ABC News correspondent Dan Harris ’93 drew on experiences covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to augment his advice to the Class of 2005 at Colby’s 184th Commencement Sunday morning. Student-elected speaker Josh Kahn ’05 shared lessons he learned in four years at Colby, and President William D. Adams handed a diploma to each of the 484 graduates as thousands of onlookers cheered.
The class that arrived at Colby just weeks before the attacks of September 11, 2001, listened as Harris, who has reported from Ground Zero, Afghanistan, and Iraq, urged them to follow events as they unfold. “Whether you agree with the war or not, it may be the most consequential foreign policy step this nation has taken in a generation — and we all have a stake in the outcome,” he said.
Recalling a moment in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, when he dodged a sniper’s bullet, Harris, who reports for World News Tonight With Peter Jennings, Good Morning America, and Nightline, encouraged students to listen to their fears without becoming stifled by them. “Fear is both your friend and your enemy,” he said. ” A healthy dose of fear, insecurity, whatever you want to call it, can lead to careful decision making and good preparation.” But, he continued, “. . . you cannot let it paralyze you.”
Harris urged the young men and women not to let fear discourage them from taking calculated risks. Speaking of his own graduation from Colby, he recounted his own fear. “I was looking down the barrel at the rest of my life, and I had no idea what to do.” So he took his mothers advice: “Pick the coolest thing I could think of to do and give it a shot.” He quickly moved from Bangors NBC station to Portland’s and within seven years was covering some of the most important events in history for a national network.
“When you’re young, you really can afford to take a few hits,” he told grads. “I say: dream up the most exciting possible career you can think of and give it a shot. In my experience, the rewards can be tremendous. This sort of calculated risk can mean the difference between a career that is, as my grandfather says, just work or pure joy.”
Class speaker Josh Kahn ’05, of St. Louis, Mo., shared one lesson from each year of his Colby experience. In his first year, he realized that instead of trying to change his nature he should play to his strengths. As the years progressed he realized that learning is a lifelong process, that he should gain perspective and wisdom through travel and relationships, and that the “real world” is whatever a person makes of it.
The class marshal and valedictorian, Mark Chapman, of Harare, Zimbabwe, led the procession of seniors.
For her commitment to constructive citizenship, Kathryn A. Slemp ’05, of New Canaan, Conn., received Colby’s Randall J. Condon Medal, the only prize presented at commencement.
Richard Greenwood, of Gardner, Mass., received thunderous applause when he stepped onstage to accept his diploma. The only non-traditional student in the class, Greenwood first enrolled at Colby in 1982. After a series of diversions, he returned to Colby to finish his degree this year and made Dean’s List for the first time this spring. He celebrated with an impromptu on-stage trumpet solo.
The Class of 2005 is Colby’s most international class in history — a milestone that coincides with the College being recognized as one of America’s most international campuses. Colby will receive the Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization at the annual meeting of the Association of International Educators on June 1. The College also has been recognized for environmental leadership, with an award from the Environmental Protection Agency and two Maine Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence. Founded in 1813, Colby enrolls 1,800 undergraduates.