- February 2019 Commencement Address 2019.02.25
To our graduates who 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. I would also like to thank Chairman Dong-soo Hur of the Board of Directors and distinguished guests for joining us today to encourage and support our graduates. In addition, I would like to acknowledge our faculty members who have made great efforts to educate our students.
Every graduation, I always ponder over my final words to the young Yonseians who will leave these campus grounds and enter society. Upon reviewing numerous commencement speeches from leading universities in Korea and abroad, I discovered that the phrase, "Take challenges," is a common message around the world. Today, I hope to share some words of advice that I believe will be meaningful to you.
Over the past few years at Yonsei, you have probably often reflected on yourself and your surroundings rather than simply accumulating knowledge. The importance of knowledge is decreasing in an age when artificial intelligence can instantly find information, so we now need the skill to identify and solve problems in our society proactively. I believe that our graduates will require the ability to connect completely different fields. It will become crucial that you expand from the restrictions of your major to focus on new phenomena or unfamiliar areas, using imagination and foresight to pursue connectivity. I refer to this ability as “extelligence.” Extelligence, a concept that contrasts with intelligence, is the ability to create new things by connecting already existing concepts around us. As a generation who will live until the early 22nd century, you must have extelligence to be creative in a rapidly changing flood of knowledge.
The bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees you receive today embody the essential values you have learned in the classroom and the lab. From undergraduates spending their first year together in dormitories at the International Campus to postgraduates collectively working in the lab, you have learned the valuable lesson of understanding and accepting differences in others. I believe this experience has helped you practice thoughtfulness and empathy towards your colleagues. Also, you will soon realize that your engagement with Yonsei’s distinguished professors and what you took away from the classroom and the lab provided invaluable fundamentals which will support you throughout your entire life. You have learned the meaning of marching together at Yon-Ko Games and inherited the spirit of service of Yonsei’s founders through various volunteering and student club activities.
The mindset of empathy and caring that you have attained at Yonsei University is an ability and value that only humans can acquire in the age of artificial intelligence. A common denominator of successful people is their good relationships, which means that they are caring, compassionate and generous. Successful lawyers recognize the importance of understanding and empathizing with their clients as much as winning trials. Yonseians should be kind individuals who make an effort to win the hearts of the people around them. The most popular words associated with “Yonsei” include “freedom,” “sophisticated,” and “eagle” - I sincerely hope that the word “warmhearted” will also make the list soon.
Some of you like to post everyday details on social media – from the people you meet to what you eat - and others enjoy following them online. You can virtually catch up on the lives of old friends as if you had just met yesterday; it seems like quite a wonderful world. However, I am concerned that you may pursue a lifestyle to showcase to others rather than being true to yourself. Today, Korean youths know the traditional eating culture of waiting for their seniors to begin eating first, but they can’t wait to take photos as soon as the food arrives. They prioritize posting photos over enjoying a meal together. Graduates, always ask yourself if you are choosing a life that you truly love rather than one that seemingly looks good to other people.
We now live in a world that is centered around the internet, which even influences our thoughts. We selectively access like-minded online sources and get trapped into information cocoons of limited information, ultimately becoming self-willed and narrow-minded. In this light, I also hope you prioritize spending time with family and friends in an internet-free setting.
Your success is our success, and your pain is our pain. I hope you will succeed in the future. However, there may be times in life when you fail. When so, do not be frustrated but learn and adapt - keep in mind that the way to overcome failure is to try not to repeat the same mistakes. Yonsei University will be with you throughout your journey. May God bless you in your future endeavors.