Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Change The World -- My Remarks to PolyU Congregation Ceremony

I had the honor of giving the congratulatory remarks at the Congregation Ceremony for the Master Degree graduates of the Department of Computing of the Faculty of Engineering of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University this afternoon. Tonight, I also gave another remarks to the "outpost" graduates among this class from cities in China like Xian and Suzhou. Let me share with you my remarks, with the original in English and the translated version in Chinese also, below:

Professor Wai, guests, members of the Faculty, parents and most of all, the graduates,

It is my distinct honor today to make this congratulatory remark to you, the graduating class from the Department of Computing, on this special day of the Congregation ceremony.

It was twenty-four years ago when I myself graduated from university, and honestly speaking, the commencement speech at that time was the last thing I remember from the occasion. Nonetheless, the Congregation ceremony and this address should affirm each of your search for knowledge, confirm the effort and the achievement by each of you, and hopefully, inspire you to continue to make yourself a better man or woman, to contribute to society, your family and your country.

Today, as you receive your degree from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Computing, a field of study that is among the most rapidly advancing among all areas of technologies, you are facing limitless possibilities to shape the future, to create opportunities for yourselves and others. Twenty-seven years ago, when I first logged on to the Internet in my first year of college, and sent my first email, I could not have imagined how the Internet would change the world as it has now. Just imagine what the Internet and computing would be like, five years, ten years, or twenty years from now. Just imagine! And you will be right in the middle of this continuous, great evolution.

Two years ago, former U.S. President Bill Clinton gave a graduation address to the class of 2007 of Harvard University. He said, “Ordinary people have more power to do public good than ever before because of the rise of non-governmental organizations, because of the global media culture, because of the Internet, which gives people of modest means the power, if they all agree, to change the world.”

This is the world that we are in today. “Ordinary people” are now having more power to do “public good” than ever before. Public good, not just for the good of themselves, but for the public, for everyone. And this is because of three things. The rise of non-government organizations. That means NGOs, including all sorts of groups and institutions from civil society, non-commercial and non-governmental organizations, including professional associations. The global media culture, enabled by the Internet, where people can create, share, remix and re-use content and messages to reach and touch people from all corners of the Earth. And because of these developments, people of modest means, even average people, can change the world. But there is one catch: only “if they all agree.” You have to agree to have the will and the spirit to join the movement, to change our world.

And there is no better way to help change the world than through the development in the advances and applications of information technology, computing and the Internet. In another graduation speech given at Harvard University, also in 2007 but this time by Bill Gates, who was of course the founder of Microsoft but also the Chairman of his charitable foundation. He said, “The emergence of low-cost personal computers gave rise to a powerful network that has transformed opportunities for learning and communicating. The magical thing about this network is not just that it collapses distance and makes everyone your neighbor. It also dramatically increases the number of brilliant minds we can have working together on the same problem - and that scales up the rate of innovation to a staggering degree.”

He went on to say, “At the same time, for every person in the world who has access to this technology, five people don't. That means many creative minds are left out of this discussion - smart people with practical intelligence and relevant experience who don't have the technology to hone their talents or contribute their ideas to the world. We need as many people as possible to have access to this technology, because these advances are triggering a revolution in what human beings can do for one another.” And what will this revolution be about? It will be about the biggest threats facing human beings – they are: poverty, sickness, and the environment.

So, as you graduate today, I hope I can give you a little spark to ignite your passion for using your mind to change the world with what you know. In fact, as the motto of our Internet Society Hong Kong goes, “Ask not what the Internet can do for you, but ask what you can do for the Internet.”

I thank you, the Computing Class of 2009, in advance for the contribution you will be making in the years to come in changing Hong Kong, changing our country, and changing the world. Congratulations again on your graduation.












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