Peng Gang, Vice President of Tsinghua University, delivers a speech at the 2020 Graduation Ceremony of Xinya College
I am very happy to attend this graduation ceremony held both online and on the site, although it is a pity that many students and their families could not make it. I attended the ceremony too in the main building almost at the same time last year. I remember when a teacher talked about the two characters in Xinya. I carried it on and said: Xin means new, so we need to make higher expectations for ourselves and make progress every day. Ya means being elegant, refined and learned. By taking general education, students at Xinya College must be scholarly and elegant rather than boorish.
I just watched a video about the life of graduates in the past four years. They are youthful, and full of vitality. I was moved seeing that theywished each other "Happy Graduation" from different places. So I thought, maybe I can talk about "happiness". These days, we heard various kinds of messages to graduation. In Tsinghua, self-improvement, self-discipline, and self-confidence are stressed. We are asked to set high goals for ourselves to fulfill our dreams. These are very important. I also hope that our graduates know how to "enjoy themselves" more at all stages in life, study and career.
We will inevitably experience ups and downs in our life. If there is only peace and beauty in life, it must be very boring. We often said that “Be the first to worry about the troubles across the land, the last to enjoy universal happiness” and “One thrives and survives under suffering and hardships”. Worry always goes hand in hand with happiness. At Tsinghua University, we often hear people say that "getting the world's talent and educating them" is a great joy in life. But I quoted Academician Zhu Bangfen on different occasions in the past year or two — "getting the world's talent and educating them" is something of concern. Liu Zhen and Yu Xiaoxiao have recruited the most outstanding students from legions of candidates. How do you educate them? How can you not be anxious or nervous? You may ask yourself: If they remain excellent in the future, is it because of their efforts or your teaching? Or could they have been better if they had been better educated? How do you prove that these youngpeople could not have achieved such achievements by their mutual motivation and self-growth without your teaching and management? Therefore, for a teacher at Tsinghua, worry always goes hand in hand with happiness. I have participated in many activities of Xinya in recent years, and I have never been absent from any of its graduation ceremony. Every time I see our students' performance immediately before graduation, I always feel more at ease. At least they recognize the efforts of the teachers, and at least they have grown indeed on this campus.
Collective activity of students enrolling in 2016
As students advance, of course, there are worries and happiness. I don't really believe in the idea of happy learning, but I do believe that there is happiness in learning. You have to make progress through hard work, and you will gain something and be happy in the process. I am greatly impressed by the speech of Kong Xiangrui just now. He talked about the difficulties and special opportunities forthegrowthof the students enrolling in 2016 as the first class after the materialization of Xinya College. He also talked about what the freedom of choice means to students when selecting majors in the second semester of the first year. There is anxiety, a feeling of weightlessness and heaviness, a worry about how to take the consequences from a choice which I do not know much now, rather than a sense of pleasure. The process of making progress must be full of hardships, anxiety, and even failures, as well as those sleepless nights. However, I can clearly feel the joy of making progress along with worries from the video and speech of graduates.
Graduating from college is a milestone in life. Entering adulthood, you will know that most often it is the fragments and moments we experienced that make the life worth living and meaningful. These memorable happy moments are often accompanied by the hard work, confusion, exploration, and contemplation.
So other than self-improvement, self-confidence and self-discipline, I especially hope that the students will be joyful in the process of learning and exploration. Xinya is a special zone for talent training in Tsinghua University, and an important pilot unit for education and teaching reform. General education is the foundation for talent training at Xinya College. What is the greatest characteristic of general education? In my opinion, it keeps us open-minded, widens our view, and endows us with the ability to see things we couldn't see before, and things people who rest on their laurels don't necessarily see. As described by Plato, the man imprisoned in a dark cave will experience great joy once he walks into broad daylight. Happiness can be multi-dimensional. For example, as mentioned before, Xinya is a community like home. We all find happiness from the intimate communication between teachers and fellow students, and from the richer exchanges with each other. We can also find happiness from pursuing knowledge and constantly breaking through the intellectual boundaries.
I remember that I told the story of my teacher, Mr. He Zhaowu, before. Today, I will tell the story of another teacher. I have enough teachers anyway, and the advantage of having enough teachers is that there are many stories to be told. This story is about Mr. Ye Xiushan, who passed away more than three years ago. Many years ago, I visited him at a writing studio in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences located at Jianguomennei Street. Mr. Ye was beaming with joy. Before I could ask him what he was happy about, he said: "Guess what I just did?" So I asked and he answered: "I memorized the German version of Heidegger'sThe Origin of the Work of Art word by word." It is a masterpiece with every word and phrase highly accomplished. Every sentence written by Heidegger is so good. "I want to possess it and memorize it!" Mr. Ye studied Western philosophy, which is very abstruse to many of us, but he called it "great fun". He loved calligraphy and wrote well. He also loved painting, Peking Opera, and classical music. I joked that he was an "ear hedonist" because he bought different versions of records and used various audio accessories. After his death, I told others that one of the things I learned from him is that to lead a life of pleasure requires ability. Some kinds of happiness does not require ability, such as eating steak, from which everyone can get happiness. Some others require it when you want to find great pleasure from Peking Opera, calligraphy, painting, and Heidegger. From this point of view, general education is to improve our ability to enjoy ourselves.
I am very happy today. I saw Mr. Li Shuqin the moment I came in. I happened to read an article by him a few days ago. Mr. Li has served as the Party Secretary at the Department of Water Resources, the School of Humanities, and the School of Law. He specializes in "secretary" at Tsinghua University. Thanks to him, many scholars in liberal arts familiar to all of us today have been introduced to Tsinghua University. He said in the article that liberal arts teachers have really poor hands-on ability! In fact, I am worse than them. Mr. Li said that when the School of Law was just established, he would solve every problem for the teachers introduced such asablocked sewer. The other day, a teacher called him and said that the television did not work. Mr. Li went over, saw a screw on the antenna came loose, and tightened it. Those teachers who were just transferred to Tsinghua University developed a sense of identification with the new environment in this way. I believe that Mr. Li must be very joyful when he wrote the article. It was obtained not only from his ability to fix bicycles, antennas, and sewers as a scholar and leader, which is of course necessary, but also by serving others. It is a cause of Tsinghua University and the School of Law, but to younger generations like us, it is also of Mr. Li Shuqin.
We are now in a very special period. As your undergraduate studies come to an end, the life of everyone, the entire country, and the entire world are going through huge changes. On the one hand, for an individual and for a nation, greatness comes from difficulties. On the other hand, we should keep in mind that we receive education and develop abilities in order to make this world a better place and bring more happiness to more people. In this process, we should boast the ability to keep an open mind, to maintain our true self, to show kindness to those around us, and to acquire more pure and diverse happiness for ourselves.
Therefore, regarding the function of general education, we can say "what seems useless is for great use" on the one hand; on the other hand, we can say very explicitly that general education enables people to obtain more happiness and cultivates our ability to acquire happiness. The four-year undergraduate life is coming to an end, and the students are entering a new stage of life. I hope that you will get more knowledge, more progress and more happiness in the future journey! Thank you all!