- August 2020 Commencement Address 2020.08.28
August 28, 2020
President Seoung Hwan Suh
To our graduates who will receive honorable bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees today and take their first steps into the world as Yonsei alumni, I offer sincere congratulations. I extend my gratitude and congratulations to parents and family members for their devotion and sacrifice in supporting our graduates throughout their studies at Yonsei. I also deeply thank Chairman Hur Dong-soo and the members of the Board of Trustees; I thank Chairman Yu Kyung-sun of the Yonsei Alumni Association; and I thank our 350,000 alumni for always encouraging and supporting our graduates. Above all, I would like to express my gratitude and respect to all the faculty members, who taught with passion and dedication and who are proudly seeing off their students as they step out into the world.
It is with great sadness that the 2020 August Commencement Ceremony, which was to be an event filled with emotion and commendations, is being held online due to the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.
You will now take your first step into society in an age of extraordinary uncertainty. You may feel fear, rather than confidence, in leading this new era. You may encounter a difficult and challenging world when you leave our beloved campus, but do not worry too much or too early. What you have learned at Yonsei will guide you with assurance.
On the 135th anniversary of Yonsei University’s establishment last May, I proclaimed the university’s vision of “Yonsei: Toward Truth and Freedom,” and I vowed to cultivate Yonseians as “innovative leaders with a community spirit.” I hope all of you will take pride as community-oriented leaders of innovation. As you successfully complete your education by receiving your diploma today, never forget that the legacy of Yonsei’s founders, who led the nation with great love, continues to live and breathe within you. I firmly believe that this great legacy of Yonsei University will be a valuable resource for your future.
Described by Israeli historian Yuval N. Harari in his book, Sapiens, our species, which “seventy thousand years ago” was “still an insignificant animal minding its own business in a corner of Africa,” today “stands on the verge of becoming a god.” The high spirits of homo sapiens have fallen sharply; for the past six months, we have witnessed the tragic fragility of humankind, which we had believed to be within reach of divinity, in the face of a microscopic virus. Triumphant humanity, which had been building a modern Tower of Babel, has been quickly humbled. Now, as we navigate this period of great civilizational transformation in a search for survival, we must be strengthened with a new spirit that values coexistence over development and seeks presence over possession. We must change the world with a holy vision that pursues inclusion and dedication above competition and exclusion.
As a result of continuous effort and social contributions, Yonsei University placed first in the world in the University Impact Rankings announced by Times Higher Education – a compiler of world university rankings – last year, and it has continued its global reputation as a socially engaged academic institution this year. I am proud that you have grown over the years on the Yonsei campus to become caring, talented individuals devoted to your neighbors, the community, and humanity; you are now innovative leaders with the ability to change the world.
Be confident and bold as you remember Yonsei University’s 135-year journey of challenges and pioneering advances on these grounds. I am sure that you will extend the founding spirit of Yonsei, which freed this once-barren soil, and take on great challenges in the pursuit of truth and freedom. I firmly believe that you will honor the noble legacy of poet Yun Dong-ju, who wrote songs of the stars during the dark times of our nation.
Our graduates, who will soon lead humanity!
I hope that you will continue to challenge yourselves as leaders and to guide humanity anew with the Christian spirit of engagement and coexistence that has been passed down by Yonsei’s founders for the past 135 years. No matter where you go or what you do, I hope you will always keep the Yonsei heart beating and become icons of dedication and innovation. Although you now leave Yonsei, Yonsei will never forget you – the heirs of our spirit – and will strive to stand firmly by your side.
Once again, congratulations on your graduation! May the grace of God always be with you and with us all.
Video of virtual 2020 Commencement Ceremony held on August 29, 2020.