Sleepless in Hong Kong

27 June 2014

Speech by Mr. Li Ka-shing Shantou University Commencement Ceremony 2014

Professor Liu Mingkang, Distinguished Guests, Faculty and Graduates,

Another year! Another June!

It is always such a privilege to be here. Amidst your electrifying enthusiasm and excitement—I just can’t help feeling like a graduate myself. It is most wonderful to see all of you zooming past this milestone and running on towards the future. Congratulations. Well done.

Recently, alarmed by the fervent discussions on the web about my sleeplessness, my friends recommended a ton of effective cures for insomnia. I am very touched by their thoughtfulness and am invigorated by the interests on what keeps me awake half of the night.

I am 85 years old going on 86. I feel blessed to have seen more in life than I could remember, and happy to remember more than I have seen; so why am I sleepless in Hong Kong?

I fear that widening inequality in wealth and opportunities, if left unaddressed could fast become ‘the new normal’. Inequality is perhaps inevitable as some are simply better able than others to capture the opportunities that globalisation and the knowledge economy affords.

I fear that intensifying resource scarcity will pose challenges of immense proportions to our future.

We need to act now to turn challenges into opportunities. Technology is no panacea, but we need technological and innovative interventions to increase our options.

Our government must introduce new impetus to enable dynamic and flexible redistribution policies that can strike a fine balance between the need to promote equity and economic objectives.

The howl of rage from polarisation and the crippling cost of welfare dependence is a toxic cocktail commingled to stall growth and foster discontent. Government needs to lead change and galvanize its own to embrace innovation and inject a strong dose of liberating elixir into the education system. I have always believed that failing to invest in education is tantamount to a crime against the future.

What is most unsettling for me is that trust, the bedrock of an enlightened society, is crumbling before our eyes. If trust is no longer the reinforcing positive energy field, the consequences could be dire. Trust enables us to live in harmony, without which more and more people will lose faith in this system, breeding scepticism towards what is fair and just, doubting everything and believing all has turned sour and rancid.

Without a modicum of trust, society will downward spiral into a painful vicious cycle—trust is our national treasure!

Today when you rang the bell of truth, what promise did you make to the future? When dawn breaks, is today the tomorrow you worried about yesterday? Inside your vision of tomorrow, will you show respect for the most humble, put value on individual and human dignity and take action to better your community?

The future of our imperfect world needs your commitment, needs your positivity, needs your compassion, needs your fortitude and needs your resolve. Mencius said, “He who exerts his mind and effort to serve knows what it means to have a calling”. Your dedication and undertaking to be the custodian of the future is the best antidote for everyone’s insomnia.

Congratulations again. Live your life to its truest, in duty, in dignity and joy. Today, you are proud to be a part of Shantou University; tomorrow, Shantou University will be proud to be a part of you. Thank you so much.