- February 2020 Commencement Address 2020.02.24
To our graduates who will receive honorable bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees today and take their first steps into the world, I offer you sincere congratulations. I extend my gratitude to the parents, family members, and benefactors for their devotion and sacrifice in supporting them throughout their studies. I greatly appreciate your dedication. I would also like to thank the faculty members who taught our students with commitment and love, as well as Chairman Dong-soo Hur and the members of the Board of Trustees and the Yonsei Alumni Association, who steadfastly propel university operations and education at Yonsei University.
Yonsei University celebrates its 135th anniversary of academic development this year. The University has always served as a pioneer throughout the development of Korea – during its historic port opening, national independence, modernization, democratization, and industrialization eras. To lead today’s globalization era, Yonsei is exploring various ways to contribute to humankind with an even broader spectrum of education and research. As soon as you leave this campus and go out into society, you will remember the beauty and significance of your alma mater. You will reflect on Yonsei’s historical legacy, the love and hard work of its visionaries, and the passion of its members who are working day and night to lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Throughout your years at Yonsei University, you have embraced the joy of learning and the romance of youth. You may also have spent sleepless nights pondering with piercing intellect and worrying about the uncertain future. It is all part of the learning experience to prepare you for society and life - to prepare you for this very day. There were both good days and bad days. As President of Yonsei University, I hope to help you recover from the despair you felt when facing the harsh realities of life. We live in an imperfect world, so it is a pain that everyone who dreams of a better world encounters inevitably.
At the end of today’s commencement ceremony, you will head towards a new life. I would like to give you three pieces of advice.
First, never give up on your dreams. Dreams are your vision for life and the world. They guide our lives, make us resilient, and motivate us to work hard. There will always be challenges and unforeseen circumstances, but do not worry too much or too early on. You have inherited the pioneering spirit of Yonsei University, which was founded 135 years ago on barren soil. You carry the Yonsei DNA passed on by poet Yun Dong-ju, who persevered during Korea’s colonial period and wrote songs of the stars until his last breath.
Second, become a leader who can change and innovate your surroundings, no matter where you work. In the new era which you will soon encounter, artificial intelligence will advance from its early stages of development, smart technology will lead human lives, and civilization will reach a singularity where technological growth completely surpasses human biology. We live in a time where you must change if you want to protect what is yours. We cannot predict the future; we can only shape it. It is not an overstatement to say that the future of the world depends on innovative leaders.
Third, engage with your neighbors and contribute to benefiting your community. We need more than technology-driven capabilities, even in the age of artificial intelligence and robots. What’s more important is reflection and care in human nature. Rather than mastering the functions of “what” to do and “how” to do something, we need to think about “why” we do it and whether it can positively impact our neighbors. Quoting the poet Kim Kwang-Kyu, “If you can only run forward / not knowing how to look back / there is no meaning in being human / Running 110 kilometers per hour toward its prey / the leopard is much faster.”
After today’s commencement ceremony, you will leave the Yonsei University campus. You are now a letter sent from your alma mater to society. Society will identify and evaluate Yonsei University based on you. We look forward to hearing back that you have promoted development and peace with your talent and virtue throughout your career.
As I sincerely congratulate you on your graduation, I would like to share a Bible verse from the book of Philippians, chapter 4. I pray that you do “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.”