Commencement Speech at Fei Tian Academy of Arts in Middletown

Good afternoon, graduates, teachers, parents and esteemed guests!

Great things have humble origins. In 1642, Harvard College, the first institution of higher learning in New England, the “first flower in the wilderness,” graduated only 9 students. When New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV), now the largest Chinese-language TV station outside of China, was founded in 2001, it was stationed in the basement of an ordinary house in New York, hardly noticeable to a passerby. You’re a small graduating class, but in fact, you are precious gems, and the beginning of something much greater!

I am very honored to be speaking in front of you today. High school graduation is a milestone in your life. When you put on the graduation gown, it signifies that you have already turned 18 years old (or 16, as in my case), and have to start bearing social responsibilities.

Up to this point, your life was mostly arranged by your parents and teachers. But from today forth, you will be more independent in pursuing your dreams. You are about to enter college, have more interaction with society, and choose your profession and occupation. These choices are important – they determine how you’ll make a living; however, there is a more important choice, about choosing what kind of person you will be.

Parents and teachers all wish that you can become a successful person through education. There are many deciding factors. Some are in your control; others are not: Your IQ, Your EQ, whether you are willing to take challenges, whether you can recognize opportunities when they appear, or whether you have the good fortune to get help from someone at critical junctures of your life. In my opinion, there are three factors of paramount importance that nobody can afford to ignore.

The first one is a sense of responsibility.

I came across a story recently. In the 1960s, when the free world and the communist regime were still in the midst of the Cold War, there was a possibility that the U.S. space program could lose the race against the Soviets. In 1961, President Kennedy initiated the Apollo mission to send a man to the moon. When President Kennedy visited NASA in 1962, he saw a janitor mopping the floor. President Kennedy walked over and asked him what he was doing. “Well, Mr. President,’ the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

Think about this—the janitor did not say: I am just mopping the floor, or I am just doing a job that earns me $2 an hour. In the eyes of the janitor, though his job may seem trivial to others, he was doing his part in helping with the greater goal. He was contributing to a greater purpose.

Even if our jobs seem trivial, we should be responsible and complete our jobs with utmost diligence, just like how the engineers designed the engine, the dashboard, or the emergency escape system for the spaceships. This is a key point in succeeding: you must have an ambitious goal, while at the same time striving your hardest to fulfill your responsibility.

One thing is for certain: if you can do everything with a purpose like that janitor, you definitely won’t be a janitor forever. You will shoulder bigger responsibilities in the end.

The second level of meaning in this story is: for an organization to succeed, everyone needs to cooperate, including a seemingly inconspicuous janitor. Nowadays many people use iPhones. A single iPhone contains parts from more than 200 suppliers, like suppliers for memory storage, camera, antenna, case, etc. Assembling an iPhone also takes over 400 steps. This is only from the hardware aspect. There must also be cooperation from departments such as the system design, software development, marketing, research, statistics, financial affairs, and so on and so forth.

If we want to succeed, aside from doing what is assigned to us, we must also actively cooperate with others. I’ve read many books and talked to human resources managers, and I have come to this conclusion. Many people have the capability to qualify for a certain position. However, the person that gets employed in the end is not necessarily the most capable person, but the one who can most harmoniously cooperate with others.

To be a successful businessman or entrepreneur, a person’s character will always be top priority. Only when you know how to cooperate with others and how to make others cooperative, can you obtain greater results.

So, the above two essential factors are: trying your best, and cooperating with others. But as a Fei Tian graduate, you are entrusted with even greater expectations: to be a morally upright person.

We live in a time of great changes. In the past two centuries, our society has gone through the Industrial Revolution, Electric Age, Computer Age, and Internet Age. Each of these revolutions brought about great economic prosperity, as well as a generation of inventors and entrepreneurs. Today the Internet has connected the entire world. Unfortunately, the growth of material prosperity has been accompanied by a decline of spiritual belief. People are more disoriented than ever, and society has become more unstable.

We can’t help but turn to the many great educators that walked this earth. Confucius, the founder of the first private school in China, was known as “the Eternal Paragon of Teachers.” In India, Shakyamuni founded Buddhism. People referred to him as Buddha, yet he has another title as “the Teacher of Both the Heavenly and Human Beings”. In Ancient Greece, the prophet Socrates was also a great educator, and his most famous student Plato founded the Academy.

This brings up a profound question: what is the goal of education? From those great teachers’ perspective, it is not only to pass down technical abilities, but more importantly, to cultivate a student’s virtues. When you step into college, you will realize: compared to the time of those great educators, or even compared to universities a century ago, colleges today have very much departed from the way set by those great teachers.

In view of this, I would like to have a request of today’s graduates. As you embark on the exciting journey of your life, you should be ambassadors of traditional culture and traditional values; you should strive to be part of the great cause of reviving the great cultural heritage of humanity. As you learn various skills, be sure to improve your morals at the same time.

There are many different professions in this world. Every profession has its zenith. For example, the pinnacle of a politician could be becoming the president; the summit for a lawyer is becoming the Chief Justice in the Supreme Court; the highest apex for an artist is to create immortal artwork. But if we set our professions aside, what is the highest peak for being a human?

According to Confucianism, the highest peak a human can reach is to become a sage. Buddhism believes becoming a Buddha is the ultimate transcendence. Taoism believes becoming a zhenren, or True Person, is the final goal. These are the ultimate goals of a human being. The path to achieving these goals is to follow the teachings of these sages. Just like how I found the teacher of Falun Dafa, and follow the principles of “Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance” to lead my life.

So in the days to come, I not only wish you guys the best of success in academic studies and professions, but I wish even more for you, in this world filled with temptations, to hold onto the traditional moral standard, to hold onto the belief of “Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance,” and become a truly successful person.

Congratulations again, Class of 2017!


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