Former President George H.W. Bush urged graduating seniors of Colby College in Waterville 24 years ago to give to others, something he noted Colby students already had been doing by volunteering in soup kitchens, working with Habitat for Humanity and serving underprivileged children.

“Touching a life,” Bush said at the commencement address. “That’s what I want most of all to mention today. Because I hope you craft for yourselves lives enriched by service. You can start by reaching out to just one person. Maybe at first you’ll give an hour to some shut-in. Maybe you can work on the weekends to teach the written word to an adult who doesn’t even know how to read. Maybe you’ll find some time during the day just to hold a lonely kid who doesn’t have anybody else’s arms waiting for him. And when you do, you’ll discover the most powerful bridge of all, the human bridge of touch.”

Ruth Jacobs Jackson, Colby’s vice president of communications, remembered the 1994 visit to the Waterville campus when asked for a comment Saturday.

“It was an honor for Colby to welcome President Bush to campus,” she wrote in an email message, “and it was meaningful for our 1994 graduates to hear directly from him about the importance of public service and his vision for a more compassionate society. His words resonated then, and certainly do today, as we honor his legacy.

Bush was three weeks shy of his 70th birthday when he spoke on May 22, 1994, to more than 400 seniors at commencement ceremonies on the Mayflower Hill campus in Waterville, where his nephew, Billy Bush, was graduating. While congratulating the younger Bush, who is son of Bush’s brother Jonathan, the former president drew laughter as he also worried about being part of the Republican minority in Maine.

“When Bill’s dad told me he was coming to Colby, I got a little worried because I looked up Colby in our federal records and found the entire campus listed as a Maine Wildlife Area,” George H.W. Bush said. “Then I got worrying that the chef in this state might be a Democrat and might stick it to me by serving broccoli at the luncheon.”

Bush, known for disliking broccoli, and comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Robin Williams were the Colby class of 1994’s top three choices for graduation speaker, according to a story in the Morning Sentinel, dated Oct. 21, 1993.

At the time, then-Colby President William Cotter said Bush would be only the second former U.S. president to have visited Colby in the 181 years since the college was founded. Herbert Hoover spoke at the First Baptist Church on Nov. 8, 1937.

In his Colby speech, Bush said that as president, he was not a very good communicator, but he worried every day about the country’s loss of moral values.

“If as president, I had the power to give just one thing to the nation, it would have been the return to an inner moral compass, nurtured by the family and valued by the community,” he said.

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