Be a runner on the track of youth - President Zhang Lifeng's speech at the graduation ceremony for the class of 2022
July 01 ,2022

Dear colleagues and students,

Good morning, everyone!

Today, we are proudly holding NCUT's 2022 graduation ceremony in a combination of both online and in-person attendance. First, on behalf of the university, I would like to extend our warmest congratulations and best wishes to the 3,332 undergraduates and 838 postgraduates who have successfully completed their degrees. I would also like to convey my deepest respect and heartfelt gratitude to all the faculty members and parents who have worked so hard for your growth and success!

Now, I would like to share a group of data with you. Among the 4,170 students graduating this year, 620 graduates will pursue their masters or doctoral degrees at universities such as Peking University and Beihang University. 191 graduates will further their studies at renowned universities abroad, such as the University of California and the University of London. 27 graduates will enlist in the army and embark on military service. 66 graduates have chosen to work at the grassroots level in the central and western parts of the country, taking root in the front line of the nation. All of you opt for different ways and different places to train yourselves. North China University of Technology is proud of you! Congratulations to all of you!

    In its 76-year history, NCUT has always adhered to the socialist philosophy of education. While implementing the fundamental task of fostering moral values in students, we uphold the spirit of "industry serving the nation, industry prospering the nation and industry strengthening the nation". Devoting itself to China's development from traditional to modern industry, NCUT has trained more than 100,000 graduates, including you, the lovely ones. Meanwhile, in line with the development of Beijing and the revitalisation of our country, NCUT has progressively established new disciplines such as Smart+, energy storage, low carbon and new energy vehicles.

On a campus rich in history and culture, you have studied diligently and worked hard. By actively participating in social practice and volunteering activities, you have led successful and fulfilling university lives. In my eyes, you are a generation of graduates that have witnessed the history of centenaries. Specifically, 2019 marks the centenary of the May Fourth Movement and the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China. Enthusiastically engaging in the national celebrations, you formed the backbone of the "Sons and Daughters of China" mass parade. Also, the year of 2021 marks the centenary of the Communist Party of China. And in this year, you shouted out your vows and commitment of making due contribution to building a strong country, which demonstrated the youthful spirit of the new generation. The year 2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Youth League of China. Also in this year, the Winter Olympics and Paralympics was successfully held in Beijing. As students from the nearest university to the Winter Olympics Organising Committee, you have dedicated yourselves to the volunteering activities of the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, contributing the strength as NCUTers. We appreciate and applaud your efforts and commitment to our country!

Dear students, you are running hard on the track of youth. Experiencing kinds of situations has broadened your horizons. Performing various tasks has improved your abilities. Accomplishing different projects has enhanced your sense of responsibility. Some of you earned success in professional studies and academic competitions. Some of you excelled yourselves in cultural and sports events. And some of you distinguished yourselves in social practices and volunteer services.

Zhou Ao, a student from the School of Science, is visually highly impaired. However, he is a hardworking student who has won various scholarships, and was awarded as Outstanding Graduate (Bachelor’s degree) of Beijing, receiving university's Youth May Fourth Medal in 2021. Now, he has been recommended to Central University of Finance and Economics to further his studies. In Ao, we can see how resilient and persistent NCUT students are in embracing the trials and tribulations of the world without fearing any difficulties.

Pu Deyou, a student from the School of Civil Engineering, won many awards during his studies at NCUT. After being admitted to our postgraduate programme, he offered to retain his student record and enlist in the army. Xue Zhenhao, a law graduate from the School of Humanities and Law, gave up a privileged life in Beijing and decided to go to Xinjiang, where the country and people there need him the most. In them, we can see the purity and sincerity of NCUT students' "clear love for China only".

Wu Weichen from the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering has participated in more than 50 volunteer activities in the past four years, with more than 2,800 hours of serving in total. He was also awarded the Five Star Volunteer of Beijing. His experience touched me a lot. I had heard from other students how they tried to limit themselves to two hours of playing computer games per day. How remarkable two hours of volunteer service per day is in stark contrast. In Weichen, we can see the passion and vibrancy of NCUT students to "build a youthful country and a youthful nation with a youthful me".

Feng Guoqing from the School of Electrical and Control Engineering was awarded a number of honours, including Outstanding Undergraduate Graduate of Beijing, Merit Student of Beijing, university's Youth May Fourth Medal, university's Outstanding Youth League Cadre, and Merit Student of the university. He has also received 19 scholarships, of which 13 were at the provincial and ministerial level. In addition, he also participated in the publication of an academic article. In addition, he also participated in the publication of a thesis. The number of awards is so great that I feel quite envious. In him, we can see the diligence and ambition of NCUT students who are striving for excellence.

Smart, intelligent, talented, hard-working, motivated, and vigorous. All these words are inadequate to describe your excellence. You are the "generation that has witnessed the centenary", the "generation that is one in a hundred", the "generation that strives", and the "generation that never gives up".

Dear students, thank you for giving the best years of your lives to NCTU. Thank you for bringing the brightest years of your lives to NCTU. You have made NCUT more youthful, more beautiful and more exceptional.

On this occasion of farewell, I would like to say a few words from my heart to you as your President.

The first line is "Today, cheers to the past".

Dear students, I hope you can forget the sweet and sour of the past and let them go to love and hate as you please. May you possess all the things you love and accept all your losses. When you are unhappy, try to put your mood and temper into silent mode. Instead of being depressed and complaining, I hope you can face your setbacks and challenges bravely. When you are tired and worn out, just look up at the sky. The sky is so vast that it can surely accommodate all your frustrations. And then, you can bravely move forward towards the better future. When you have achieved something, try not to be too proud or boastful, but keep a clear head and a humble attitude. Remember to avoid complacency and embrace the future with kindness and commitment.

You are all back on a new starting line today. Everyone has the opportunity to reshape him- or herself, so make sure you cherish it! Just as one alumnus wrote to you in an online message, " Once you graduate, feel free to do the right thing. The key is to move forward. All the people will help you if they see your effort." Dear students, grab your backpacks and start afresh, clearing the past and preparing for a promising future.

The second line is Stick to the truth and be a good person”.

From kindergarten through elementary school, secondary school, university and graduate school, I have experienced more than 60 teachers during my school years. They all taught me to stick to the truth and be a good person. After leaving the campus, no matter what changes have taken place in your status, I hope you will always stick to the truth, uphold the goodness, do the right thing and be a good person. I also sincerely hope that you can all observe the principles of life, behave in an upright manner and act in a down-to-earth way. Make sure you strike a balance between modesty and humility. To be modest but not humble can be considered hypocritical; while to be humble but not modest can be considered obsequious. Only those who are both modest and humble are truly wise.

Life is like chess. A mediocre person makes one move and considers the next one. An ordinary person plans on the next three before making one move. I hope that you will be a wise person by determining the following ten steps before you make one move. Whether in your future life or your workplace, I hope you will all be good planners. Long-term plans for a lifetime or a year; while short-term plans for a month or a day. Only walking on a goal-oriented life-path can you have a well-defined direction and a clear mind to better accomplish your tasks, reach your goals and live a wonderful life given the time you have.

The third line is “Connect with the future by striving for your aspirations and plans”.

Heroes are cultivated from young age. Historically, many aspiring people have attained remarkable achievements at the same age as you. These great figures are examples for us to follow.

Take a few examples from the history. At the age of 18, Huo Qubing entered the desert and was crowned Marquis of Champions. Two years later, he was acknowledged to be the best warrior of the nation by driving the invading Xiongnu army away. Zhou Yu, known as "a heroic man of the world", quelled the riots in Jiangdong region at the age of 24 before directing the famous Battle of Red Cliff at the age of 34. Yue Fei, the national hero, joined the army when he was 25 years old. At the age of 37, he marched into Zhuxian Town, determining to "reach the central settlement of the enemy and drink with all his soldiers."

Let's look at examples of international figures. Einstein, who proposed the photon hypothesis at the age of 26 at the end of his PhD, succeeded in explaining the photoelectric effect and was awarded the Nobel Prize 16 years later.

A few more well-known examples. The famous theoretical physicist Yang Zhenning graduated from National South-West Associated University at the age of 20. He received his master's degree from Tsinghua University at 22 and his PhD from the University of Chicago at 26. At the age of 32, he proposed the law of non-conservation of cosmology and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics one year later. Wang Chuanfu, graduated from Central South University, founded the BYD company at the age of 29. Liu Qiangdong, a graduate from Renmin University of China, founded Jingdong Corporation at the age of 24.

If you think that the examples mentioned above are all gifted people belonging to elite universities. Then let me give you two more examples.

A good friend of mine went to a vocational college after high school. He continued to work hard and earned his master's and doctoral degrees before undertaking post-doctoral research at the Imperial College London in the UK. Five years later, he obtained outstanding achievements and has been selected as a leading scientist in National Plan for Science and Technology Innovation.

One of my students, who also graduated from a vocational college, contacted me for the opportunity to pursue doctoral studies after completing his master's degree. When talking about the reason for his application for doctoral programmes, I was struck by his reply that "Professor, I want to change my fate". He delivered excellent performance during his doctoral studies. Last year, he graduated successfully and is now working in a research institute in Beijing.

All these examples illustrate the importance of having a vision and fighting for it! The Internet has a great saying. There is a golden saying on the internet, "You'd better have a dream, just in case it comes true someday." A man without aspirations is no different from a salted fish. With aspirations, even a salted fish will turn over! If you have aspirations and you fight for them, even a salted fish will turn into a butterfly, transform into a dragon and sail into the ocean of life.

In his poem, Ai Qing wrote, "After walking many miles in my dreams, I wake up in bed". As young people with faith and aspirations in the new era, I hope you will not lie flat, but work hard and strive for your dreams! Some people complain about the so-called "rat race". However, it is not the fierce competition that is scaring; it is the wrong perception of the situation that scares us. It is not an unreasonable infighting, but a fair competition in the context of a rapidly developing society. Treating this competition rationally can help each of us grow into someone better and more outstanding.

In order to have a wonderful youth and a brilliant life, striving for your aspirations is the only choice. I hope you will always remember the words from General Secretary Xi Jinping to the young generation that "Working hard is the brightest color of youth." and that "A country will be full of hope and can look forward to a bright prospect when its young generation has ideals, abilities, and a strong sense of responsibility."

The fourth line is Be bold and never give up”.

The year of 2022 is expected to see 10.76 million college graduates nationwide, 1.46 million more than last year. For the first time, this figure exceeds 10 million and is 2,580 times more than the number in your 2022 class. Your alma mater hopes that your life can be more of a smooth journey and less of a bumpy ride. However, you must understand that setbacks, obstacles and competition are inevitable. You have 2,580 rivals just like you. If you don't work hard, you can be knocked out. So, always strive for excellence. Work harder, struggle further!

When faced with obstacles and difficulties, many people may sigh in frustration that "everything is fate". If you are a monkey, a tree is enough for you. If you are a tiger, you should choose the high mountain. If you are an eagle, you must soar in the sky. If you are a horse, you must ride a fertile field. I hope that you will illuminate the way forward with the light in your heart in the spirit of " I am in charge of my own destiny".

The wheel of national development will eventually pass into your hands, and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation requires your continuous struggle. You have been born in a great age and are shouldering a great responsibility. I hope that you will not settle for the status quo, that you will not rigidly adhere to your current perception of your own and that you will not indulge yourself in your comfort zone. Rather, I hope that you can take a long-term view, make choices with an open mind, and carry heavy responsibilities with solid arms.

Graduation is not an end. Instead, it's a chance to start reshaping yourself. From now on, you can meet a better version of yourself. Think independently and never follow the herd. Stand up to loneliness and never give in to temptations. Define the direction of development that suits you and fits you. Make sure that you have the magnanimity to say, "Success does not have to be mine", and more importantly, the historical responsibility to ensure that "I have contributed to the success".

We met each other in summer and at this moment we are saying goodbye to each other in summer. The old time has passed, and the old days are far away. But I believe that you will never forget the magnolia blossom on campus in spring, the singing in the cool breeze in autumn, and the sunset in winter on the western mountains of Beijing. The flowing water takes away the story of time and changes our faces. However, it will never change our hearts and our nature to "cultivate our virtue, advance our intellect, train our ability and strengthen our integrity". Nor will it change our "rigorous, strict and serious" style of work. On the occasion of graduation, the magnolia flowers in front of Dunpin Building are blooming again. I believe that this is the best wish for your departure from NCUT!

    In the past few years, you've been on a quest for knowledge. Today, you're starting to make your way across the world. Like I was then, you will struggle to earn a living.  When you encounter difficulties and discomforts, I hope you will have the courage to say that "I am born to be useful, a thousand pieces of gold will come back to me eventually". Also, when you have attained fame and fortune, I hope you will be proud to say that "the spring breeze is so fast that you can see all the flowers in Chang'an in one day".

Life is beautiful and prosperous. As your teacher, I am just a passer-by in your life, like the spring breeze. As students, you are the ones to look up at the starry sky with aspirations. May you revisit NCUT someday with white hair and still be young!

Lastly, I would like to share with you a quote from the acknowledgement of the thesis of completed by one of my PhD students who are also to graduate this year. "I would like to thank the Party and the country for providing us with a peaceful environment and a quiet desk to study. They have given me, a child from a rural background, a chance to change my fate. There is a saying from Gu Yanwu of the Ming Dynasty that ‘Everyone should be responsible for the prosperity of the country’.  I would like to devote all my energy to the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Though clearly aware of my limited personal capacity, I will burn myself out and shine brightly for the nation."

Dear students, you are now graduates! Fly as high as you can!

Translator: Yang Yu

Editor: Fang Ting

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