2023年7月4日上午，北京大学燕京学堂毕业典礼暨学位授予仪式在二体地下报告厅隆重举行，董强院长发表了题为“Learning is a Lifelong Process”的英文演讲，他对毕业生们提出五点期待。
Learning is a Lifelong Process
Dear Scholars, Colleagues, and Friends,
Thank you for attending today's graduation ceremony. It is a joyful day to celebrate the fruitful outcome of your hard work and dedication.
Before anything, I would like to take this chance to express my gratitude to my colleagues, the entire YCA team, from top team members to every laoshi from all departments. I thank them for making everything happen, including today's ceremony. While this is a day to extend thanks to your parents, professors, and peer scholars, I hope you will drop by the office before leaving the campus, and say thank you to the laoshimen who lent a hand and showed kindness to you.
It is safe to say that most of you have had a unique experience during your two years of study — a double experience, I would say. One day, you were at home, taking classes online. Then the next, you were in a classroom under the same roof with your peer scholars while struggling to imbibe some knowledge and figure out your way around the campus, library, and cafeterias, sometimes still jet-lagged. I am amazed by how quickly you adapted and thrived. From classes on the campus and the YGS at Hainan to field trips in Chongqing and Sichuan. What a journey! I hope you have had a rich learning experience. I know I have.
Last year standing here, accustomed to speaking Chinese and French, I addressed you in English with a lot of nervousness. Today, I am still a bit nervous but slightly more assured and confident when I express my sincere wishes to you. That's the most fascinating aspect of education: one can learn at any period of life. I would like to thank you, scholars. The most beautiful moments in the past year for me were these memorable instances where I learned new things from you, with you, walking alongside you. Growth is the most beautiful thing. One day you will realize that being able to grow up in a foreign country is a great blessing in life. For your peer Chinese scholars, it is also a tremendous fortune to grow up in such a miniature international community here at Yenching Academy. For me, witnessing growth is also the beautiful part of my work. Witnessing growth is also about growing together. This past year has taught me a magnificent lesson: If an older adult like me can still learn and make progress, what about you, the young and dynamic, with the whole world to discover?
You are an outstanding cohort. I met Jiayu the other day during a meeting with Ms. Amina Mohammed, the deputy general secretary of the UN. Throughout her speech, I learned about her internship at the UN Headquarters in New York, where she was working on the Integrated National Financing Framework. I got to know Sarah by talking about calligraphy and stamps with her during an interview and was impressed by her knowledge of Chinese culture, and I was pleased to know she will continue her studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Daniel, who had just delivered a beautiful speech, will soon return to Germany where he will dedicate himself to public affairs. Although I didn't have the chance to get to know Yuheng, who just spoke on behalf of the alumni, I have heard so much about him. He recently obtained a PhD in Economics at Boston University, and is happily married to a young lady who graduated from PKU. Furthermore, he will be joining the School of Applied Economics at Renmin University of China as an assistant professor. Who's the winner here?
When talking about the nature of a university, English educator John Henry Newman used to say, and I quote, "It is a seat of wisdom, a light of the world, a minister of the faith, an Alma Mater of the rising generation." These words hold true today. I believe it is safe to say that Peking University is living up to these words, and Yenching Academy has acted upon its mission of fostering a new generation of global citizens who will be proud to call it their alma mater. The key to education is vision and pattern. International education is the best and most effective means to broaden horizons and increase vision. In Europe, aspiring young people have to complete a "great tour". Young people in Britain want to study on the European continent, and young Europeans need to study in other European countries away from their own country. In this way, their educational life can be considered perfect. The educational tradition of ancient China is extensive and profound, and people realize that outside of books, they need to experience the "heroic journey" just as the great Poet Du Fu did, in order to complete their education. In China, this is also why poetry and painting are so important. You will find that the most important theme found in poetry and painting is nature. Human education can only be improved through travel. This is also why our Academy places so much emphasis on field trips. If studying abroad itself is a kind of education through experience, then a large number of field trips and field research will deepen the experience and broaden the dimensions of one's experience. I hope you have experienced China's great mountains and rivers, rich customs and traditions, and today's vitality through various experiences.
We live in a rapidly dynamic and complex world facilitated by technological and scientific breakthroughs. I hope you find the knowledge our professors impart to you has equipped you well to stay ahead of any changing situations. I hope your time at YCA, whether long or short, has enabled you to discover ways to expand your innovative ideas, creativity, and flexibility to meet the needs of the time. Each class you took, the friendships you made, and the experiences you created and shared all contributed, even in the slightest form, to mold you into the person you are today.
Knowing that soon enough, you will be out in the world, where you will transmit your roles from students to professional workers, I also would like to impart some heartfelt wishes and expectations.
First, I hope you will maintain respect for history. When I talk about history, it is not a question of length. Long or short, history is always generative, constitutive, and organic. In an increasingly virtualized world, these three traits of history bring true richness to our experience. Respecting history is actually respecting experience and human existence. A person is composed of everything they experience, think, and do. Historical experience has told us that all attempts to completely break the past and establish a new order ended in disaster. As I am a specialist in France, let me use the French Revolution as an example. The then government tried to build a new type of "human being" but ended up paying a heavy price. Many innocent people were sacrificed, and still they failed. More than 200 years have passed, and France is still experiencing the swing and rebalancing after the Great Revolution. We have seen this reflected in recent riots by the French people. Everything a person experiences constitutes their being, and even if this being, as my renowned teacher Milan Kundera once said, may have an unbearable lightness. Respecting being, that is, respecting people as they are and respecting human nature. At the end of the 19th century, in his environment, Nietzsche shouted, "Human, too human!" Today, we need to say, "Human, more human, please!"
Second, I hope you form respect for differences. Differences can create drops, and just as water falling from a higher level to a lower level can create electricity, differences develop kinetic energy, and create beauty in the world. True psychological maturity requires the existence of others. We cannot live in our own identities. Byung-Chul Han, a Korean philosopher living in Germany, wrote many thoughts about our times. One of the most interesting reflections is his concept of "terror of the same" (in German: Terror des Gleichen. Daniel could tell whether my pronunciation is good or not ) In Han's view, the "terror of the same" has swept across various fields of life in today's society. People have traveled thousands of miles without summarizing any kind of experience. People have seen everything, yet they have not formed any insights. People accumulate information and data without acquiring any knowledge. They yearn for adventure and excitement, but in this adventure and excitement, they remain unchanged. People accumulate friends and fans through their social media but never encounter even one 'other'. Understanding and accepting differences is the best way to break this terror of the same.
Third, I hope you will resist "folding"，resist the solidification of social stratification. In a book called Folding Beijing, Ms Hao Jingfang imagined a not-so-far future, where the city of Beijing, the same city that you have not finished exploring, is separated into three different spaces which are totally disconnected. The people who live in each space are part of same class and live under the same social conditions. The reasons for the "terror of the same" which Byung Chul Han described are not just characteristics of our technological and informative era, it is also due to social reasons, living conditions, and the wealth gap.
You are all excellent young people graduating from the most prestigious universities in the world. From now on, you will have to prove it, not only by the degrees you earned, but by your actions. Be someone reliable, someone people can count on while collaborating, and someone with integrity. Do not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. I also hope you can have a real understanding of the relativity of advancement and backwardness. Always keep a sense of social justice. Without any intention to be engaged in ideological debates, I continue to think that social justice and the equality of the people should be the aims of humanity.
This brings me to my fourth expectation: I hope you cultivate a sense of collectivity and solidarity. When I delivered my speech at Harvard University in April, I mentioned that in China, when talking about education, we say it takes 10 years to "build" a tree, and 100 years to "build" a human being. I have kept the word "build" in my translation because it reminds me of the German word, "bilden", which means "cultivate" and "culture". Education is narrowly related to culture. The Chinese culture is often criticized for encouraging the collectivity and strangling the individuality. In education, one must stay within his individuality. Developing one's body and soul needs a keen sense of individuality. That is why Western society, with its different patterns, encourages people to be individuals, to be heroic. I cannot agree more. But one day, people will find that an individual is fragile. In order to get through various kinds of tough moments or difficulties, you need solidarity. You need to collaborate. This is not just a question of career, where the one who knows how to collaborate, always has more of a chance to succeed in life. It is also a question of survival for humanity. All of the past catastrophes have shown us that only with solidarity can we protect ourselves from big risks like climate change or wars.
Last but not least, I would like to emphasize that, as I mentioned earlier, learning is a lifelong pursuit. One of the most wisest sayings in China is that we are never too old to learn. Our beloved honorary dean, Professor Yuan Ming, who is attending our graduation ceremony today, will surely agree with me. I will never forget the day she shared her first experience with me about ChatGPT. This experience, which was beyond her acquired knowledge, profoundly shocked her. Her eyes were brilliant, and her curiosity was at a maximum degree. At that time, she looked like you, dear young scholars, with the same curiosity and the same eagerness to understand, to learn. I know I made a big mistake using her as an example while talking about age, because she is still young. But I think the reason she is so young is because she has a secret: always be curious and never stop learning. I hope she will always be young and healthy, and walk alongside us!
For the last two years, you have seen and experienced a lot, but it is far from enough. Growth is an uninterrupted and lifelong process. In China alone, there are still so many discoveries to be made, so please come back to China often, for professional or recreational reasons. Always keep an eye on China, even if your work would not be directly related to China. Continue to be informed about China and learn about China. François Julian, an eminent French philosopher and sinologist, likes to talk about what has inspired his interest in studying China. He said: "I was so surprised that in a big country like China, people just connected the east and the west, 东西，to express the word 'thing'!" Since this first discovery, what a long journey he has had! Until today, he still continues to try to understand China. The world's richness, diversity, and complexity are its true essence, which is constantly reminding us to remain curious and skeptical of ourselves. For example, even as a Chinese person, I am still fascinated by the fact that our ancestors connected the light and the shadow, 光阴，to designate the time! By the way, for this reason, I have prepared a surprise for you and will tell you a "story about the time", and about the "light and shadow", at the end of this ceremony.
Finally, as you embark upon a new chapter of your life, I would like to send you two lines of words. The first line is "胸怀远志，不畏近难", which I translated as "Have a broad vision, think long, and do not be afraid of challenges for the time being." The second line comes from Li Bai, from his famous poem titled "Hard is the Way of the World", I translated it in the book I've written in collaboration with my good friend, Le Clezio, the 2008 Laureate of the Nobel Price in literature. Today I will give you the English version by Professor Xu Yuanchong : "A time will come to ride the wind and clear the waves, I'll set my cloud white sail and cross the sea which raves!" 长风破浪会有时，直挂云帆济沧海！You will see that in both of these lines, there is the concept of difficulty. Yes, this world is not only about smooth sailing, especially today's world. It is full of uncertainty. It is filled with a variety of difficulties, especially when you leave the campus, and go out into the world and society. Yet at the same time, your aspirations and your experiences including those at Yenching Academy, will help you overcome these difficulties and ultimately realize your dreams and aspirations.
Thank you！Congratulations again! 再次祝贺大家！I wish you the best of luck!