Bates College graduate Anna Beaudet, center, watches the 2020 Bates commencement ceremony on her laptop Sunday with her mother, Celeste, left, and sister, Bates College sophomore Grace, at their home in Auburn. Graduation ceremonies were prerecorded because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — On Sunday, Bates College President Clayton Spencer in a welcome prerecorded earlier in May at a podium in front of Coram Library, told the Class of 2020 to fight every day for “truth, justice and shared humanity” and to remain resilient in the face of adversity.

Bates College graduate Anna Beaudet watches the 2020 Bates commencement ceremony Sunday on her laptop at her home in Auburn. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Under normal circumstances, the college’s 463 graduating seniors — hailing from 37 states, the District of Columbia and 47 countries — would have been seated Sunday in Bates’ historic quad in front of Coram Library, listening to Spencer speak live.

Instead, like at other colleges and universities across the country, the coronavirus pandemic forced Bates to hold its 154th Commencement via livestream on its website and Facebook page.

“The celebration on this day is distinctly contemporary, a virtual affair brought to us by the aptly named novel coronavirus,” Spencer said. “Rather than squeezing ourselves into chairs lined up row upon row in the Historic Quad, we come together from our individual homes and stopping places across the United States and the globe.”

Resilience was mentioned repeatedly throughout Sunday afternoon’s commencement.

Spencer said poet Derek Walcott once wrote, “Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.”

“Over time, the Class of 2020 will become the vase reassembled,” Spencer said. “As the metaphor of the vase suggests, the Class of 2020 promises to emerge as a distinct and memorable class tied to each other, and to Bates, by bonds that owe their strength to overcoming breakage and separation.”

In her senior address to her classmates, Alexandra Onuoha, a dance and psychology double major from Malden, Massachusetts, told the Class of 2020 the story of her mother, who came from Jamaica to the United States to receive an education in business management.

Onuoha told her classmates that before her mother finished school, she became a mother and spent the next 15 years managing a beauty supply store in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Onuoha’s mother went back to school and received a degree in medical administration.

“(My mother) never lost faith, and never stopped when an obstacle confronted her,” Onuoha said. “She instilled in me the values of consistency, activism, initiative and warmth. I got to exercise these values at Bates College, and during my four years here, I got to witness my lovely class embody these values. That’s why Bates is like a second home to me.”

Onuoha lauded the seniors involved with the Amandla Black Student Union, who helped create the campus’ first Social Justice Theme House.

“(The house) offers a more-inclusive space,” she said, “and women of color and other affinity groups have run events and programs, even during this peculiar time, to make sure all identities are welcome.”

Anna Beaudet graduated from Edward Little High School in 2016 and Bates College on Sunday. Her plan is to look into nursing school. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Onuoha urged her fellow classmates to “find strength and resilience in the face of this unprecedented situation.”

“We get to walk towards the next chapters of our lives as the writers of our own stories,” she said. “Our story is emotional, it’s beautiful and it’s real.”

“Anytime I doubt myself, I remember my mother telling me, ‘Stay strong and walk like you got some sense,’” Onuoha said at the end of her speech.

Award-winning performing artist Vanessa German delivered a special commencement greeting to the Class of 2020 near the end of the livestream, reading a poem that told students the world was “waiting for your dreams, for your ideas, for the restless energetic spirit that is rising up within you.”

German told the students to be “bold, and rare, and weird, contemplative.”

“Be unafraid of stillness and hardwork,” she said. “The future is eager for the shine of your ambition. It’s asking you to be vulnerable and knows that you are strong.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: