The 2023 Graduation Ceremony of ISSCAD was held on June 30.
Here is the full speech of Liu Shiyao, assistant professor of Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development, Peking University, at the ceremony.
Dear honorable guests, our colleagues, students, families, and friends, and most importantly, the graduands of the Institute, hello!
Being the youngest faculty member of the Institute for now, I was feeling a bit anxious when the committee voted me to speak here.
Later, I became a bit relieved when I realized that by having me here, the committee could check two boxes at the same time. They got a faculty speaker, and an alumni speaker, besides their intention to bring in the voice of the young.
One speaker fewer, lower cost of coordination, higher efficiency, and more meaningfully, five more minutes for our distinguished guest speaker, and another alumnus of the University, Ambassador and Dr Zhang.
So humbly on behalf of the alumni network of the University, to all our graduands, welcome!
You may have noticed that I am not using the full name of the University but am only referring to her as the University. When I was studying at MIT, my friend at Harvard Law School told me that all they used “the Law School” to refer to their alma mater but use full names of other law schools when talking about others.
They told me it was because their school was special for their country. Harvard has the oldest continuously operating law school in the US and has also played the most important role in their development of rule of law.
Well, I guess you may have seen the reasoning – the University, is China’s first modern university, continuously in operation and contributing to our national development. She was established as “the Imperial University of Peking” in 1898 as part of a series of modernization efforts called “Hundred Days’ Reform”. Later, she witnessed the early introduction of Marxism into China. Among all 13 delegates to the Inaugural National Congress of the CPC, 6 of them have worked or studied at the University. There is no other university in the world, not Harvard nor Oxford, has such a deep and unalienated connection with the fate of her nation and her people.
About 13 years ago, it was the year when the 18-year-old I sat for the National College Entrance Examinations. It was also a June. As the top scorer of Shanghai, I was offered two options – HKU or the University.
If you Google my name in Chinese, you may still find an early piece of news from the official Shanghai newspaper, with the headline “Our Top Scorer Says No to HKU and Decides to Join Peking”.
Well, you may have heard the saying that “a dog biting a human, no news; a human biting a dog, a headline”. Although not fully accurate, you can feel the surprise my article carried.
The surprise was understandable – First, nearly all international rankings put HKU ahead of Peking in those years. Besides, HKU promised scholarships of half a million Chinese yuan for top scorers. It was also the choice of almost all other top scorers of the city for 3 years preceding, and 2 years following mine.
Still, I packed my bag and took the train to Beijing. If you asked the innocent 18-year-old me, what was behind my decision? I must admit, frankly, at that time, it was not a fully informed one. I knew little about the two universities, and the only relevant information I had was from a lecture in my high school history class: In 1919, the University started her tradition of “Patriotism, Progress, Democracy and Science”. – For Chinese speakers, 爱国, 进步, 民主, 科学.
“I must go” I told myself, although in retrospection, I had to confess that, by then, I did not know whether the tradition was still here.
I would challenge myself if this were a conclusion in a thesis. Isn’t the tradition mentioned in a history class talking about 1919, which was more than 90 years ago (in the year of 2010)? Will the tradition still be relevant today? Almost every graduand can certify how challenging my colleagues and I have been during your defense.
The decision of the 18-year-old me sounds impulsive, but what else can you expect from a high school student? Look at our young Messi fan at Beijing Workers Stadium.
Nevertheless, I arrived, spent four years, and obtained two bachelor's degrees. Since the moment I got here, every minute in the four years on this campus, I was seeing clearly the tradition running in the blood of every PKUers, be them professors, staff members, seniors, classmates, or alumni.
Let me quote our Dean, Professor Lin on this, “As long as the nation has not yet revived, it means our mission is yet to be complete. If there are still poor people in the world, it is our own poverty. When there are still suffering people in the world, it is our own suffering”.
When I was graduating from my PhD program and started to look for jobs in academia, I immediately applied for the University. In that season, again, I came across a similar situation, two options among other job offers – the Institute vs another top university in Hong Kong.
Different from the 18-year-old me, whose choice was mostly because of a “hearsay”, this time, I firmly decided to join the Institute, because I know precisely, the tradition of “Patriotism, Progress, Democracy and Science” is still here, and will continue to be here.
By the way, most, if not all, international rankings have placed the University steadily ahead of any other university in Hong Kong nowadays. Regardless, the University keeps her tradition, be it a headwind or a tailwind.
I still remember what our Executive Dean, Professor Yao told us during the opening ceremony – not to consider the experience of China as a one-size-fits-all template, but as a mirror. In a mirror, you are not seeing China, but yourself, the national development problems in your home country.
Dear graduands, we call the graduation ceremony a commencement, because it indicates a new start for all of you. As you are commencing, please allow me to pass on the tradition of the University, both as a faculty member and as one of the alumni. Please bear in mind “Patriotism, Progress, Democracy and Science”, whether in good times or bad.
Serve your country with your whole heart, keep making progress step by step, find a democratic governance that suits the best interest of your people, and make sure to be scientific and analytical in all policy making processes. We would challenge you, as in a thesis defense, if the decision is not scientific enough.
Finally, I would also like to remind you, we are always here for you – the Institute, all the faculty, and all our staff members. Do drop by, and we are only one email away!
Thank you very much.