Speeches

Title

“Beyond Uncertainty, A Greater Future Awaits You”
President’s Congratulatory Message to the Class of 2020

2020-02-28

“Beyond Uncertainty, A Greater Future Awaits You” 
 

President’s Congratulatory Message to the Class of 2020

Class of 2020! It is with great delight and pride that I welcome you all to Kyung Hee University.

I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize the great efforts your parents and teachers made to support and guide you so that we can welcome you into the Kyung Hee community today.

It is regrettable that I cannot deliver this welcome message in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the first time in the history of Korean universities that a global epidemic has canceled formal matriculation ceremonies and postponed the beginning of a new semester. Without a doubt, March of 2020 will be long remembered as a truly memorable moment in your lives. Among other things, the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus must have inspired you to reflect upon how humanity, societies, model civilization, and Earth’s ecosystems are inextricably linked. This makes the start of your university life today very special, and I believe this in turn adds fresh significance to the dreams and aspirations that you bring and your resolve to achieve them.

From today on, you will be part of the Kyung Hee community. For the next four years of enrolment, you will be called “Kyung Hee University students.” After your graduation and through your careers, you will be “graduates of Kyung Hee University.” Which university you belong to is as important as “yourselves” as individuals because that is the school you will breathe and grow together with. Sadly, most students are not well informed about the universities they belong to. Such ignorance sometimes stems from apathy. Yet, I would like stress that a university is not like a bridge that is crossed and forgotten.

Class of 2020: Kyung Hee University is far bigger and greater than you might have imagined. As can be seen in the information provided on its website or from other sources, since the middle of the last century, our University has been unwaveringly committed to combining education and peace, and scholarship and practice in pursuit of world peace as part and parcel of its efforts to carve out its identity as an education and social institution. The motto of “Academe and Peace,” along with the University’s founding vision of “Creating a Civilized World,” are its prized core values that each and every one of you should keep in mind.

Kyung Hee was founded in 1949, 71 years ago. The outbreak of the Korean War in the following year compelled it to be evacuated to Busan. At the height of the war in 1951, the University announced its ambitious vision of “Creating a Civilized World” at its temporary campus. A “Civilized World” is a sustainable global community that allows humanity to co-exist and co-prosper through the harmony of spiritual and material civilizations. Creating democratic societies rooted in liberty, equality, and co-prosperity is key to brining this vision into reality. The declaration of this vision in the dark days of a war whose end was not in sight was a truly remarkable thing. It embodied our aspirations for a peaceful future, not just for the Korean people and the Korean peninsula but for the entire world.

Since the mid-1950s, our University spearheaded various social reform movements for the enlightenment of rural communities, the protection of nature, and economic prosperity as a way of pursuing its public values. In 1965, Kyung Hee led the global efforts to establish the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP), which was officially launched in its inaugural meeting at Oxford University in Great Britain. In 1981, our University filed a petition to the United Nations to designate a day for world peace in a bid to ease the escalating Cold War confrontation between the East and West, which paved the way for the UN to eventually proclaim September 21 as the World Peace Day. Ever since, the day has been celebrated around the world annually with a variety of events.

In tandem with its efforts for global peace, Kyung Hee has dedicated a great deal of energy to improving itself as a leading institution for higher learning. In the 1970s, it expanded by launching a full-fledged college of medicine. The opening in the 1980s of the Global Campus in Yongin and Gwangneung Campus in Namyangju, both in Gyeonggi Province, reinforced its status as a leading university in Korea. Coming into the 21st century, our University celebrated another landmark of its 60th anniversary in 2009. The take-off took the form of sweeping innovation across all sectors of its management, which was designed to effectively support its drive to re-establish scholarly authority and its role in creating a harmonious and creative future society.

These reforms have resulted in a rapid rise in our University’s status within and without the nation. Our steady emphasis on strengthening the core competencies in education, research, globalization, and campus infrastructure improvement over the past decade has led Kyung Hee to be ranked 5th among domestic universities and join the ranks of the top 300 global universities. Last year, THE University Impact Rankings placed our University as the 1st in the nation and 27th in the world. These achievements reflect recognition of the emphasis we have placed on civic education and our contributions to Korean and global societies for decades. Another proud indicator of our success is our second place ranking among domestic universities in the National Customer Satisfaction Index.

Class of 2020. Every one of you is a designer building a better future for yourselves.

Our University never rests on its laurels. As embodied in our official slogan of “The Future of Universities, the Future of Humanity: Towards Global Eminence,” Kyung Hee never ceases its efforts to forge ahead toward a greater and brighter future. Dr. Young Seek Choue (1921~2012), the founder of our University, once said, “Lift up your eyes: gaze at the sky and look upon the ground.” What this message says is that we should never lose sight of the sky, which represents our ideals, and the earth, which represents our reality. With this message in mind, we should embark upon the task of designing a sustainable future for ourselves and the world by developing fresh perspectives about how theory and practice, parts and whole, and humanity and universe are interconnected. This is the first step towards building “a future university worthy of its name” in contributing to the betterment of the global society. And it is with a great pleasure I now call on each of you to join the rest of us in our march toward this grand vision. I call on every one of you to be at the forefront of shaping a better future for all.

As you may have realized recently, our future is full of uncertainties. The door to the future will not open easily. As the Wall Street guru Nassim Nicholas Taleb has pointed out, a series of black swan events have brought about big disruptions in the world over the years. A black swan is an unpredictable event beyond what is normally expected of a situation, which unleashes radical changes once it occurs. A case in point is the September 11 terrorist attack. The novel coronavirus outbreak sweeping across the world is another example of a black swan event. The problem is that such black swan events are occurring with greater frequency than ever before.

The future you are heading into may be defined by how you cope with black swan events. Climate change, nuclear weapons, depletion of energy and resources, religious conflicts, economic bipolarization and inequality, population explosion, novel epidemics―the list of global challenges we are facing, which are worthy of being called black swans, seems limitless. They threaten to annihilate the world as we know. These threats to humanity bring into focus the role education can play in fending them off. Unlike education, politics and market economies are not as far-sighted in tackling intractable problems. They tend to be dictated by short-term interests.

In 2015, a survey was conducted on the members of our University. The report containing the results of the survey was titled “Building a New Future Begins with Reshaping of Universities.” As the report emphasizes, universities should step forward to lead civilizational transitions. In the same vein, Chancellor Inwon Choue of the Kyung Hee University System once stressed, “Education aspiring to a better human society should take on a new scale where it can infuse the learners with the passion and imaginative power required to understand the past, to lead the future, and to nourish leadership in them. Such an education should begin with holistic introspection about the universe, humanity, and the global community.” Likewise, reinventing ourselves as a university committed to creating a better human society for all is dependent on each of you letting your dreams soar and allowing yourself to be fully immersed in learning.

College life is a crucial period in anyone’s life.

The college life you are embarking on today will be a defining time for you. The four years ahead of you will determine what kind of future you will have down the road. Seth Godin, a world-renowned writer and businessman, exhorts young people to become artists. He said something along the lines of “one needs to break out of his comfort zone and fly high in order to reinvent himself and achieve success, particularly so as we are living in an era that requires bravery, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally.” By this definition, Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, Joonho Bong, director of the Academy Award winning movie, Parasite, and the K-pop superstars, BTS, are artists. Such artists are also found among us as well. Donghoon Lee, a Kyung Hee student, who benefited many people by developing a Coronavirus warning app, is also an artist.

A key objective of our University is to create an environment that allows our students to learn and dream to their heart’s content, so that they can be proud of being members of the university. Kyung Hee is committed to assisting you to the best of its abilities in carving out a greater and better future for yourself. You can benefit from the innovative liberal arts courses offered by Humanitas College, the core courses taught by a competent faculty, the independent student research program, the broad spectrum of international exchanges with foreign universities, the long tradition of volunteer programs, and the highly successful career-preparation programs. All these are waiting for you to tap into.

As I said earlier, it will take artists to triumph over “black swans.” We already have a strong tradition of nourishing artists, which is rooted in the spirit of Humanitas. Humanitas defines human nature in future-oriented terms. In other words, Humanitas people are those who keep reinventing themselves and contribute to the invention of future civilizations. Today, you are ready to take flight. As you gear up for a take-off, keep in mind the spirit of Humanitas and the name of Kyung Hee. Aim high and keep your eyes on the horizon. Then, you will be able to ascend with enough strength and vigor and soar long and far. You have 1,400 faculty members, 500 staff members, 29,000 senior students, and 320,000 alumni rooting for you.

The end of the COVID-19 pandemic still is not in sight, but I am confident that things will return to normal in due course. In the meantime, our University is doing everything it can to protect your right to receive the highest quality of education we can provide while preparing to welcome you back into a safe learning environment. I wish you all healthy and happy days until we can meet face to face on campus.

Thank you.

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