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18 November 2016

2016 Congregation
President's Speech

Distinguished guests, graduates, parents, friends and colleagues,

On this important day, I would like to first offer my heartiest congratulations to our graduates. Graduates, we are proud of you! You have completed years of hard work to get yourself to where you are today, and you should savour this very moment, which will form part of your fond memories in life. Soon, you will begin a new journey into a world filled with opportunities, excitement, and important choices to make. I, for one, am particularly excited for your road ahead; our graduates are now ranked 13th in the world in the latest global employability survey released just yesterday!

Every choice you make will have an impact on how you shape your life ahead, and I would like to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about how we make these decisions. Even though "critical thinking" may seem like a cliche, it is as relevant today as ever. In fact, it should be one of the most important skills one takes away from a university education. As many around the world have noted, the commitment to reason, facts, logic, and truth, is now increasingly a minority viewpoint. As we have seen recently in the turmoil and the outcome of Brexit, the Refugee Crisis in Europe, and the US election, this trend can sometimes lead to astonishing, unwise, or even regretful results.

Similar to the West, Hong Kong today faces many issues--extreme ideologies included—which threaten to change our society profoundly. I believe we would be doing our future generations a great disservice if we do not form our opinion and responses carefully and critically. In the age of the internet, it is sometimes easier to follow a trend than to chart a course of one’s own. But that is dangerous. Having many “likes”, “shares”, or “views”, does not make an opinion right. Truth needs to be established, not claimed. Technology today has brought us many conveniences, including feeding us, in loads, information, news, and ads which we are interested in, but we must always beware of the risk of developing a tunnel vision. As former US President John F Kennedy warned, we must not “enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” As a select member of society and a university graduate who has received so much education, you should have acquired a critical mind and know not to follow blindly. The late English Poet and Nobel Prize Winner in Literature Rudyard Kipling once said, “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is a hard business. If you try it, you'll be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." Choose your own course, march to the beat of your own drum, and take responsibility of your decisions and actions. For they would not only have an impact to the current generation, but also to the many generations to come. But this does not mean you go off in an independent direction without thinking and without analysis.

So you may ask, how should you make independent but wise decisions? Technology is inundating us with knowledge at incredible speeds and volumes. This means that as you are bombarded with data and with quick opinions, ironically it MAY BE more difficult for you than for your parents to seek the truth. But I hope that in the time that you have spent at HKUST, you have broadened your horizons through knowledge pursuit and exposure to diverse thinking, expanded your views and perspectives. More importantly, you have learnt much more about who you are, what you stand for, and form an opinion of your own. By choosing to attend this international University, you have also chosen to be part of the global community. You must participate in the process to find solutions of the problems that faces this generation. Embrace the principle that knowledge, facts, and judgement do matter.

Finally, a core value of HKUST is the spirit of "Can Do". You should aim high, and never concede that something is beyond your reach. Your character will be defined by what you could do, instead of what you should do. Do what you love to do, and do what you are passionate about. For life is full of surprises, and sometimes the greatest achievements in mankind come in the most unexpected way. In the years ahead, you will soon learn that what matter, ultimately, in your lives and careers will not be your technical skills or your degree. Your view, your opinion, and who you are, will determine how far you go.

Your road ahead will be full of challenges. Always have confidence in your capabilities, and tackle the challenges head-on. Be prepared to make a positive difference in this world. Go where there is no path, and leave a trail. Good luck!


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