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  • 1929 : College buildings stay illuminated throughout the night in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Edison’s completion of the first successful incandescent light.

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Commencement 2012 Greetings from the State: Joan Benoit Samuelson ’79

Olympic gold medalist and College Trustee Joan Benoit Samuelson ’79 delivered Greetings from the State of Maine during Bowdoin’s 207th Commencement held Saturday, May 26, 2012.

I believe I was chosen to deliver “Greetings from the State” to you this morning because most people would tell you that I have lived in Maine all my life. However, Burt and I, two of Maine’s most celebrated humorists, would have been quick to say, “not yet.”

Olympic gold medalist and College Trustee Joan Benoit Samuelson '79 delivers Greetings from the State at Commencement.

Okay, maybe I’m here because this year Bowdoin observes 40 years of Women commencing from the College and I was fortunate enough to have been admitted in one of the earliest classes of women thirty-seven years ago. The stars even seem to be aligned for the occasion as the transit of Venus will take place in just over a week…an event that won’t happen again in our lifetimes.

Having lived in Maine a good portion of my life, it seems to me that Maine and Bowdoin are inextricably linked right down to the roots of the pine trees that define our State and campus. These roots spread far and wide absorbing what is good and emitting what is even better. I’m blessed to be rooted here in Maine and know that as I run around the world advocating for sustainability of health and wellness and natural resources, I can always come home to a place that is known for its beauty on all levels, especially as it relates to understanding the importance of serving the common good.

It is important not to let the sun that greeted you during your matriculation four years ago set with your commencement today. The sun is a remarkable and renewable resource that sheds light on so much of what goes on in our world, just like a Bowdoin education.

Life, like the tides of Casco Bay and the world’s oceans, will pull you through ebbs and flows as you go forth from Bowdoin. No two tides or experiences will ever be the same and every new tide and experience invites opportunity. Remember, tides are also a constant…always changing but always coming back.

Your education, along with your Bowdoin classmates and Bowdoin alumni, will support your efforts in any port that you chose to work, live, raise a family or visit. Know that you can always come back to your Port of Call here at Bowdoin as we will always rise and celebrate your inspiring and innovative accomplishments as you enter the world on what will hopefully be a rising tide of optimism.

As you set sail, make it a priority to set your moral compass on what truly matters when it comes to making a difference in an increasingly smaller but more complex world. May Bowdoin and Maine show up frequently on your home screens and GPS systems.
There is a lot of good happening here in Maine and bright, young and passionate minds can make it an even better place. Keep your Maine bearings, and go you bears!