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“What unites us as humans is far more powerful and important than what divides us,” Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith A. McHale told graduates of Colby at the College’s 189th Commencement Sunday, May 23. “From Waterville to Moscow to Islamabad, people everywhere share the same aspirations for their families and communities.”
The former CEO of Discovery Communications, now a member of the Obama administration, advised students: “As you consider how you will make use of your Colby education and dedicate your knowledge, time, and energy in the future, I urge you to focus on the ways to tap into the potential of partnerships based on human commonality and to avoid becoming blinded by the superficial differences between people, the manmade barriers that impede mutually beneficial relationships.” [Transcript of McHale’s speech.]
Four members of previous classes were named before the 477 members of the senior class accepted bachelor’s degrees from President William D. Adams. The formal ceremony on Colby’s main academic quadrangle took place on a perfect 70-degree spring day with light breezes and bright sun.
Steven A. Tatko of Willimantic, Maine, elected by his peers as class speaker, urged his classmates to “Be true to who you are.” He described an encounter in the summer before coming to Colby, when he was working at his family’s slate-mining business. He crawled out from under a dump truck, greasy and filthy from head to toe, to greet a stylish woman in white capri pants shopping for a sink. “That poor woman looked at me like I had every disease known to man a two spare arms sticking out of my side.”
After a few moments of conversation, “She asked what I was going to do with my life, as if clearly someone as filthy as me had a singular vision. With all the pride I could muster I said, ‘I’m going to Colby,’ and the look of shock returned to her face as she wished me well.”
Tatko quoted his father, who told him after the encounter, “Never be ashamed of who you are and what you do. People may look at you as if you are nothing, for one reason or another, but, once they see the goodness inside you, then they can’t help but to respect you. … I hope, Dad, that I’ve been able to live up to your example,” Tatko said. He told his classmates, “I believe it is our duty as human beings to do for others what the people who supported our lives did for us.” [Transcript of Tatko’s speech.]
Leading the class procession were top academic graduates valedictorian Alexandra E. Wesnousky of Davis, Calif., and class marshal Brian P. DiMento of Rowley, Mass. Sameera Anwar of Bahrain won the Condon Medal, awarded for constructive citizenship. It is the only award presented at graduation.
In addition to McHale, four others also received honorary Colby doctoral degrees: Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah of Princeton University; Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes; and Professor Joshua Silver of Oxford University. who is director of the Centre for Vision in the Developing World.