madam president faust， members of the harvard corporation and the board of overseers，faculty， family， friends， and， most importantly， todays graduates，thank you for letting me share this wonderful day with you.
i am not sure i can live up to the high standards of harvard commencement speakers. lastyear， j.k. rowling， the billionaire novelist， who started as a classics student， graced thispodium. the year before， bill gates， the mega-billionaire philanthropist and computer nerdstood here. today， sadly， you have me. i am not wealthy， but at least i am a nerd.
i am grateful to receive an honorary degree from harvard， an honor that means more to methan you might care to imagine. you see， i was the academic black sheep of my family. myolder brother has an m.d./ph.d. from mit and harvard while my younger brother has a lawdegree from harvard. when i was awarded a nobel prize， i thought my mother would besatisfied. not so. when i called her on the morning of the announcement， she replied， "thatsnice， but when are you going to visit me next." now， as the last brother with a degree fromharvard， maybe， at last， she will be satisfied.
another difficulty with giving a harvard commencement address is that some of you maydisapprove of the fact that i have borrowed material from previous speeches. i ask that youforgive me for two reasons.
first， in order to have impact， it is important to deliver the same message more than once. inscience， it is important to be the first person to make a discovery， but it is even more importantto be the last person to make that discovery.
second， authors who borrow from others are following in the footsteps of the best. ralph waldoemerson， who graduated from harvard at the age of 18， noted "all my best thoughts werestolen by the ancients." picasso declared "good artists borrow. great artists steal." why shouldcommencement speakers be held to a higher standard?
i also want to point out the irony of speaking to graduates of an institution that would haverejected me， had i the chutzpah to apply. i am married to "dean jean，" the former dean ofadmissions at stanford. she assures me that she would have rejected me， if given the chance.when i showed her a draft of this speech， she objected strongly to my use of the word"rejected." she never rejected applicants; her letters stated that "we are unable to offer youadmission." i have difficulty understanding the difference. after all， deans of admissions ofhighly selective schools are in reality， "deans of rejection." clearly， i have a lot to learn aboutmarketing.
my address will follow the classical sonata form of commencement addresses. the firstmovement， just presented， were light-hearted remarks. this next movement consists ofunsolicited advice， which is rarely valued， seldom remembered， never followed. as oscar wildesaid， "the only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. it is never of any use to oneself."so， here comes the advice. first， every time you celebrate an achievement， be thankful tothose who made it possible. thank your parents and friends who supported you， thank yourprofessors who were inspirational， and especially thank the other professors whose less-than-brilliant lectures forced you to teach yourself. going forward， the ability to teach yourself is thehallmark of a great liberal arts education and will be the key to your success. to your fellowstudents who have added immeasurably to your education during those late night discussions，hug them. also， of course， thank harvard. should you forget， theres an alumni association toremind you. second， in your future life， cultivate a generous spirit. in all negotiations， dontbargain for the last， little advantage. leave the change on the table. in your collaborations，always remember that "credit" is not a conserved quantity. in a successful collaboration，everybody gets 90 percent of the credit.
when i was in middle school, a poisonous spider bit my right hand. i ran to my mom for help—but instead of taking me to a doctor, my mom set my hand on fire.after wrapping my hand withseveral layers of cotton, then soaking it in wine, she put a chopstick into my mouth,and ignited the cotton. heat quickly penetrated the cotton and began to roast my hand. the searing pain made me want to scream, but the chopstick prevented it. all i could do was watch my hand burn - one minute, then two minutes –until mom put out the fire.
you see, the part of china i grew up in was a rural village, and at that time pre-industrial. when i was born, my village had no cars, no telephones, no electricity, not even running water. and we certainly didn’t have access to modern medical resources. there was no doctor my mother could bring me to see about my spider bite.
for those who study biology, you may have grasped the science behind my mom’s cure: heat deactivates proteins, and a spider’s venom is simply a form of protein. it’s coolhow that folk remedy actually incorporates basic biochemistry, isn’t itbut i am a phd student in biochemistry at harvard, i now know that better, less painful and less risky treatments existed. so i can’t help but ask myself, why i didn’t receive oneat the time.
fifteen years have passed since that incident. i am happy to report that my hand is fine. but this question lingers, and i continue to be troubled by the unequal distribution of scientific knowledge throughout the world. we have learned to edit the human genome and unlock many secrets of how cancer progresses. we can manipulate neuronal activity literally with the switch of a light. each year brings more advances in biomedical research-exciting, transformative accomplishments. yet, despite the knowledge we have amassed, we haven’t been so successful in deploying it to where it’s needed most. according to the world bank, twelve percent of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. malnutrition kills more than 3 million children annually. three hundred million peopleare afflicted by malaria globally. all over the world, we constantly see these problems of poverty, illness, and lack of resources impeding the flow of scientific information. lifesaving knowledge we take for granted in the modern world is often unavailable in these underdeveloped regions.and in far too many places, people are still essentially trying to cure a spider bite with fire.
while studying at harvard, i saw how scientific knowledge can help others in simple, yet profound ways. the bird flu pandemic in the 2000s looked to my village like a spell cast by demons. our folk medicine didn’t even have half-measures to offer. what’s more, farmers didn’t know the difference between common cold and flu; they didn’t understand that the flu was much more lethal than the common cold. most people were also unaware that the virus could transmit across different species.so when i realized that simple hygiene practices like separating different animal species could contain the spread of the disease, and that i could help make this knowledge available to my village, that was my first ―aha‖ moment as a budding scientist. but it was more than that: it was also a vital inflection point in my own ethical development, my own self-understanding as a member of the global community.
harvard dares us to dream big, to aspire to change the world. here on this commencement day, we are probably thinking of grand destinations and big adventures that await us. as for me, i am also thinking of the farmers in my village. my experiencehere reminds me how important it is for researchersto communicateour knowledge to those who need it. because by using the sciencewe already have, we
could probably bring my village and thousands like it into the world you and i take for granted every day. and that’s an impact every one of us can make!
but the question is, will we make the effort or not
more than ever before,our society emphasizes science and innovation. but an equally important emphasis should be on distributing the knowledge we have to where it’s needed. changing the world doesn’t mean thateveryone has to find the next big thing. it can be as simple as becoming better communicators, and finding more creative ways to pass on the knowledge we have to people like my mom and the farmers in their local community. our society also needs to recognize that the equal distribution of knowledge is a pivotal step of human development, and work to bring this into reality.
and if we do that, then perhaps a teenager in rural china who is bitten by a spider will not have to burn his hand, but will know to seek a doctor instead.
dear professors and dear friends of china jiliang university,
i’m honored to address you on behalf of all the graduations this year.
i would like to thank my parents, classmates, and friends who helped us ,and encouraged and supported us as we worked towards to our graduate degrees.
i also want to thank jiliang’s faculty members who served as our instructors，mentor, and friends, relatives, like prof.yu, prof.gao, mrs. liang. through their commitments, they have inspired us to achieve and guided us to our dream.
on this stage, at my graduation ceremony, when i look back my four years at jiliang, my mind is filled with memories. may be you will ask me: do you have special to share? yes, i want to share few simple but critical suggestions with you and with for the coming juniors:
first, be work hard and think smart.
secondly, believe things happened for a reason.
thirdly, just as jobs said at the graduation ceremony in stanford university, stay hungry, stay foolish.
today, we will graduate from china jiliang university, but we will be with jiliang forever. let us think forward and work together to make the new history of china jiliang university.
unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. they can think themselves into other people’s minds, imagine themselves into other people’s places.
of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. one might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.
and many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. they choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. they can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.
i might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that i do not think they have any fewer nightmares than i do. choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. i think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. they are often more afraid.
what is more, those who choose not to empathize may enable real monsters. for without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.
one of the many things i learned at the end of that classics corridor down which i ventured at the age of 18, in search of something i could not then define, was this, written by the greek author plutarch: what we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.
that is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. it expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.
but how much more are you, harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people’s lives? your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. even your nationality sets you apart. the great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining superpower. the way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. that is your privilege, and your burden.
if you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better. we do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.
i am nearly finished. i have one last hope for you, which is something that i already had at 21. the friends with whom i sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. they are my children’s godparents, the people to whom i’ve been able to turn in times of trouble, friends who have been kind enough not to sue me when i’ve used their names for death eaters. at our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for prime minister.
so today, i can wish you nothing better than similar friendships. and tomorrow, i hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of seneca, another of those old romans i met when i fled down the classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:
honorable teachers, principles, dear parents and students:
good morning to you all. on this sunny and unforgettable day, we gladly welcome you to our grade 12’s graduation ceremony.
two years ago, when we first came to this program and began our three years of high school education. it was your enthusiasm that influenced us, giving us the heart to keep moving forward; it was your encouragement that motivated us, encouraging us to persevere. it was your high spirits that encouraged us, and pointed us in the right way. it was your harmony that united us, urging us to stand our ground and charge fearlessly forward.
three years, 36 months(thirty-six), 1095 days(one thousand and ninety-five), 26280 hours(twenty-six thousand two hundred and eighty), 1576800 minutes(1 million five hundred and seventy-six thousand eight hundred), 94608000 seconds(ninety-four million six hundred and eight thousand). your confidence, patience and determination have grown. under the guidance of mrs. lv, you have achieved success which we celebrate today.
we look up to you as role models and you are our heroes. we built a relationship not unlike that of a great, big, family. working together has made us familiar to each other and know each other from the bottom of our hearts. seeing you mature every day from morning to night, motivating us, makes us more mature.
yesterday, you were proud of this program, today, this program is proud because of you. with 51 university acceptance letters coming from all directions, people were impressed by your accomplishments. we, the grade 11’s will shortly turn into grade 12’s already feel the pressure that is soon to be placed upon us, and we thank you for your example, which will give us the perseverance to succeed. in the up-coming year, we will follow your footsteps, and will never give up creating what will be our very own miracle. at the same time, we would like to inform our dear future successors, we hope that you will not be afraid of the future hardships; we also hope that you put your best efforts into your work; to become the pride and future of sino – canadian program here in jilin city no.1 high school and changchunexperimental high school.
today, you will turn over a new chapter of your lives, although there will be numerous obstacles blocking your paths, your determined hearts will be forever strong. you will walk towards the light of the glory of tomorrow, with our best wishes from the bottom of our hearts! go for it!!!
best of luck,