The Future Matters to Me

29 June 2012

Chairman Chen, Dr. Carlson, Council Members, Distinguished Faculty, Friends, Parents and Graduates,

I would like to welcome all of you here today to celebrate this momentous occasion for our new graduates. Last week, I met with our university officials and I was pleased to hear about the achievements of our reform efforts over the past decade, and their exciting plans for the coming five years. On behalf of the University Council, I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to every member of our faculty and administrative staff for your dedication and commitment to advancing reforms in higher education. I have great confidence in the future of Shantou University.

I never understood why everyone refers to the past as, “The good old days.” Maybe as painful and bad as yesterday was, the reality of today seems even harsher, or perhaps deep in our memory there will always be enough bittersweet and yet poignant memories to channel new momentum for our life today.

I was born in Chiu Chow in 1928. If you think Shantou is backward today, you should try visualizing how it was 84 years ago.

I can still remember when I was six. It was a hot summer night and my parents and I sat with my grandmother in our tiny courtyard. My uncle was describing how affluent the village squire was—his wealth was well over two hundred thousand silver coins, which is around three hundred million RMB at today’s value. Astounded by this immense wealth, my grandmother sighed softly and muttered, ‘I wonder which of our generation will have a comfortable life like this…” – A simple wish from an ordinary citizen.

My beloved grandmother is long gone, buried near her favourite scenic spot alongside the beautiful shores of Han Jiang, 78 years have gone by and I once sat beside her grave and whispered, “We did it!”

For a young person in dire poverty, apprehension is torturous and real. Did I not fear the crushing power of destiny? Without education, without resources, hope and a fierce sense of determination to battle against fate and its arsenal of uncertainties is all that I had left.

You all might have already heard of my struggles for survival. What you may not know at your age is how many times I refused to settle for a life where there is no room for vision. I believe that if there is a secret formula for success, the most important ingredient is this: your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure. Mindset is like the sharpest blade that heightens your aspirations to all that is possible, keeping you alert and attentive against complacency and inertness; it inspires you to serve forever with fortitude and character, to dare to love, to dare to be honest, to dare to be different.

When you get to be my age, you don’t want to look back with regrets and lament that you were once cheerful, passionate and confident, but that you let your spirits wane and opted to live a life of unfulfilled dreams. Once, you were fearless and forthright. Once, you believed in truth and fairness. Once, you had a clear vision of the future. Stay the course! I do not want you to ever regret that somehow you lost your soul, your principles and your humble heart along the way.

My dear fellow students, destiny is not a matter of chance but a matter of choice. And your choice will seal your destiny. Let that destiny not be an accident, but a choice achieved!

Einstein had a funny way to remind himself how to choose, and he put the counsel up outside his office door at Princeton. It read: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

If you want to know how I sought my destiny, I had already shared it with you all: building up myself in the pursuit of my selflessness. We must have faith in our courage and wisdom to shape our destiny, to realise our dreams, and to contribute to our beloved motherland and the world in which we coexist. Congratulations again to all of you. 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 very much.