head img  
NTU Taiwan University img


President Si-Chen Lee's Commencement Speech to NTU Graduates

Your Eminence Cardinal Kuo-Shi Shan, heads of our administration, students, parents, and alumni, greetings!!

It's June again. The delonix regia flowers are in full blossom, and our annual graduation ceremony is being held right where we are. With a blissful heart, I congratulate you on having completed your school years and being ready to start a new journey in your life. This year's graduation ceremony, however, bears special significance for me and for the graduating class. Four years ago, I just took over the office of the President, and I personally welcomed all of you at the freshmen orientation ceremony. Now, four years later, as I stand here to bid you farewell, my first term of office is about to expire. During the last four years we studied together, we rejoiced together, we dreamt together, and we grew together. Now, on the eve of your commencement, I would like to exhort you a few worlds, which I hope you would listen attentively and give them your serious thoughts.

Four years ago, I urged you to capitalize on the prime time of your life to become a bona fide member of our university, and I expounded on the values of our school motto which was "mold your character and sharpen your knowledge, love your country and your people." When I said that, I was hoping that you would utilize this golden age of your life to build up your own learning and thinking system in this hall of knowledge and ideals. "Mold your character" means to cultivate your morals. This sounds very cliché, but the connotations of which are profound, including personal nourishment, broadmindedness, and unselfish devotion to other people, which are easier said than done. Actually, moral cultivation must start with oneself, but more importantly, it must extend to others and make a contribution to society. And "sharpen your knowledge" doesn't just mean you should study hard, but rather that you should develop a habit to pursue truth, so that knowledge can become " wisdom" at the end. By doing so, you can truly "mold your character and sharpen your knowledge," and you will be able to "love your country and your people". Simply put, by truly abiding by our school motto, you become a wholesome being, a person who is equally equipped with moral and knowledge, and a consummate human who pursues personal ideals while caring for our society.

The lofty ideals espoused in our school motto, however, are to be realized in the smallest details of our daily lives. You can give a simple test to yourselves to see whether "you caught the devil in the details" or "you were caught by the devil?" For instance, in molding your characters, you should start with being a person of honesty and integrity. My simple codes of conduct are: "Never cheat in exams" and "Never copy other people's homework." May I ask you: are you able to abide by these codes? In terms of sharpening your knowledge, you must think independently at all times and be ruthlessly adamant when you pursue the truth. Let me pose two simple questions to you: one - the two rows of tall coconut trees on the palm tree boulevard symbolize our lofty goals, but does anyone pause to wonder why, the founder of the predecessor of our university - the Taihoku Imperial University, chose to plant coconut trees there? And question number two - in the middle of the palm-tree boulevard stood the symbol of our university, the Fu Bell. Does anyone know why the Full Bell always gives out 21 chimes? May I ask you: "Do you know the answers?" In "loving your country," you must step out of the classroom, and be concerned with the land and society which you grew up in. The fundamental way to do this is to start by being concerned with your personal environment and gradually extend that concern to the disadvantaged in our society and offer them help. Let me ask you: "Have you really offered them any service of yours?" In "loving your people", you must detach yourself from your ego, develop tolerance and leniency, cultivate empathy and be always happy to work with others. Let me ask you: "Have you broken down the wall of the ego?"

Students, you may not have acquired the scholastic attainment that our university expected of you. But before you retire from your job you have roughly 40 years to go , which is equivalent to attending 10 4-year universities. You have a lot to learn about the knowledge of life. After you enter into society and start your family, these requirements will come avalanching at you. You still have many opportunities to appreciate them , and to learn them slowly. After all, the goal of life should be more than seeking survival and employment, or acquiring social status. We need to explore the essence of life, and to pursue wisdom. Only when we understand the essence of life can we find the basis upon which we establish ourselves in our society, and develop passion and love for other people. When we achieve that understanding, our journey in this world would not be a total waste.

In conclusion, I would like to impart to you what Professor Charles Kao said about "self- requirement " two years ago in his commencement speech: command respect from others with your own character; establish your footing in society with your own professionalism; stay abreast of other people with your own lifelong learning; and, participate in public welfare and show concern for your environment with your own loving heart. At a time when financial crisis impacts the whole world, unprecedented challenges bring about unprecedented trials and unleash unprecedented potentials. The teachers from your alma mater have complete confidence in you, so forge ahead with our blessings. I wish you a bright future. I expect you to bring glory to your parents, glory to your alma mater, and glory to your society. And I wish all parents and faculty good health and Godspeed. Thank you.

Chinese version