterday morning from Kennedy on JetBlue (my preferred airline to Maine from NYC). The plane was packed with New Yorkers and people from all over the country heading to Maine for the weekend. Mainers have a love-hate relationship with all these folks—the business is good, but there is a sense that the increased traffic and crowds interfere with the quality of life we get used to the rest of the year.
A significant number of these visitors show up in Brunswick over the summer, and that keeps our town and the Bowdoin campus very busy. Summer, as I described last week, is a popular time for rising high school seniors and their families to visit college campuses, so our admissions tours are in full swing.
Folks touring Bowdoin these days are likely to run into all sorts of interesting people, including young talented musicians from across the country and around the world who are studying and performing with the Bowdoin International Music Festival. Just the other night, the Ying Quartet performed in Kanbar Auditorium in Studzinski Hall. I’m told it was standing room only and a fantastic event.
The Maine State Music Theatre has also kicked off its season, with daily performances in Pickard Theatre (this week they are doing “My Fair Lady”)—shows that bring hundreds of guests, including many alumni, to campus and to Brunswick.
Meanwhile, academic work continues on campus during the summer. In addition to a wide range of academic conferences that bring outside scholars and researchers to Bowdoin, our faculty and a large number of current students are busy doing research in laboratories, at our scientific field stations, and in the library.
There are also a variety of athletic events and programs taking place here over the summer. Last weekend, Bowdoin hosted the 2010 USA Track and Field Region 1 Junior Olympic Championships, and this week, many aspiring track athletes were on campus for the Fosbury Track Camp (those of you who are my age will remember the high jumper and the Fosbury Flop!).
This is a time to remember the good fortune we have to live in this great country. Despite all the political rhetoric and the partisan bickering we are bombarded with daily in the news and in the media, ours is a very special country that has provided important opportunity to so many of us, and we should be very proud and very grateful.
We should also spend some time this weekend thinking about the young men and women who serve in our armed forces, including the many veterans who have made it possible for our nation to remain strong and secure. It was a great honor for Karen and me to attend the commissioning at Commencement of three of our students joining the U.S. Marine Corps: Luke Flinn, Boomer Repko, and Mike Dooley. We are a College dedicated to the common good and this service represents that commitment in meaningful ways.
As we think about America and our good fortune this weekend, we will undoubtedly also reflect on the significant challenges we face as a nation and society. This has certainly been a week of reflection for me as we have watched the nation’s economy in turmoil and the volatility and lost value in the markets. There are a lot of folks out there who, over the past few months, were looking optimistically to better times—to getting back to where we were a few years ago in the booming economic times. I have written quite extensively about the “new normal” and “reset” that we must become accustomed to in our personal lives and as we think about the College. But I have to admit that even I was caught up in the more optimistic period that took place before May, when many were looking for an economy that would turn the corner.
These last few weeks in world events and in our economy are a reminder that these are new times, that we face difficult choices as a country, and that at some point we must deal with these challenges in a responsible way. This clearly will require sacrifice, hard work, and a renewed strong commitment to the common good as we join together as a nation to chart a sound course for the future.
In observing America’s independence, we celebrate the strength of our citizens and our country, recalling the many struggles we have overcome and the optimism and innovation that have guided our nation through previous difficult periods. I wish you all the very best as you celebrate this great weekend with family and friends. There is no greater treasure than being able to mark these occasions with those who mean the most to us all—and hopefully, there will be some Bowdoin friends in the crowd.
Over the summer, I will continue to offer my thoughts on subjects interesting to me or of importance to the College, but I want to hear your ideas too. If there is a subject you’d like me to address, send me an e-mail at email@example.com