Nelson’s Baccalaureate Speech

May 18, 2015

“I hope you will take at least three lessons from what I’ve said today. First, affirm yourself and feel the goodness in your heart. Second, respect and love others, especially those you think do not deserve it. And third, draw upon your imagination and your education to actualize the spirit of Kahlil Gibran’s poem and be ‘living arrows’ sent forth to create a future that will fulfill your own dreams and improve the world.”

Nelson Bingham

Professor Nelson Bingham

These wise words are the concluding sentences of the Baccalaureate address that Professor of Psychology Nelson Bingham delivered to Earlham College’s graduating seniors, their families and friends. The speech is vintage Nelson: deep, mellow and loving.  You can read his entire address, “Are We There, Yet?” here.

I had the great good fortune to have the regular benefit of Nelson’s wisdom when he served as Earlham’s Provost from 2006-14.

Each year Earlham does something different from most colleges. There is no Commencement speaker invited from outside the college. The major address on Commencement day is delivered at the Baccalaureate service in the morning. The speaker is a member of the faculty chosen by the seniors. Over the years they have been consistently wonderful. In every one of them you can hear the personal connections between the speaker and those being spoken to. That’s rare on Commencement Day.

Here are links to the speeches from the past dozen years:

2014:  Associate Professor of Religion James Logan, A World Yearning for Your (Sometimes Funky) Love

2013: Professor of Psychology Bob Rosenberg, Conformational Change.

2012: Professor of Anthropology JoAnn Martin, The Art of Falling Into the Future

2011:  Assistant Professor of Geology Andrew Moore, The Tao of the Ant Guy

2010: Assistant Professor of Peace and Global Studies Joanna Swanger, The Tyranny of Certainty

2009: Professor of History Chuck Yates, Chuck’s Top Ten Secrets to a Long, Happy, Useful, Productive and Meaningful Life

2008: Assistant Professor of Religion James Logan, A (Not So Simple) Word of (Audacious) Hope

2007: Professor of History and PAGS Caroline Higgins, The Monster and the Riddle

2006: Professor of Classics Steve Heiny, Was It Good for You?

2005: Professor of Psychology Vince Punzo, Just Isn’t So

2004: Professor of Politics Robert Johnstone, What Does It Matter To Me?

2003: Professor of English Gordon Thompson, If I Forget You…

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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