Professor Tony F CHAN
Distinguished guests, graduates, parents, friends and colleagues:
We celebrate the achievements of bright, enthusiastic young minds on this happy occasion of our graduation ceremony. But I would also like to speak for a few minutes about the vital role awaiting them as they step into the world at large.
At HKUST, we strive to provide an all-round education that fosters the very best in our graduates, not only academically but as contributing, compassionate global citizens, with high integrity, who will go on to have meaningful and beneficial lives that lead by example. This may be in Hong Kong. It may be elsewhere. But more than ever, the world needs the open minds and hearts of those leaving proudly from the Atrium after today’s ceremony.
We are faced with unsettling times in many, many ways. From political controversies to economic volatility to social divisions at home and abroad, we are challenged by complex issues that jeopardize the values we hold dear, both personally and as citizens.
But graduates, always remember you have a strong foundation for meeting these challenges, helped not only by your knowledge but also by the personal attributes in your possession as a result of your years at HKUST.
Firstly, you have acquired critical thinking. Through your studies and many discussions with your professors and fellow students, you know how to arrive at conclusions based on facts and evidence. Quick judgments, prejudice and small mindedness have no place in a globalized modern society; indeed any civilized society. Analytical skills learnt here in this unique, best-of-the-East-and-West University enable a HKUST graduate to be rational and to think through every issue.
Secondly, a HKUST graduate knows how to be respectful of other views even when you disagree with them. You may have made friends on campus with people from different backgrounds, and with different views, to your own; or you may have gone on exchanges or other activities outside Hong Kong; or you may have taken part in community service. You have seen that the world is not uniform, that there are many perspectives out there. And being respectful of others' views does not necessarily mean you agree with them, but it actually helps you understand the issue better.
Thirdly, you have also learned from your time here that to discuss an issue rationally is to gain new insight on how to reconcile differences and – equally awesome – spark shared ideas and goals. There is no need to shout someone down when you can calmly and objectively weigh up a situation and advance toward mutual solutions, which should be discussed and not forced.
Fourthly, working with others in teams and on group projects, and time spent with student organizations and societies, will have helped you to understand that there is no place for pressuring people to take a stand. Ideals and principles are great motivators, and people can be passionate about persuading others to see their views. However, if they choose not to stand on the same side, it is their decision to make.
Finally, everyone is responsible for his or her own actions. Blaming others, making excuses, or jumping in immediately to criticize the system are not qualities that foster a civil society. At HKUST, you have had opportunities to make your own decisions in many areas of your life, from how you studied to what activities you joined. I believe you will be able to use such experience to serve as responsible individuals and citizens, who can contribute usefully and wholeheartedly to the communities in which you live.
It is not an easy task you face. However, as the distinguished lives of our six honorary graduates show, it is possible to excel through personal endeavor and open-mindedness; through cross-cultural awareness, through courage and perseverance; through adherence to justice and fair play; and through a drive to share the rewards of success and pass on experience to others.
So go forth, HKUST graduates, with the assurance that you are among the leaders and shapers of tomorrow, and that you are equipped to make a positive difference. Faculty members, alumni, supporters and parents, take pride in these young people – to whom we entrust our future.
Today is a joyful day. Let all those here remember the shared exuberance and shining expectations of this moment and go build a better world!