2015 Class Speaker Margaret M. Bower

May 24, 2015

Margaret M. Bower '15Welcome, everybody, and thank you so much for letting me be up here today addressing you. I couldn’t be more honored and touched. As I’ve said many times over these past few weeks, this is honestly the nicest thing that’s ever happened to me, maybe second only to the time my summer camp counselor told me I was—and I quote—“very good at taking orders.” Or that time my doctor told me that my ankles are “unusually loose.” So this is a wonderful, wonderful thing, and I couldn’t be more worked up, excited, and totally panicked to be up here.

I really want to start with some thank-yous. Everyone in the senior class owes everyone here many thank-yous. Thanks first, of course, to Mom and Dad for everything. I owe you both so much—and in fact everybody here owes their mom and dad so much. Can we give it up for parents?

My dad told me he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to come today because he was so nervous about this speech, so I’m glad he was able to conquer his fears and be here today. Thanks for coming, family.

I also really want to thank the faculty of this College, who have dragged us, pushed us, carved paths for us throughout our four years here, and for that we owe them the ability to write, think, draw, dance, read, make science potions, you name it. Thank you all so much.

I also really want to thank the staff of this college—PPD, Sodexo, the staff in the Eustis Mail Room, and everyone who helps make this place run. We have been unbelievably lucky to live in a place where we don’t have to think about the food in our dining halls, the rugs of grass on our lovely lawns—or the vomit on our walls. We’re so lucky!

“Colby has given us as many tools as it can, but really it’s given us the tools to figure out how to learn all the stuff they can’t teach us here.”

I also would really like to say a very special welcome to Mr. Robert Redford, who’s here to address us, which is very exciting. I’m glad the class has chosen us to speak at the same event. It really feels like we’re the perfect pairing, as many of our accomplishments align so closely. For example: Mr. Redford has starred in way over fifty feature-length films, and I, as you of course all know, played the title role in The Little Red Hen in the second grade. In addition, Mr. Redford founded the famous Sundance Film Festival and the Sundance Institute, two incredible institutions for independent filmmakers, and here at Colby I’m a founding member of the cribbage club, which meets in the pub on Tuesdays and really does amazing work for stretching the weekend from Tuesday all the way to Sunday. Mr. Redford is also widely considered one of the most handsome men in the world, and one time someone told me I look better in a baseball cap. Also, the other day a freshman called me “ma’am” when I was working in the post office, so I’m clearly aging gracefully. So, as I’ve said, we’re clearly well matched to speak to you together today. We’re the absolute natural pairing, and we’re the best of friends. Which is a real perk.

But, putting my bud Rob aside for a minute, I just wanted to preface this all by saying that I think the concept of a senior class speaker is a little strange in some ways, because, let’s be honest, what on earth could I have to say that is in any way wise? I’m sure no one put me up here for my wisdom. So I can only conclude that I’ve been asked to speak because we want someone to reflect on our collective experience. Of course that, too, is absurd, because who am I to reflect on the entire experience of five hundred people? It’s impossible. So I’m left with, basically, reflecting on my own experience, which I have to say has been exhilarating, exhausting, informative, and really such a gift. How lucky have I been to be able to walk this campus, live here, learn here, meet people that I’ve been obsessed with for four years and will continue to be obsessed with for the rest of my life. Some of you don’t know this, but I have a group I made on my Facebook called “Stalkable,” and I’ve put a pretty good number of you on that list. Just FYI. Please feel free to approach me following this speech to let me know if you would like to be added to the list. Unfortunately I cannot approve anyone’s removal. I need you on there for my personal use.

With that confession, I want to start by telling you all a story about my very first interaction with Colby. I was maybe seven years old, and my dad, who’s Class of ’80, had brought my brother, who’s Class of 2017, and me to a football game. We were walking around the track during the game, and for some reason my brother had gotten some hard candy from somewhere. He was notoriously bad with hard candy, and so he of course started choking on it. And as I remember it, my brother was suddenly swarmed by all these doctors. And I remember them sticking all these tubes and suction cups in his throat, and none of it was working, and I was thinking: “This is terrible! The doctors can’t save him!” Finally my Dad pulled all the tubes out of his throat and just stuck his finger in there and dug the candy out and it was all fine. But I was still shocked and in awe that the doctors couldn’t save him.

And then it was just this year that I had the realization that those “doctors?” They were just—us. They were Colby students who took a class on EMT training and were absolutely doing their best, but ultimately they didn’t really know anything. None of us does! And that really feels like what’s happening here at graduation. I’m leaving just when I’ve figured out that I don’t know anything. I’ve actually never been more aware of how little I know, and that’s kind of beautiful.

Margaret M. Bower '15

A lot of adults have been saying to me lately, “Millennials, they just go out in the world and they don’t know anything. They’re all texting and FaceTiming and taking screenshots of their bitcoins.” And I was thinking about that, and I just want to say to all those Generation Xers: “Yeah, we don’t know anything. And it’s awesome.” Oh my gosh, how exciting is it that we don’t know anything. It’s honestly the best possible outcome of this whole graduation thing. We get to go forth knowing absolutely nothing and being totally okay with it, with that being totally the whole point. We’re young and stupid and don’t know anything about the real world and it’s going to be the best. We’re going to figure it out. And I know this because, although those EMTs might not have known exactly what they were doing, they were brave enough to try. We’ll figure it out, because I’m pretty sure no one, not even most adults, knows exactly what they’re doing. But with a little Colby-instilled guts, we’re going to try and make it work.

I can’t wait to learn to try to do my taxes, or learn how to talk about budgets and financial futures and family planning, and learn to cross a busy city street without the safety net of twenty-five speed bumps. I’m so excited to go apply for work in the paper mill, or use the word “commute” with regularity. Don’t get me wrong. Colby has given us as many tools as it can, but really it’s given us the tools to figure out how to learn all the stuff they can’t teach us here. Colby has prepared us to be brave facing these things we don’t know, whether it’s dislodging hard candy from my brother’s throat or learning what a W-2 form is. And that’s pretty cool, and I’m very grateful for that.

The other thing that’s so hard about graduation is that I just realized I really, really like school. And not necessarily in terms of homework and papers, which I can sometimes trick myself into liking too—I just like the aesthetic of school. I like the weird new wood smell on the third floor of Miller Library and the way that hundreds of us are using three floors of a library and no one’s doing anything crazy. Honestly, that fact has always blown my mind. When we are all working in the library, there is no adult for miles. There’s nobody in charge of us. Why are we not screaming, panicking, throwing things, making out, punching walls, eating noisily, sleeping in study carrels? Why? Why not? We’re just sitting there diligently learning. No one told us to, and that also is pretty beautiful.

I also love the way the grass is laid out like a beautiful carpet for us to use and enjoy—someone bought grass carpets to make it look like this today. The snow literally just melted less than a month ago, and we have green grass at Colby. It’s incredible. I love it! I also love the smell of the Eustis basement and especially the way the apartment hallways smell like crushed plaster and good times.

And I’m also frustrated by graduation, because I feel like I just figured out how to do things here. For example, I just figured out where the athletics center is. I still haven’t been, but. I just figured out that you’re supposed to return your items to the Outing Club, I just learned how to make a PowerPoint presentation, I just learned how to talk my way out of a parking ticket, how to get on the roof of Runnals. I just learned how to write a sentence, basically. And I’m just standing up here, looking out at all of you, realizing I just feel confident enough, right now, to approach each of you and say, “Hey, classmate. Let’s be friends. I think you’re pretty cool.”

But I guess that’s the thing. As soon as you’re too comfortable, they make you leave. And that’s the way it should be, and that’s what’s happening here. We’ve learned a whole lot, and we don’t know anything. And that’s good. And I’m excited.

Thank you, Class of 2015. This has been a true honor, and I love you. Thank you!

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