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Commencement, May 27, 2007
Kate Braemer '07 was elected by the senior class to be Class Speaker at Colby's 186th Commencement on Sunday, May 27. Braemer was captain of the women's woodmen's team, chair of the special events committee of the Student Programming Board, an admissions volunteer, a COOT leader for both fall and winter orientation trips, a CCAK mentor, and senior pledge volunteer among other activities. She came to Colby from Philadelphia, Pa., and is a sociology major.Welcome and good morning to you, trustees, faculty, staff, parents, friends, family, and the Class of 2007.
We are here to celebrate our accomplishments as well as recognize and appreciate those who have helped us negotiate the migration from bumbling children to quasi-mature adults.
When I think of Colby, I think of several components that create the college experience that we can learn from and take with us on our adventures after we leave here in a few hours with a degree in hand. With these pieces [holding up wooden panels] I will construct a metaphorical walnut and birds-eye maple box with dovetails.
The first aspect of the Colby experience symbolized by this wooden box is community. When we first came to Colby, we came to a school that is really more like a home then an institution. We can thrive because we are in an environment where our advisors are friends and our friends are advisors. We obviously take from this community what we can, but we must also remember to give back, not only by supporting the class fund and becoming involved and supportive alumni, but helping to ensure that Colby is made available to future students from all backgrounds.
Meanwhile, we formed bonds that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. These bonds may bend and stretch and maybe even tear a bit in places when they are tested, but they are bonds that can be repaired in an instant, because they have been formed over a long period of time with people who will also be with us for our coming changes. Even our relationships with people we didn't get to know very well have impacted somehow, since we will remember for years how certain kids used to walk across campus or through the dining hall. Or we will remember that so-and-so was a sociology major or a soccer player or a member of some really tight-knit group of men who all wear colors. And maybe will know their Colby nicknames, like "Stiletto Girl" from freshman year or "The Senator's Wife."
The professors and staff have formed part of our community. Our professors and often their families live with us in dorms or in town, and they open their doors and invite us into their homes for impromptu discussions, dinners—or shed destructions. We know Mary, Lucille, and Dottie, who swipe our cards, all the lovely custodians, and Al, who's always there with a joke. We may be bogged down with schoolwork or the emotional toil of working so hard at relationships with others that we often forget ourselves, but the employees of Colby will remember our names and make us feel welcome here.
We extend our community to the town when we are host to the high school prom pictures by Johnson Pond, in May when we flock this green with skirts and flip flops, or when students get to know the residents by working at the Alfond Youth Center or going to Jorgensen's on a weekly, biweekly, or daily basis. All of these experiences in this place with students, professors, and staff have helped us in the process of self discovery. We are not the same people we were when we walked into this campus initially.
Take a moment right now and remember yourself coming to Colby on move-in day. Perhaps it was sunny and perfect, like today—the movie set we all know Colby is. Or maybe it was below freezing in January after you spent a semester in Europe. Or maybe it does not matter what the weather was when you first came to Colby. Because coming from abroad someone neglected to tell you that Maine, the most northeastern state, can always feel like winter.
Remember the feeling of coming upon campus for the first time as a member of the Class of 2007—or 2006 or 2005. Maybe you are wearing the same shoes today that you wore years ago. Or, perhaps, like me, your wardrobe has changed so drastically that your freshman neighbors and co-COOTers can barely see the same person when you walk through Miller Street in leather boots and baseball hats. But these changes only begin to reveal the intricacies in our evolutions at Colby.
This brings me to the second aspect of the Colby experience: change. We are the same people—just revised. We have changed, our skill-sets have changed, and our ideas about our futures have changes. When I entered Colby I was convinced that I would study international relations and play volleyball. I am not a runner and my spikes were lame so volleyball quickly became so high school to me. Now I am planning on entering into the world of experiential and outdoor education, something which I had no idea could actually be a career. With Colby's assistance we have become people who possess the skills to negotiate an international crisis.
All of us came to school with our pockets full of different tools. Some with prep school educations, some with the facility to speak and read in multiple languages, and some with an extensive knowledge of the north Maine woods. Arriving here we knew nothing of our how our skills and minds would change or what our tools would become. I had no idea I would be trading in my chain link bracelets for chain saws and my cardigans for Carhartts. We can never foresee these changes. We can either go along for the ride and let them catch up to us when we stop to take a breath from crashing down our paths, or we can be stubborn and ignore the signs that read "Slow down, you don't know who are anymore and that's okay."
Because, upon acceptance of the need to change comes the best part—revision. We get to take our erasers or click the delete key and decide what the best course of action is. When can see where we started and where we are and who we want to become. Although it may be easiest to revise once the whole story is complete, we do not have the luxury of seeing the end and then coming back to change what we did not like. It is our duty and responsibility to recognize how we can become better people for ourselves and our surroundings.
And we have seen many changes in our surroundings. We are host to two new buildings on campus, the dean's office has changed, Student Activities has been restructured, and the Bobs Dining Hall has flipped its lid. We were here for Cindy's Thursday grilled cheese, and now we are here for peanut butter and jelly panini with parsley. We do not have a student union and the pub is in the pottery studio.
But what stands out most clearly in my mind is that when we came to Colby, mulematch.com was, in the parlance of our times, all the rage. And we could find our secret matches and wonder why our significant others are only compatible by 23.4 percent. But our relationships cannot be scrutinized by Web sites. Now we have Facebook as a resource to make friends and put up incriminating pictures so we can all stalk each other overtly.
We have formed complete Internet identities in addition to our actual physical selves. But in the midst of all the poking and the editing interests, we cannot forget the value of sitting down and talking to someone face to face. When we leave here and continue to leave message on each other's walls, remember that we do not actually have walls, we have ears and eyes and hands to write each other letters with papers and pens.
The third piece of the Colby box—creativity—is where each of us gets to throw in a bit of our own flavor. It's all about the music and how we choose to use to dance to it. If you've ever been to the Coffeehouse or Champs, you'll know that we can dance pretty differently from one another. It's how we dance and how we dance together that's important. Our swinging arms will bump and our tapping feet will stomp and our eyes will close to hear the music more clearly so we know when to jump or jive. We make the music we dance to and then we decide with whom we want to dance. And our definitions of what makes good music are different. I may prefer polka tunes while another may like country. So we all have our own ideas about the same subject. The physics majors will always discuss the ideal gas law, while the woodsmen's team will never let on to the secret meaning of PV=nRT. Here, we can all coexist, make our own music, and share it with each other.
We will all walk up here soon and receive a degree in well-roundedness, but our degrees do not even delve into the stories, poems, and songs that we have written and sung while here. The impact that we have made on each other cannot be read in Latin, and neither will we realize these waves of influence immediately. On their own, the diplomas would not warrant spending four years, energy, and not a little money. But they represent how students have been shaped as critical thinkers, leaders, and members who are forever changing in this Colby world and the world around us.
Which leads me to the fourth aspect of the box, representing the Colby experience. It's stabilizing and intimidating at the same time, and it goes by the name of challenge. Colby has trained us not to hold back. It has taught us to see just what might be accomplished, because it has taught us not to sell ourselves or others short. We cannot be afraid to push ourselves to new levels in career choices, in relationships, and within our own characters. It's not really as scary as a lot of things we've already accomplished. Maybe some will be more intimidating, but the rewards can be greater the bigger leap you take.
It really is exciting to think about where we will all go from here. There are so many options that we will explore for ourselves and with others. We'll probably produce some great, published scholar who comes back to teach here or another member of NFL Europa.
Wherever we go, we have to remember who supported us on the way and who continues to astound us with their love—the fifth piece of the box that makes everything functional: parents and family. We do not need glue to make this box whole. What we need are excellent role models and pairing nest makers to make it where it needs to be. We must thank our parents, grandparents, siblings, every other family member and friend who has guided us in some way. If we do not appreciate what we have, we are saying that it's okay to let resources and opportunities slip by us, which is wasteful.
So here we have a box. It's going to take me a moment. [Constructs walnut and maple dovetailed box.]
Here we have a box. In this box I can hold something. It could be anything—an object, an idea, or a message. I think the message would say something like: Thank you, Mom and Dad, for everything. I don't know where to start. Because it does not matter where I start, but it should never end. I could begin by thanking my parents for taking me to fencing lessons when I was seven to learn balance and grace. Apparently, they did not work. Or I could begin by thanking them for always setting a stellar example of how to talk out issues, because we always have them. It does not matter what I say first as long as I keep appreciating their hard work and love.
So folks, congratulations on all of your accomplishments. Greatness abounds in our futures. Jump in head first, write letters, use your minds and your hands, and tell your family and friends that you love them.
For video and audio clips of commencement, including the senior class speaker's address, click here.