- 2021 Commencement Address 2021.02.22
To our graduates who will receive honorable bachelor’s degrees today and take their first steps outside of the Yonsei campus, I offer sincere congratulations. I extend my gratitude and congratulations to the parents and family members of today’s graduates for their devotion and sacrifice in supporting their beloved children throughout their studies at Yonsei. I would also like to express my respect to Chairman Hur Dong-soo and our distinguished guests for supporting our graduates, as well as our dedicated faculty members who taught our students with commitment. Although this commencement ceremony is being held online again, I would like to thank you for joining us today to congratulate our graduates.
Over the past year, we have witnessed the global community devastated by a microscopic virus. What lies ahead in the year 2021 may be a world of extraordinary uncertainty that nobody can predict with confidence. Today, you will embark on a new journey in this unknown world. You may be confused and overwhelmed with anxiety at first, but I want you to walk confidently towards the road to the future, embracing Yonsei's spirit of truth and freedom in your heart.
Yonsei taught you to realize the truth in the Word of God. This truth is not the knowledge that governs the world. Rather, it teaches us to be humble, respectful, and united before the truth. Moustapha Dahleb, a writer from the African country of Chad, paradoxically said that the coronavirus has quickly accomplished what Western powers, companies, and environmentalists have failed to achieve. When humans stopped, nature came back to life, smoke and air pollution decreased, and endangered wildlife began to reappear in their habitat. “This serve(d) to realize the limit of human intelligence in the face of the force of heaven,” Dahleb said.
The truth that Yonsei values is knowledge for all humankind. The pioneers who founded Yonsei and made it as it is today were giants who carried out the divine mission on Earth. History records that nearly 400 people died every day from a cholera outbreak in Joseon the year after missionary Horace Grant Underwood first set foot on Joseon’s land. During this time, missionaries Horace Allen of Jejungwon and Horace Underwood devoted themselves to caring for infected patients. They cared for the patients day and night and held funerals for them. These pioneers of Yonsei shared the grace of God with the divine truth they firmly believed in. Your senior Yonseians have also demonstrated the virtue of true leaders who served others regardless of the difficulties and challenges. Please remember that we too have inherited this founding spirit of Yonsei.
Take a step forward toward the harsh world while embracing Yonsei's spirit: “The truth will set you free.” This free spirit of Yonsei is the basis for its openness and liberalism. Yonsei's free academic customs allowed us to listen to voices different from us and hear even the smallest moans of the weak. If the talent sought by industrial society was intelligence, the talent sought in this era of coronavirus is sympathy for our neighbors and coexistence with nature. A leader capable of sharing with and caring for others is a real talent who can lead and make change in the post-coronavirus era.
In 2020, Yonsei University ranked first in South Korea and 47th globally according to the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings. This achievement demonstrates how committed Yonsei is to creating a future of social responsibility and existing harmoniously with world community in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It is evidence that Yonsei is not just an ivory tower but also an enricher of society and a good influence on human life. I am proud that you have grown on this campus to become creative talents who can share innovative values and lead real changes in the world.
Dear graduates who are leaving the Yonsei campus today and heading toward the unknown, inherit the proud legacy of the pioneers and alumni of Yonsei University over the past 136 years and continue to walk the path seeking truth and freedom the two core values of our university. Look into the light of heaven, embrace humanity and the global community, and lead them to the center of the world. Meet with various people, communicate with them, and start small initiatives that will later change the world. I am confident that you will undoubtedly contribute to humanity as an innovative leader with a community spirit.
On your journey to the unknown world in this era of coronavirus, do not forget that you have Yonsei standing firmly by your side. Although today you leave Yonsei, Yonsei will always support you and cheer you on. Please continue your ties with your alma mater.
Once again, congratulations on your graduation! May the grace of God always be with you and with us all. Thank you!