- August 2018 Commencement Address 2018.08.31
August 31, 2018
I would like to thank the Board of Directors, our former President, and all distinguished guests for joining us today to congratulate our graduates. To our graduates who have worked hard for their dreams and will receive honorable degrees today, I offer you sincere congratulations. I also send my gratitude and respect to the parents and family members for their dedication and sacrifice to support their beloved children throughout their studies at Yonsei University. Also, I would like to acknowledge our faculty members who have made great efforts to guide and educate our students.
Unlike most universities around the world which hold commencement ceremonies annually, Korean universities hold commencement twice a year - once in winter and once in summer. This system was first created to accommodate the various needs of students who wished to delay graduation, but recently it is not uncommon for students to graduate later than the usual four years. It seems that at times we may speed up or slow down throughout the long journey of life. As we move away from an era that had prioritized a fast-paced lifestyle, it has now become more important to focus on the way we lead our lives rather than how fast we get ahead. I hope that today’s graduates can afford the time to enjoy life in the midst of their busy everyday lives.
Graduates, you will stand at new crossroads once you leave university. You will now enter a completely new environment that is nothing like school - a world where there are no longer teachers who look after you and parents who take loving care of your every need. This new road is not going to be easy.
During commencement, I often tell graduates that their diploma is a “travel visa that will enable you to enter the ‘Age of Hyper-uncertainty.’" We are approaching a time when artificial intelligence will soon surpass human intelligence, and no one can predict what lies ahead in the long road of your 100-year life. It is possible that you will taste failure before success and what we once believed was a successful life might not be regarded as successful in the future. But defeat is not humiliating. The real humiliation is failing by repeating the same mistakes. I hope our graduates will first learn from your failures and go on to achieve success.
But heightened uncertainty also means more new possibilities. The industrial society we have lived in is based on a uniform framework of mass production and mass consumption. But as society changes fundamentally, more possibilities are emerging. A society driven by a small number of elites to enable mass production of a small variety of products is now coming to an end. We are transitioning to a society where everyone uses creativity to make new products and is in continuous pursuit of the new. Therefore, we must be able to think outside the box and choose the road not taken with a challenging spirit in life. I believe that the Yonsei spirit will strengthen you throughout your endeavors. I believe that at Yonsei you have nurtured the ability to develop your future in the midst of uncertainty creatively.
Graduates who love Yonsei,
The current social environment you will now enter seems harsher than ever. Any generation feels that they have it the worst, but today’s critical issues such as youth unemployment and the economic recession seem particularly bleak. However, as all generations evolve by enduring hardships, I believe you will pioneer and lead a new era. To do so, you must have faith in yourself. I want you to design your own life and proceed with your plans with confidence. The key to living wisely in the future society is to take your time and think long term, as well as choosing your direction instead of following others.
Korea is not your stage - the world is. The diploma you receive today is also a certificate that empowers you to embark on adventures all over the world. Yonsei’s founders had overcome many hardships when they first set foot on the barren soil of Chosun as missionaries. Reaching beyond Korea and into the world will be a great challenge for your new future.
In a global society where digital networks span beyond time and space, your stage can be anywhere from Silicon Valley to a tribal village in Uganda. Do not miss any opportunity. The spirit of acceptance and freedom that you experienced at Yonsei University will act as an invisible force when you engage in the world. Our proud alumni are all around the world, and they will guide you.
Our proud Yonseians,
Today you leave Yonsei's warm embrace, but Yonsei will always remember you and be your strong supporter. Please cherish what you have learned during your years of youth at Yonsei - what you have seen and felt here and the people you have met. You are proud Yonseians who have learned to serve, to give, to share, and to care on these campus grounds established by the will of God. Just as Yonsei University remembers you, please do not forget Yonsei University.
Once again, congratulations on your graduation. May the grace of God be with everyone here with us today.