Speech by Academician Nanshan Zhong at Graduation Ceremony for Bachelor Degree Graduates 2020
Distinguished President Yansheng XU, Dear Guests, Dear Class-of-2020,
Good morning. It is my great pleasure to attend the CUHK-Shenzhen Graduation Ceremony for Bachelor Degree Graduates 2020.
To begin with, I would like to extend my congratulations to all the graduates. Today's graduation ceremony coincides with a very special time. In fact, this is a special time shared by the whole of humanity. Over the past four months or so, we have partnered with people around the world to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In hindsight, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for everyone.
The current pandemic is virtually on par with the 1918 influenza pandemic. The difference lies in the fact that each of us has been challenged in this massive ongoing struggle, and each of us has shown a different attitude in the face of this ordeal. China, including the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong SAR, was victorious in the first round of the battle against COVID-19. However, there is a second, equally tough battle looming over us, a wake-up call that we need to keep fighting.
In the midst of such a massive fight, I started pondering over two essential questions about how one should react to such a sudden and major calamity. And I think these two issues are relevant to people from all walks of life in the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong SAR, including graduates who are about to pursue further studies or employment.
The first question arises as to how to balance the interests of individuals and the welfare of communities. As we all know, this pandemic has engulfed the world, and everyone is involved, including your friends and family. So how should we balance the interests of individuals and communities at this particular time? The so-called community welfare concerns the security of countries and the world as a whole, which is the most vital prerequisite for a secure and happy life. At the same time, each individual is an important part of the communities. Perhaps the question could be asked this way: how can individuals contribute to the security and stability of communities and the world within their own power? This is something that each of us has to deal with. For example, in these months, many countries and regions have imposed a lockdown policy that bans many of the outdoor activities. People were told to stay home, wear masks on a daily basis, etc., which was actually a constraint for them. From an individual's point of view, people sought to live freely and openly, and to be able to do whatever they want to do. These demands, while seemingly simple, were indeed the antithesis of collective well-being. In other words, for the sake of national security and social stability, each of us was bound by some restrictions and limitations, even if they might cause inconvenience to our lives. Economic activities, on the other hand, have also had to make concessions, which might have affected many families and even your mom and dad's work. When the economy takes a hit, so does the livelihood. But this trade-off is extremely pertinent for the restfulness of the entire country. During the fight against the pandemic, many of our classmates were quarantined at home, with less outdoor activities and more restrictions. But all these efforts were for the sake of the stability of the whole country, and in the interest of mitigating the outbreak. It is for this reason that, with the support of the overwhelming majority of the communities, we have achieved a number of victories in the first phase, both in the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong SAR. The fact that China has one of the fewest numbers of confirmed cases and deaths among the major countries is a hard-won achievement, and it truly demonstrates why we are putting the well-being of our communities in the first place. I also believe that the confluence of individual and collective well-being is shaped not only in the relationship between the individual and the nation, but also by the relationship between the individual and the world. There are more than 200 countries in the world today, and the globe will not rest well if any country, especially a large one, fails to contain the disease. That is why we must stand in the perspective of all humanity and embrace the spirit of internationalism that cherishes and respects every life. On this basis, it is our imperative to unite the nations of the world in the fight against the epidemic and to do our utmost to prevail the disease, an attribute that I hope my fellow students will carry when they graduate. Meanwhile, the collective well-being should also encompass the natural world. As you may have noticed on TV or the Internet, due to the decrease in human activities in recent months, the entire natural world has been brought into greater harmony, as evidenced by a less polluted environment, clear skies, uncommon wildlife surfacing, greater forest cover, and greener landscapes. Dear graduates, as rising elites in all walks of life, how to live in harmony with nature is an essential issue that should always be on your mind in the future.
The second question, and indeed one of the most fundamental issue about one’s outlooks and values, is whether we should give or receive. As social, national and material conditions continue to improve, each of us is turning to the desire for a better career, better housing, a better environment and a better life. But first of all, we must understand that in order to attain these benefits, a certain dedication to this community must be made, and this is something we must contemplate. It is only when our offerings make this society more stable and materially richer that we will have more to be rewarded. As an example, more than 45,000 medical personnel from all over the country have provided field support to hospitals in Wuhan during its most critical time devoid of medical supplies, medical personnel, documents and wards. These volunteer experts helped their counterparts in Wuhan build the makeshift hospitals, separating the sick from the others. This has eliminated the trend of human-to-human transmission from upstream, allowing Wuhan to recover in just over a month. Yes, as you can see now, the spread rate in Wuhan is controlled at a very low level. When Wuhan took control, the nation saw the light, and all of this is inseparable from the volunteer medical staff from all over the country. When they came in the first place, they thought of giving, but not receiving. Another example can be given by one of my students, a young ICU director of a hospital. As an expert in ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), he has been offering support in Tibet. When the outbreak occurred, he was transferred back to Guangzhou to support the local relief endeavors. Later, when COVID-19 spread around the world, he unhesitatingly signed up for medical relief efforts in Iraq. I still remember him mentioning to me that he had to wear a bulletproof vest the moment he got off the plane. At the risk of his life, he worked with several doctors to set up testing and CT rooms, contributing to the development of the necessary local systems for prevention and control. Through their efforts of more than two months, Iraq has made a great deal of progress compared to its neighbors, as our doctors have found the crux of the problem and contained the outbreak from upstream. So for this student of mine, despite being a young doctor, has he expected to be rewarded for his dedication to the local epidemic control? Have our health care workers expected to be rewarded after giving? Yes, but what was the reward they were looking for? In fact, as medical personnel, what we want in return is not something material, but to earn the respect of society. If we have resuscitated the patient, saved the patient's life and gained the trust of the masses, then we have gotten the most for us. So what I want to convey to you is that we must do our utmost to give to the community, and only then will we be able to enjoy a good life. This spirit of dedication is also in line with our mission to develop responsible and responsible people at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen.
I would also like to take some time to talk about the University’s education philosophy - encouraging students to think independently and be innovative. This is a particularly valuable approach that needs to be strongly promoted in other universities in the Chinese mainland, including medical institutions. Dear graduates, whether you are about to embark on a practical or scientific career, always remember to think independently and innovate. The COVID-19 pandemic did pose a tremendous challenge to all of the researchers, as the novel coronavirus had never been known before. The word‘novel’, by definition, means that we didn't know how infectious it was, how it was transmitted, how its pathogenesis was, how it could be diagnosed faster, nor how to treat patients effectively. In the face of these unforeseen challenges, we had no other way but to think independently and creatively, which is a window to explore new ways to achieve a cure. Following this approach, the institute I work at has done a lot of work and achieved remarkable results in improving the success rate of patient resuscitation and identifying patients at an early stage. At the same time, we have provided some very productive recommendations to the country at the strategic level. It is for this reason that we have achieved victory in the first phase of the battle against the virus.
Through these months, I have learned that one has to constantly think about the questions of how to deal with the relationship between personal and collective interests, as well as between receiving and giving. My father, a pediatric professor who was not very articulate, told me when I was a child that one does not live in vain as long as he or she has left something of value for the world. It's not until now that I've had a deep appreciation for that statement.
Dear graduates, you are heading to a new phase in your lives. It is a great pleasure for me to witness the growth of all of you. It has been 60 years since I graduated from the then Beijing Medical College in 1960. But today, 60 years later, I'm still motivated to think independently and strive to lead my team to do something innovative. I know many of you are going to world-renowned universities to further your education, and some will directly go to the job market. No matter what, I hope you can take advantage of the times and always reflect on the two principled questions of "individual interest or collective well-being" and "taking or giving" in your work and in your life.
I wish you all a bright future.