- August 2021 Commencement Address 2021.08.27
My sincerest congratulations to the graduates who have successfully completed their bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, who will now embark on a new chapter in their lives, and who will forever have Yonsei University as their alma mater. I extend my congratulations and gratitude to the parents who have supported our graduates with love, sacrifice, and prayers to see you all standing here at this proud moment. I would also like to thank Chairman Dong-soo Hur and other members of the Board of Trustees for their support to the students, to President Kyung-sun Yu of the Yonsei Alumni Association and the other alumni around the world who support their alma mater, to the professors for teaching passionately and serving as role models for our students, and to all other members of the Yonsei community.
To all our graduates who are about to take flight into the world:
During the last three semesters, the COVID-19 pandemic has led Yonsei as well as all universities around the world into unprecedented circumstances, and to transition our classes and university life in general to a virtual model. I hope you will take great pride in successfully completing your degrees in the midst of these challenging circumstances. I am especially proud of you for all the obstacles you have overcome, and I give my encouragement and special congratulations to all of you standing here today in this exceptional position.
The term “alma mater” derives from the Latin, meaning “nourishing mother.” Like a mother who gives life to and nurtures her children, the alma mater provides scholarly nourishment to her students and helps them grow into intellectuals. Just as the relationship between a mother and her child lasts forever, so too will the relationship between you and your alma mater remain permanent. Despite the limitations in face-to-face interactions on campus and in classrooms during the past year and a half, our university will always be connected to you and fulfill its responsibilities as an alma mater.
On September 6th, Yonsei University will launch its new online education platform, LearnUS, to the public. LearnUs will go beyond serving as a platform for our degree students to share Yonsei’s extensive intellectual resources with our society and the international community. Increasing the availability of online resources will allow Yonsei to lead the way into the future, bridging the divide in educational access and providing exceptional learning opportunities for those who may have had limited access to our university's vast resources. LearnUS will help Yonsei University to lead global educational innovation, and will also be a way in which alumni like yourself can stay connected to Yonsei's educational resources even after you graduate and leave campus. LearnUS will help us better serve our alumni as a lifelong partner in education.
To all our graduates who will serve as leaders of your generation:
We are now facing unprecedented crises and change all over the globe. Despite our expectations that the vaccine would deter the coronavirus, the emergence of variants may prolong the pandemic beyond our initial expectations. COVID has shown us, in a domino effect, the disparities between nations, classes, and societies. We are learning more than ever that we are all linked together as a global community, and also learning that we need to work together to strengthen and support any weak links in our system.
The problems that we face are not limited to particular individuals or particular nations. Disasters like this pandemic, or the climate change crisis, are challenges that humankind must face together. We live in a world where no one can thrive unless all of humanity is safe. In this context, our society requires leaders who think not only of themselves, but also think of what is best for our collective global society, and who can harness global cooperation with strategic wisdom.
During his inaugural speech as President of Chosen Christian College in 1934, Horace Horton Underwood (Dr. Han Kyung Won by his Korean name) emphasized Yonsei's educational philosophy of nurturing leaders who will spread goodness around the globe. Here, President Underwood declared that the role and identity of Yonsei was 'to develop an attitude of cooperation with men of all countries, classes and churches. We aim to develop a sense of responsibility to society through a knowledge of God the Father, through the love of God the Son and under the guidance of God the Spirit.'
This great tradition of Yonsei education continues today. Our university recently ranked 79th in the world in the QS World University Rankings—the best performance ever. In the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, we came in 30th among the world universities and first in Korea. These indicators demonstrate that Yonsei is taking a leadership role in building upon its outstanding research and pioneering education to fulfill its social responsibility toward a sustainable and shared world.
To our graduates who are venturing out in challenging times:
Let us recall American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer.” Niebuhr prays, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” During times of crisis and turmoil, it is important to have the courage to innovate what needs to be changed, while preserving the values that need to remain set in stone. The greatest mistake would be to hold on to what should be changed, or to throw away what should be kept. I hope the truth and freedom you have learned at Yonsei will hold you steady and wise as we found our way out of this tempestuous period. I hope that you will confront the world's challenges with creativity and with innovation as you leave this campus and enter the real world. At the same time, I hope you will take great pride in your identity as a graduate of Yonsei University.
To our graduates taking your first steps out into the world:
Remember that your alma mater will always be there to serve as a cheerleader for your new steps. Your alma mater will forever be connected to you and support your growth and development. Once again, congratulations on your graduation, and may God’s blessings be with you in every step you take.