Address by Professor H K Chang, President
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Chairman and Members of Council, Honoured Guests, Graduates and Colleagues:In this crisp autumn weather and at a time of jubilation, we celebrate the 18th Congregation of City University of Hong Kong. As President, I am particularly pleased to see another class graduating with excellent academic achievements. Today, you have won society's recognition after years of hard work; and your parents and families are now receiving the reward they richly deserve for their loving care and unfailing support. On behalf of all the staff of
The year 2003 is quite extraordinary in many ways to many of us personally, to
The war in
Certainly, these extraordinary events will be written into the records of history and be long borne in our mind. Today, however, I will not comment further on these events. Rather, I would like to share with you my personal experience forty years ago, back in 1963, and compare that with what we experience today.
Forty years ago, I left
On that journey 40 years ago,
In August, having left
Then I caught a long-distance coach in
Soon, in the library at Stanford, I had the opportunity to read a variety of newspapers and magazines, including those from Mainland
One day, around noontime, in the late fall of 1963, I noticed a sad mood gripping the campus, some students even sobbed. It turned out that President John F Kennedy had been assassinated that morning. That terrible event shook the world, and the facts surrounding the assassination are still murky today.
How time flies and history ebbs and flows! It seems that forty years have passed in the blink of an eye.
Those Asian and African nations that had just shed the shackles of European colonialism in those days have not yet found solutions to many of the problems left by their colonial past 40 years after. Today, ethnic and tribal wars are frequent; poverty and corruption still abound everywhere we turn our eyes.
During the same 40 years, the
As for China, it has learned hard lessons from various political campaigns. In the past 20 years, China has pursued reform and openness, focusing its energy and attention on economic development, adopting science, technology and education as its national policies in the hope of bringing revitalization of the Chinese people. Externally, China advocates peace and development; it is playing an increasingly important role in world affairs. Compared with 40 years ago, we should be confident and feel proud of being Chinese today.
Let us now turn and take a look at Hong Kong in the year 2003. Hong Kong is by any standard one of the world's most modern, most affluent and most prosperous metropolitan cities. With their hard work, the two generations before us have pushed those days of no subway system, no cross-harbour tunnels and no adequate water supply out of our collective memory and turned them into traces of a bygone past. Now we are part of a prospering China, and we are at the main gateway of South China to the world. We can contribute to the modernization of China, and at the same time realize our own growth in this exciting historic development. To create a better future, we must resume the striving spirit of our past and use the principle of "One Country; Two Systems" to our advantage, dedicating ourselves to the future of Hong Kong while always bearing in mind the interest of our country.
Yang Liwei, the astronaut in the Shenzhou 5 spaceship, has brought honour to the country and brilliant accomplishment and a sense of personal satisfaction through many years of hard work and practice. In the past 40 years, American and Russian astronauts have also toiled long and hard, and made enormous sacrifices for their countries in fulfilling their duties, but they have attained personal success and gratification, too. We can draw some inspiration from these examples: without working for the interest of the society at large, there can be no personal success.
Some have said that Western nations put priority on the individual, while in East Asian societies collective interest always takes priority over the individual. Let us set aside the question of the validity of such simplistic generalizations. Even if such a statement had something valid to it, Hong Kong as the meeting place of Chinese and Western cultures should fuse the two sets of values and find the best reconciliation of collectivism and individualism.
In fact, although Chinese culture is heavily influenced by Confucian thought and puts relative emphasis on a sense of the collective, the mental state portrayed by many poets and painters by drawing on Zen Buddhism and Taoist philosophy are also quintessentially Chinese. A famous poem by Chen Zi'ang, an early Tang poet:
Where, before me, are the ages that have gone?
And where, behind me, are the coming generations?
I think of heaven and earth, without limit, without end,
And I am all alone and my tears fall down.
How can this be taken as a display of collective spirit?
Although the basic values of modern European and American societies are inclined towards individualism and personal interest, surely there have been uncountable examples of altruism and unselfish sacrifices, like the American and Russian astronauts mentioned above. The motto of the US Military Academy at
I have lived and worked both in
Dear graduates, as you are about to commence your career or to open another chapter of your life, I have high expectations of you. From where you are standing today, facing challenges in Hong Kong, China and the world, you must work hard, and you will have your achievements.
I would like to offer you this quote, which I learned in 1963, from the late US President John F Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." The bright future for Hong Kong and China lies in every effort you make in the interest of Hong Kong and the motherland. And in the bright future of Hong Kong and China you will find rich rewards both in your spiritual well-being and in your career.
I earnestly hope you will give this thought your careful consideration, deep understanding and unwavering commitment.