Speech by Vice President of Peking University Wang Bo at the 2020 Graduation Ceremony of Yenching Academy


Good morning, good afternoon, or maybe good evening, dear Yenching Scholars.

I am honored to join you in celebrating your academic achievement, and I find the format for doing so this year to be refreshing, unique and memorable. I hope that both now and many years into the future, you will look back on this moment in the same light.

You decided on an education at Peking University because you elected to fully invest and embrace the adventure of delving into a new academic and cultural environment. Through that initial choice, you also assumed the accompanying responsibilities of interacting with other cultures and of building Peking University into a more open and diverse community. Facing this worldwide epidemic, young scholars from all over the globe have made and should continue to make more efforts to address the fear and distrust that characterizes present global affairs through cultural exchange and defend the common values of human culture and civilization. One world, one fight, we are all in this together.

When I think of you, I think of my fellow global citizens and future global leaders - and to you, I wish to impart ‘three hopes’ that you may carry from your time in China to wherever life’s journey takes you.

The first hope relates to Knowledge. In this fast changing world – AI and other emerging technologies are moving society in ways faster than ever before, and changing the world we used to know. To keep pace with these developments, we need to equip ourselves with knowledge. To lead, we must rethink how to use our values to inform these technologies.

This semester, Peking University’s entire teaching mode has shifted online. Teachers who are used to traditional educational methods have adopted new tools like Zoom to teach. Meanwhile students-especially international students-have also had to overcome the limitations of different time zones and physical distance to learn, to interact, and to defend their theses. In many ways, the experience you had this year at Yenching epitomizes these new transitions.

During your study here, I believe one of the most rewarding experiences is gaining knowledge and understanding of China. Through your professors’ lectures, your field trip to Xi’an, and exploration of Beijing’s hutongs, I hoped you interacted with a China that may have been different from what you heard, thought, or anticipated. You came and saw firsthand a rapidly changing China, a China in transition, the real China. Whether you choose to stay or not after your graduation, this knowledge of China will better equip you to think about the biggest challenges that face the world.

The second hope relates to Courage. The world today faces many challenges – in the future, no doubt others will replace them. In the days ahead, in facing down the difficulties that life brings, remember that courage can help you get through and conquer any hardship. In the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, you all remained calm, stayed focused and finished your thesis at home or in new settings. You all made it, and I couldn’t be more proud of you!

More importantly, courage requires one to be true to oneself, speak honestly and assume responsibility even when things are hard. Zhong Nanshan, one of PKU’s most famous alumni, at the age of 84, led his team to the most hit city, Wuhan, at the very outbreak of the virus. He was also the first authority to publicly state that COVID-19 was human-to-human transmissible, which raised the public awareness of the seriousness of the virus. I call this act courageous.

The third hope relates to Kindness. We see many valuable qualities in people we consider excellent. Among them, compassion and kindness are definitely qualities that help us go a long way. Acts of charity mirror ones taken by the Peking University medical team, in rushing to Wuhan to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year. These medical staff left their loved ones to share their expertise with doctors in Wuhan. Likewise, there are so many other doctors and nurses worldwide, working on the front lines, racing against time to combat the coronavirus. They are all truly unsung heroes in this battle, people of knowledge, courage and kindness.

I also heard many touching stories about our Yenching Scholars helping each other out in this hard time. There are too many to mention individually here. I see kindness truly manifested within you, and I hope you strive to maintain this value in the times ahead.

Today, I celebrate with you all your achievements at Peking University, academically and socially. I also want to appeal to you as Peking University graduates, global citizens and future global leaders to join hands, and face the common challenges of humankind and solve the crisis together as you always do. The world needs you and that responsibility falls on your generation. Always trying to be a better person, care about your families, the world around you and beyond, and give back to society.

Congratulations, Yenching Scholars, and good luck!

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