Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of Common Good Day, a day when hundreds of Bowdoin students, employees, and alumni gather to participate in a few hours of service projects in the local community. The event, which has grown enormously since its inception, symbolizes the Bowdoin community's dedication?and eagerness?to promote the common good.
The "common good" at the College has strong historical roots, beginning with Bowdoin's first president, Joseph McKeen. In his inaugural address, McKeen declared, "Literary institutions are founded and endowed for the common good and not for the private advantage of those who resort to them for education."
In recent years, the College has renewed this pledge; though Common Good Day only lasts for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon once a year, the extensive planning and construction of the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good?which formally opens next week?reaffirms the value of service at the College. With the McKeen Center located in the heart of campus, students will be reminded daily of the importance that our community places on service. In its new home, the Center for the Common Good will continue to provide students with opportunities to volunteer, lead a group, or take a service-learning course. The strong and vibrant network of staff and students at the Center will also help to provide students with possibilities to engage locally, nationally, or even internationally.
According to the McKeen Center, Bowdoin students devote 40,000 hours a year to volunteering?an astounding statistic. But our time at Bowdoin is only four years. And our commitment to the common good should last far beyond our time at the College.
From today's Common Hour speaker George Mitchell, Class of 1954, to Harlem Children's Zone president Geoffrey Canada '74, to the five Fulbright Fellows of the Class of 2008, alumni of the College continue to demonstrate that a Bowdoin education is valuable, not necessarily because of what we learn in our classes or on the athletic fields, but rather the ways in which we are inspired to build other communities once we leave Brunswick.
McKeen's oft-repeated words?the foundation of the work at the Center for the Common Good?hold true more than 200 years later. Although we often talk about what Bowdoin can do for us, the College's commitment to service should encourage us to ask how we can use the resources here to promote the common good.