President Clayton Rose, who chaired the event, noted that in the weeks leading up to this moment, he had wondered how to make the last Bachelor of his presidency a memorable one. His son suggested he be shot from a cannon.
“His idea made my mind wander,” Rose said, and he pondered the feasibility of ziplining Hubbard or battling a polar bear. He finally decided to share with the graduating class what he had in mind.
“I hope you will take some time to reflect on exactly what you have achieved here,” he said, making it clear that it was not just about academics, artistic work, athletics or on duty.
During the pandemic, “almost every person everywhere in the world has had their life turned upside down and every organization in the world has been severely affected,” Rose said. “So many families have been affected, including many here.”
Taking online classes and having your college years turned upside down “was not only unfair, it was brutally difficult, and it took a toll on everyone, here in Bowdoin and around the world,” he said. he continued. “Furthermore, during this period, the problems facing our society and the world have grown and worsened.: political discord, cultural discord, the banning of books, the climate emergency, the normalization of identity and confessional hatred, among others..”
“While none of us wished for any of this, the truth is that you are tougher, tougher, wiser and more capable as a result of what you have had to face and overcome. , and you should have a powerful sense of your ability to handle and prevail over what comes next.
“For that reason, with you all ready to lead and make change, I’m incredibly optimistic about our future.”
Read Rose’s full remarks.
Student lecturer Sarah Lührmann ’23: “Bowdoin, Our Compass”
Each year, a student lecturer for the Baccalaureate is selected after submitting an essay for consideration. Lührmann’s entry, “Bowdoin, Our Compass,” was chosen out of the pool this year, an honor that comes with the top DeAlva Stanwood Alexander Award.
In her remarks – which earned her an extended standing ovation from the audience – Lührmann recalled the first time she set foot on the Bowdoin campus as a first-generation international student. “I arrived with a suitcase, a sleeping bag and the nauseating feeling that my lack of sheets was signaling to the world that I was missing a crucial map for navigating through college.”
Now she knows she probably wasn’t the only one who felt like she was missing important instructions. “I realize in retrospect that many of you, whether or not you share my first generation identity, have experiences that resonate with mine and cards that didn’t feel like enough when you first came to Bowdoin. time.”
There were also times when she knew the community at large desperately needed a map, or better yet, a compass. “From enduring the pandemic to navigating the losses of our friends and classmates, the Bowdoin community needed more than a fixed map. Compasses are adept at calibrating to the magnetic fluctuations that are life, using them as points of reference, just as I found myself using Bowdoin’s values when I needed direction.”
She continued: “When I think of my compass, I think of the beekeeping articles my favorite dining room swiper Doug shared with me, of the kindness of the Thanksgiving invitations pouring in every year from those who knew I would spend it alone otherwise, and the classmates who graciously shared the secrets of their cards with me…” she said. “These points of interconnection are what I hope we can take away from here as we prepare for the challenges of this new, post-Brussels part of our lives.”
Read Lührmann’s full remarks.
Janet Yang, Bachelor’s Lecturer: “Creating the Story of Your Life”
Yang, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, was one of five Bowdoin winners this year. She was elected president in August 2022 after a long career serving the Academy and is the first Asian American to hold the position.
In her humorous, thoughtful and warm address, Yang shared some of her life story, saying she understands that her biography and accomplishments “have become a symbol and a beacon of hope for others, especially women, especially people of color, but maybe less obviously.” , I also hope for those who feel any uncertainty in their lives, who do not feel exactly in a box.
She began by recalling her mother’s youth in Hunan, China, where her mother was granted permission to study in the United States at the University of Michigan. There she met Yang’s father. But when revolution swept through China in 1949, their funding was cut off. Struggling to make a living in the United States mostly as refugees, they moved to Queens, New York, where Yang’s mother got a job with the United Nations. “Growing up, I had no idea of their agonizing decisions and little sense of their past,” Yang said.
Yang’s family was the only Asian in a Jewish suburb. And Yang remembers dreading the walk down the bus aisle where the kids would tease her by “exaggeratingly looking up and chanting ‘ching chang chung, chicken chow mein’ or something.”
“I, for one, stood in front of the mirror and did the opposite of what bullies do and tried to massage my eyes into a larger, rounder shape, like it was the key to belonging,” she said.
In the early 1970s, Yang’s parents sent her to a prep school in New Hampshire, where for the first time she met various people. She also traveled to China for the first time in 1972. “After packing suitcases full of rice and cloth for our loved ones, I found myself in this very old, very poor and densely populated country that was nothing like what I had never known.”
The family reunion in China brought laughter, tears, chatter and many stories. Her curiosity for the country became an obsession, and in 1980, after graduating from college, she moved to Beijing. “After a lifetime of being seen as a minority, feeling the weight of scrutiny and anxiety around prejudice, I found it comforting to be in the majority,” she said.
But she remembers being horrified once when she saw a bus full of American tourists and felt contempt for them, as did many Chinese people around her.
“The brilliant writer Noah Yuval Harrari, in his book Sapiensalways insightful about human nature, explains how the very thing that sets our species apart is that we are compelled to believe what others around us believe…” she said. “Our beliefs are a very powerful, and can also be a very destructive one.”
While in China, she also fell in love with Chinese movies, filled with “three-dimensional characters who struggled, loved, lost, and won. Growing up, I just never had that. And now, for the first time, through these films, I felt seen, heard, valued.”
“My excitement seeing these films came with the realization that I had deep-seated prejudices about my own race. With only the most insignificant or negative roles of us presented on screen, I subconsciously absorbed the belief that we weren’t worth being unless we were devilish seducers, servile butlers, or nerdy friends.These new Chinese films gave me the power to believe that we could tell our own stories and be more than disreputable background characters.
“Empowered and emboldened by seeing these larger-than-life images on screen, I wanted others to have the same experience,” she said.
Returning to the United States and living in San Francisco, California, Yang took a job running a theater in Chinatown showing New Chinese Cinema.
Then a Universal Studios executive approached her, asking if she would help him develop the Chinese film market. “I was suddenly planted in an office in Universal City, now connecting Chinese audiences to American films,” she said. “I have once again personally witnessed how the films create tangible bridges between the two nations.”
Fast forward a bit, and one day Steven Spielberg came calling. He asked Yang to help him make a movie in China—the big Empire of the Sun. “He heard that I was the only one who went through China and Hollywood,” she said. She was hired on a gigantic production with 5,000 extras in Shanghai, working with a major director. “Of course I had no reason to be there…except for all the ‘impractical’ things I did that led me to this.”
Three and a half decades and sixteen films later, Yang said that “my mission and core values to bring underrepresented voices to the fore and increase empathy through filmmaking have been the steady beat of my work.” She participated in the production Joy of Luck club, Black matter, Shanghai Call, above the moon, And The People vs. Larry Flynt.
But in the midst of these successes, there have been “flops or crossfades”. “And that’s true for just about every creative path – the line isn’t straight, but more often than not jagged, dotted, or blurry,” she said.
“It’s what I call, perhaps euphemistically, the creative path. It’s the one you can all follow to design your life,” she said, adding that she believes curiosity , courage, collaboration and calling underpinned any creative journey.
“My wish for you…is that your creation be filled with joy, truth, purpose and love, and that in doing so, you may help uplift humanity,” she concluded.
Read Yang’s full remarks.
Bachelor of Music
Audiences were guided through renditions of “America the Beautiful” and “Raise Songs to Bowdoin” by singers from the Class of 2023 and pianist George Lopez, Robert Beckwith Artist-in-Residence,