WATERVILLE, Maine (AP) — Colby College graduates were treated Sunday to a poem in their honor by a presidential inaugural poet, who urged them to stay grounded during turbulent times.

Richard Blanco said the poem spoke “to the idea of centering oneself in childhood in order to see our most honest and creative selves, and thus be able to see others and the world around us more clearly.”

He said he chose to write a poem because “can say so much more than a speech and appeal to our emotions more powerfully.”

The college conferred more than 500 degrees in an in-person commencement that was also streamed live on the internet. Honorees included Erin French, founder of The Lost Kitchen restaurant; Theresa Secord, from the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance; Charles Terrell, a Colby grad and founder of a nonprofit that advocates for education access and healthcare equity; and Michael Rosbash, a geneticist and researcher at Brandeis University.

Colby had one of the most aggressive testing programs among institution of higher learning, and had in-person learning for the entire academic year. More than 250,000 COVID-19 tests were performed.