My Words to the Graduating Class

A very good morning to all of you. It's a wonderful day and you can see the sky is blue, the sun is out. And I welcome all of you to this wonderful occasion. Before I begin, I just want to say a few words. Regrettably, some actions last night and this morning, which is somewhat callous and disrespectful and sometimes hateful action, has caused some defacement of University properties, and also has compromised the very nature of this ceremony. This is a happy occasion, this is a celebratory occasion, particularly for our graduates, their family, and their friends and guests. So on behalf of CUHK, I would like to express my deep regret for some of the compromises that we've seen.

Now, in view of some of these things, I will actually forego my prepared speech. It's a long speech. I think you are used to long speeches from me. So I will instead post my speech on the website in Chinese as well as in English. And you can take a look at what I prepared. But instead, I just want to really talk to all of you, directly, from my heart. And of course, my audience today are the graduates. I am very proud of all of you. You have worked very, very hard for today. Today is a wonderful occasion for you to remember for the rest of your life, number one. Number two, that your friends, your family, your teachers, all of us will remember. It's something that one day when you go through your photo album, you will point to this and tell your children: "See, that's dad, that's mom, we had wonderful time." I want you to remember that.

Well, my message today actually will be very succinct and to the point. I have three things, I have three things that I want all of the CUHK graduates to remember today. The first one is community. Human beings by definition are community animals. No one lives alone. No one ever lives alone; it's a very terrible life to live alone. We are all part of a community. And today is a transition. Graduation is a transition. You will be changing forever, the way you live because you will be moving from one mode of living to another. The mode in the university is, for the large part, a receiving mode. You go to class, you get a grade. You have to hand in your homework. You have to go to the cafeteria at certain times, because otherwise they close. So it's always receiving, a lot of it. But after you graduate, it is a time to share, it is a time to serve. You will be serving your community, whichever community you happen to be in. So what is a community? A community is by definition not a group of clones. A group of clones is not a community. A community is made up of different people. They have different values, they have different lifestyles, they wear different clothes, they have different favourite colours, they like different kind of music, they wake up at different times of day. A community by definition is a group of different people who live together, who work together, who hang out together, who go to the same things together. You will be a member of that community.

How does a community thrive, how does a community grow? It is built on mutual respect, mutual understanding, that you all start with serving the community as your premise. I think at the end of the day, when we finish our life on earth, I often compare earth to a spaceship, which is flying through time and space, we are all passengers. We have a ticket, we get on. At some point, we have to get off. When you get off, what is the meaning of your existence? The meaning is what you have done in terms of service to the community. So I urge all of you to remember that. This is an important moment in time. You will be transitioning from the university to a community.

The second thing I want you to remember is a life is a continuum. Every day is not a single day. Today is the tomorrow of yesterday, and it's also the yesterday of tomorrow. It goes on, life goes on. So never only pay attention to today. Do not be deterred by any failures you have today, and also, importantly, never be content with whatever success you may have today, because life goes on.

Some of you may know that I am actually sort of a tissue engineer stem cell guy. And what we do in my lab is we do 3D printing, 3D bio-printing. We take little things and we build them one stack at a time and we end up with 3 dimensional objects. But I often tell people in my lab, people I work with. I said, "Actually 3D is not enough. It's 4D. Life is 4D, because this thing that we just made which is 3 dimensional, actually has another dimension. And that dimension is time." Time is about one day following another. So always remember, do not be deterred by whatever you fail today, and never be content with whatever success you may have today.

The last thing I want to say is about happiness. Now, I am not a smart philosopher so I am going to quote somebody else, that I believe is probably one of the most amazing humanitarians who ever lived - Albert Schweitzer. He's a physician, he's a philosopher, he's a humanitarian. He devoted his whole life to making life better for others. I'll just quote what he said. "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful." So always remember that. You start out with happiness, then you will succeed. It doesn't go the other way. Albert Schweitzer; most of the things he said were very right, so I think this is one of them.

So I will stop here because we have a lot of things to do at this ceremony. Because you are all graduates, so really I have to say farewell to all of you. But I have to emphasise, the farewell is just for now, because I am sure all of you will come back as CUHK alumni and I will see you on campus. Thank you very much!

— Speech at 87th Congregation for the Conferment of Bachelor's and Master's Degrees