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The ability to compete and willingness to take risks are two keys to success, commencement speaker and Colby alumnus Robert E. Diamond, president of Barclays PLC, told graduates of Colby’s Class of 2008 Sunday, May 25. “Most importantly,” he said, “find that place, find that spot, find that organization that has values that match your values.”
Diamond, a member of Colby’s Class of 1973 and a leader in international finance, shared the podium with senior Patrick Sanders, the student-elected class speaker, and with President William D. Adams, who presented diplomas to 521 members of the class on a sunny day on the lawn of Miller Library. Class marshal and valedictorian Christian Vesa of Arad, Romania, led the procession of seniors.
Diamond talked about how the world had changed since his graduation, 35 years ago. “In those days, America was truly ahead of the rest of the world. In those days there was a real advantage to an American education. There was a real advantage to American business experience. In those days, we were literally sent out to teach the world, to teach the world about free enterprise and to teach the world about open and honest competition. And you know what? The world has learned that lesson. … Today you’re going out into a global talent pool.”
After talking about “the jaw-dropping academic qualifications” and the hunger to succeed of graduates from emerging countries, he told the Class of 2008 that, coming from Colby, they are extremely well prepared. “I know you can compete. I know you can keep up with this more difficult global talent pool,” he said, based on Barclays experience hiring Colby graduates.
On the eve of becoming a Colby parent — his son Charlie enrolls at Colby this fall — Diamond passed along advice from his own father.
Diamond’s father taught him early in life to find a place where he could make a difference, even if it wasn’t the most sought-after position. Recalling his decision to be a catcher in Little League when he was 8 years old, Diamond said, “It wasn’t going to be my skill that got me a position, it was going about attitude and hard work. What my dad did is he suggested where I could best compete.”
Competition is a major part of Diamond’s work now, as president of the London-based Barclays PLC and the architect of strategies that have produced record performances for Barclays through Barclays Capital, Barclays Global Investors and Barclays Wealth. Diamond reminded Colby graduates that they enter a competitive global marketplace.
“Whoever you work for, if they’re any good at all, they’re going to be constantly measuring you against your peers, and in order to succeed, you’re going to need to be able to perform in the top tier,” he said. “So It’s important to find something where you can compete — don’t look for status, don’t look for glory, find a place where you know you can succeed, find somewhere where you can make the most of what you have.”
In choosing a career path, Diamond said, graduates should not feel compelled to follow the pack. “The easy option is not always the best option,” he said. “The tough call is often a much better call.”
Sanders, of Fairfax, Va., delivered the class speech and was a recipient, along with Laura Perille ’08 of Englewood, Colo., of the Condon Medal for distinguished service. A four-year varsity athlete, Sanders is known on campus for his involvement on committees and in student groups such as Colby Improv, the Colby Women’s Group, and The Bridge, a club for Colby’s LGBTQ community.
Sanders spoke of the Class of 2008’s commitment to service, both on campus and off. “We’ve been tireless as a class in our efforts to improve town-gown relations, dedicating countless hours of volunteering in the community,” he said.
“We are a class dedicated to creating change here at Colby and a class which has and will continue to make an impact around the world,” he said. But first, “I hope we all see moose on our ways home.”
This was Colby’s first Green Graduation. Alaina Clark ’08, of Casco, Maine, developed the idea as part of a senior project, and the College worked for months to implement sustainability initiatives. Among them: minimizing the use of plastics, reducing electricity use, increasing composting, serving sustainable foods, using 100-percent recycled products, and reducing paper use.
Go to the commencement site for full transcripts, audio and video of the ceremony.