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Words of Welcome, Words of Farewell

Dickey poster

Historically, Dartmouth presidents have addressed the College community at the outset of their administrations, the opening of the academic year, and in their valedictories to the graduating class. Selections from these presidential speeches show their continuing, and often common, vision of Dartmouth and the role its alumni will play in the world beyond the Hanover Plain.
The exhibition was created by Barbara Kriger and was on display in the Class of 1965 Galleries from June 6 to July 10, 2009.

Excerpts from Speeches Included in the Exhibition

Dartmouth presidents historically have addressed the students of the College at the start of the academic year, inviting them to embrace all that this special place has to offer, and informing them of the joyful, yet serious, obligations of  a scholarly community. Whether they are "the stuff of an institution," or members of a "commonwealth of liberal learning," or even, perhaps, "the only apology the college has to offer for its life," Dartmouth students are asked not to underestimate the impact they will have on the life of the College, nor how the College will change their own lives, forever.
Despite concentrating on a life of learning and teaching, Dartmouth presidents have not ignored the human responsibilities which come with a Dartmouth education. They speak to the College community in times of war, disaster and change, and ultimately send Dartmouth graduates out from the Hanover plain, with a "so-long" not a good-bye, to accept the "privileges and responsibilities of freedom," to become their "brother's keeper," and to "make the common good their own."


  1. There are problems with which each coming generation and each last man grapples as freshly as first fact. How shall the ripest growth of the ages be imparted to one young soul? Samuel Colcord Bartlett, Inaugural address, June 27 1877
  2. Let us believe that those prejudices, and mistakes and errors, and abuses, which are wont in undisturbed prosperity to become inveterate,  shall be done away - that those improvements which may be expected to flow from the influence of free governments…shall prevail and shall make the reign of liberty, and knowledge, and truth not only universal in extent, but perpetual in duration. President Nathan Lord, inaugural address, October 29, 1828
  3. From every point of view the undergraduate is the central figure of the college, Clever or dull, industrious or lazy, serious or trifling, he is the only apology the college has to offer for its life. President Ernest Fox Nichols, Inaugural address, October 14, 1909
  4. If we can send into the world a yet larger number of strong men – men clean in body, clean in mind, and large of soul, men as capable of moral as of mental leadership, men with large thoughts beyond selfishness, ideas of leisure beyond idleness, men quick to see the difference between humor and coarseness in a jest …. if we can send out young men of this sort, we need never fear the question, “Can a young man afford the best four years of his life to go to college? Ernest Fox Nichols, Inaugural address, October 14, 1909
  5. There is no phase of college activity which has been of such personal interest to me as has been the alumni movement; there has been none in which I have believed greater possibilities of good to exist. I am convinced, however, that this movement will fail of major usefulness unless it bases itself, and is based by the college, upon intelligent understanding of the problems which education must face. This movement may indeed become detrimental to any given institution if it accepts the privilege of reviewing college actions without accepting responsibility to review them with the utmost discrimination, and without accepting accountability for opinions it may express. Ernest Martin Hopkins, Inaugural address, October 6, 1916
  6. It is my personal opinion that if we were founding Dartmouth College today we would of course not discriminate on the basis of race or religion, but I would believe that if we were refounding the institution today we would also not discriminate on the basis of sex. … I feel that resolving the question of coeducation is one of our most urgent tasks. President John G. Kemeny, Inaugural address, March 1, 1970
  7. Dartmouth with its special sense of place is a precious asset. In one of Goethe’s great lines he wrote, “A man doesn’t learn to understand anything unless he loves it.” Loving Dartmouth is a joyful experience.  That experience is ours but it can only come from understanding -  understanding each other and understanding our College. In that direction lies our destiny. President David T. McLaughlin, Inaugural address, June 28, 1981


Beginnings: Convocations and Openings

  1. I am convinced that the tendencies of college life as they are to-day are good. Men grow better, not worse, as they stay in college. More is expected in every way of men as they near the close of their course. And it is seldom that the expectation fails, I congratulate you, therefore, as I congratulate the college, upon the opening of another year of the best kind of work which is going on throughout the land. President William Jewett Tucker, opening of the College year, September 12, 1902
  2. It is your generation that will determine, not in middle life, but perhaps tomorrow, next year, or at the latest within a few brief years, whether the preconceptions you impose upon facts, the faults you visualize in democracy, and the ruthlessness you ignore in totalitarianism shall paralyze your will to defend one and to defeat the other, or whether with eyes wide open to reality you accept freedom as an obligation as well as a privilege. President Ernest Martin Hopkins, Convocation address, July 7, 1944
  3. Our institutions and their fellowships are the hard-won creations of men and women with a capacity for commitment. These strongholds of human aspiration sustain the individual in trouble and provide the advance bases from which are made the great forward thrusts to new knowledge….President John Sloan Dickey, Convocation, 1959
  4. Today we open the first College year in a long time when the men of Dartmouth will not have Robert Frost with them. It is fitting to tell you that his last words to me, just days before his death, were about you.  "Tell them you saw me," he said.  And I do. President John Sloan Dickey, Convocation address, September 23, 1963
  5. As I have said on this occasion before and shall not say again, as members of  the College you have three different, but closely intertwined, roles to play:  First, you are citizens of a community and are expected to act as such. Second, you are the stuff of an institution, and what you are it will be. Thirdly, your business here is learning, and that is up to you. President John Sloan Dickey, in his last convocation address, September 1969
  6. Men and women of Dartmouth…This is a special year. You can almost feel it in the air. Frankly, I wouldn't miss this year for anything ....The feeling that this particular year all of us are making an impact on the destiny of a great institution is an intoxicating sensation. President John Kemeny, Convocation address, September 25, 1972
  7. This nation and, indeed, the greater world society needs what you can - what you must - have the capacity to offer: your intellect, your leadership, and your judgment. These qualities … are best nurtured in an environment that permits mistakes but, at the same time and by the same token, insists that one learns from his or her errors. Such a place is Dartmouth. President David T. McLaughlin, Convocation address, September 20, 1982
  8. You are not here to memorize facts, but to question assumptions. You are not here to absorb information, but to awaken your critical capacities and to extend your creative sympathies. You are here, in short, to participate in a commonwealth of liberal learning. President James O. Freedman, Convocation address, September 19, 1988
  9. I am accustomed to the generosity of the Dartmouth family and to the generosity of the broader community of which we are a part, but I am in this instance profoundly struck by the reminder that the toughest of times brings out the best from the best. You have already learned in your lifetimes that the test of human society is not the impossible task of preventing all bad things. Rather, the test is how good people respond to bad things. And I am always inspired by the response, by the generosity, of the young. President James Wright, Convocation address, September 20, 2005
  10. We have work to do, you and I.  Let us begin. President James Wright, traditional closing to his convocation address
  11. There are those who suggest that the world of higher education is an ivory tower set apart from some "real" world.  Let me say that this world - this so-called ivory tower, this world of ideas, of possibility, of wonder and discovery, of embracing difference and of celebrating accomplishment - that this world is indeed more real than are worlds marked by hatred, violence, and cruelty. President James Wright, Convocation address, September 24, 2005


Closing: Baccalaureates and Valedictories

  1. Young gentlemen of the graduating class: You have now received your last lesson from college teachers. As you go forth in life under your own personal guidance momentous questions will open before you, and great issues will depend on the answers you shall give them. President Samuel Colcord Bartlett, Baccalaureate sermon, June 20, 1880
  2. And now, the word is "so long," because in the Dartmouth fellowship there is no parting. President John Sloan Dickey, traditional closing of his Valedictory to the senior class
  3. This spring you made a pledge, not in words but by your actions. You have said that you will try once more to make the system of democracy in America work.  I believe your generation can do this, because you must do it. I hope that in the process you are not going to lose hope, because if you lose hope and give up, you are going to make a mockery of that joint experience we shared this spring. Civilization needs the dedication and convictions which you share at this moment. You must not lose those and you must not against any odds lose that hope which alone can save us. President John Kemeny, Valedictory to the senior class,  June 1970, a month after the Kent State shootings
  4. Men and women of Dartmouth, all of mankind is your brother, and you are your brother's keeper. President John Kemeny, traditional closing of his Valedictory to the senior class
  5. Yours has been perhaps the most criticized college generation in recent memory. Sociologists have suggested that it is a generation that lacks an interior landscape, that it is preoccupied with career ambitions and financial security, that it consists of yuppies without a cause ... You have the opportunity to confound your critics by making choices worthy of your talents and your idealism, choices that will make the common good your own. President James O. Freedman, Valedictory to the senior class, June 11, 1989