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The Journey to Brilliance

A Speech to the New Undergraduate Students of Soochow at the 2017 University Opening Ceremony

By President Xiong Sidong

(September 23rd, 2017)

Dear Teachers and Students,

We congregate here today to hold the 2017 Opening Ceremony for the New Undergraduates of Soochow University. Now, on behalf of the university, I’d like to extend my cordial welcome to the 6578 new students from 15 foreign countries and 34 Chinese provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, andthe Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions.Your enrollmentbrings new brilliance to Soochow University, a prestigious institute with a history of over a hundred years.

I think the rain today is making this opening ceremony more special and memorable for everyone on this ground; but I also believe that the rain cannever overcast or outplay your passion and vision at this moment.

Two months ago, on the day of July 22nd, we sent the invitation to you with our utmost sincerity. Now you’re here as a positive response to the invitation. A few days ago, when I saw some young faces together with their offerson the official Weibo of Soochow University, I felt pleased, for I knew that from then on, you settled your “engagement” with this university, and were prepared to takeit as your second home. I learned on the day of your arrival that this year we have 4470 students majoring in sciences, 1602 in liberal arts, and 515 in physical education and arts,with a male-female gender ratio of 1:1.2,  which is balanced in general. However,  as the proverb goes, “every rule has  its exception”, the conventional and  structuralgender  imbalance  in  Yangcheng  Lake Campus has occurred again this year, which concerns me a lot.

According to the information I have collected, on the morning of September 9th, Mr. Xiao Zhiheng of the College of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Material Sciences swiped his student card at 5:18 am, which made him the first registered new undergraduate of Soochow University in 2017. I hope Mr. Xiaowill keep taking initiatives and always achieve the first place in the future study and life. Miss Zhao Junqiao of the Finance and Economics School, as the youngest fresh student this year, you’ll be a 15-year-old girl 72 hours later. Young as you are, I hope you will keep aiming high and always stand out with superiority.

Zhang Feng of the School of Political Science and Public Administration, and Zhang Fan of the College of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Material Sciences, as bothers from the same family and peers with the same scores in the College Entrance Examination, I hope you two will cherish the brotherhood no matter in sorrows or happinessalong the university journey.

Mr. Xu Zhiwen of the School of Physic and Technology, also the Xu Zhiwen who delivered the speech as the representative of the new students, ignored all the other institutionswhen filling out the application for college preference. Youmade Soochow the first and the onlychoice for yourself. Thanks so much for your trust and faith in thisuniversity. Hopefully you will maintainyour original aspiration that has led you to success and prove your choice to berewarding and worthwhile.

Miss Zhu Yiren of the C.W. Chu College, thanks for following the footsteps of your father by joining Soochow University without hesitation. We also hope you willexcel your fatheryet experience different wonders during yourown university life.

Mr. Domingo from Brazil,thanks for choosing Soochow University among all the international universities. I know that your trip to this institute took you 34 hours and 45 minutes—— you set off from S?o Paulo, transferred atNetherlands, Germany, Spain, Dubai, HK and Shanghai,andfinally arrived at Suzhou. I also noticed a special yetveryencouraging name on the roster of newcomers, Miss Zhan Wangweilai of the School of Humanity. Bearing the meaning of “looking forward to the future”, your name, I believe, willalways remind you of your expectations . I hope all the youngsters present today will join in with Miss Zhanto foster a better future instead of better gaming skills.

Dear students, today is a new start point in your life. Upon your arrival at this campus, you must have been astonished by its classic architectureswith blended characteristics of Chinese and Western cultures. This was also the startpoint of Soochow University, established on the ground under your feet in 1900. By integrating the essence of both Chinese and Western traditions, the university set a precedent for bringing modern education and initiated the law studies and postgraduate education.

From then on, the ringing of the bell in the campus have been awaking the passions of students toward studies; the pioneers fighting for the survival and development of the university have left us countless and valuable spirits; and the new-style institute  connected its destiny  with the nation after  conquering formidable  hardships.  Over a  century  has passed,  generations of  teachers  and students of Soochow have inherited the spirits of the founders and made their own contributions to the development of this institute.

In this university, you will find numerous stories on the road of fighting for rejuvenation and prosperity. These stories are left by generations of Soochow people and they have been embedded in every single gate, every ancient building, every memorial statue, every winding path and every towering tree.

In the past, the university witnessed outstanding scholarscontributing their wisdom to the institute and the nation. Masters like Xu Zhimo, Lin Yutang, Hu Shi and Zhang Taiyanlingeredin these charming building to enlighten students; scholars like Yang Jiang, Qian Zhonglian, and Louis Cha scrutinized their studies on this greensward to illuminate the human thoughts; alumni including FeiXiaotong, Lei Jieqiong, Zhao Puchu, Sun Qimeng, Tsung-Dao Lee and Tan  Jiazhen, explored  the mysteries in the  shadow of these camphor  trees and made themselves  great scholars with diligence  and determinations;  entrusted with the mission to sentence those  criminals in WWII, over  ten teachers and students  of the Law School, including  Xiang Zhejun, Ni Zhengyu, and Gao Wenbin, left this campus for Tokyo and guarded the conscience and justice of us human beings by convicting those Japanese war criminals with wisdom and courage.As the dawn light sheds over the top of the squared tower, you could notice many peers cloistering themselves away with books besides the Homage Bridge, the Refreshing Pavilion and the Sage Auditorium, and fighting for their dreams to become elites and pillars of communities and the nation.

Although we boast a glorious history, our pursuit for excellence never gears down. In the year of 2016, Soochow University was selected as a most-improved university by Nature Index, an international authoritative journal. Now, with a greater new starting point, the university, based on the achievements made in the past, is developing with unprecedented vigor and passion.  

Here in the university, you can savor the underlying power of the university motto: unto a full-grown man:You can read extensively in those well-equipped  libraries, make  scientific researches in state level laboratories, explore the secrets of knowledge in open seminars, and enrich yourself with various extra-curricular  practices. Here  in this university, you  can find the birds of your  feather in the  hundreds of student clubs, and realize the dream  of being a maker in the science park. Here in the university,  you can communicate with and learn from famous scholars, Nobel-Prize winners, and the academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the  Chinese  Academy of Engineering. You  also have the  chance to visit and study in global top universities like  Harvard, Stanford, Oxford and Cambridge.  Accompanied by  peers from different places  of the world, you cantouch and enjoy the unique culture of this time-honored city.

I believe that there are always unexpected encounters and sceneries for you to discover in Soochow University; and I also hope that one day, I will see the confident smiles on your faces whenever and wherever I meet you on campus.

In the university, you’ll spend the most important, most crucial and most beautiful four years ofyour life. Your success or failure in making achievements on the journey to brilliance concerns not only your own future, but also the future of the university and the future of the Chinese nation. As is described in The Ordinary World by Mr. Lu Yao, “Actually, the world hides beneath the life of everyone, and one should fight for the good of the world he lives however ordinary he might be”. Although we may have been born ordinary, we can, and we should, always aim at brilliance and I believe that the journeyfrom ordinary to brilliance may be just one step away.

This one step, the journey to brilliance, in my opinion, is the setting of great expectations. President Xi Jinping once pointed out,“everyone has one and only one youth period, which should be used for striving …youngsters should dare to have dreams,pursue dreams, and realize dreams”. How far a person can reach is never determined by the body but by the dream; and university is the place closest to the dreams.  

Less than ahundred meters away from the Dushu Lake campus locates a company named “Tongcheng Network”. Originated from a nine-square meter dormitory next to the bell tower, this company, bearing the dreams of Wu Zhixiang, an alumnus graduated in 1999, and his four buddies, has become one of the biggest online travel agencies in China after 15 years’ development. “You can create all those beautiful things as long as you can fight for your dreams.” Here I quote these words of Wu Zhixiang to encourage you to start your own dreams at Soochow University, and fight for your own expectations with a salute to the irreversible youth.

The journey to brilliance, in my opinion, calls for a “turn-around”, which means the determination to change roles and the adaptation to college life. Upon entering the university, you are expected to handle a brand-new environment and different interpersonal relations independently. Without the accompaniment of parents and old peers, you’re encouraged to find friends with the same interests and win the friendships with a lifelong impact through frank and sincere communication. There will be no fixed seat or school timetable any more. You have to plan your own timetable and choose your own courses instead of having everything prepared by parents or teachers. You’re supposed to learn positively and explore the happiness in self-studies using through independent thinking. There will not be any blank-filling for your life or study from now on and there will be no precise or standard answers to the questions around either. Instead, you should find out the best solutions for yourself via constant self-discovery and self-exploration.

The journey to brilliance, in my opinion, means “lifting your head”. That is, you shouldexpand your horizons.A.N. Whitehead, the famous English philosopher, once said, “during the school period, the student has been mentally bending over a desk; at the university, he should stand up and look around…”. Whitehead’s wordshighlight the importance and significance to broaden the visions for college students. Indeed, here in the university, we should not only better the expertise in professional fields, but read as many classics as we can. By communicating with great sages and brilliant brains, we can always obtain enlightenments and inspirations. Meanwhile, we should also develop some hobbies to enrich our life to be funand poetic.

In this case, Academician Zhan Qimin who delivered the speech just now should be a perfect example. As an outstanding alumnus, Mr. Zhan is not only an excellent scientist and an influential educator, he is also a talented poet, musician and dancer. The Song of Graduation composed and performed by him is widely sung in every corner of the campus.

My dear young ladies and gentlemen, I urge you to develop an international horizon while broadening the visions in different areas. Under the spotlight of the international arena, China is calling for more high-quality talents with the mastery of relevant rules so as to be competitive in various international events. Therefore, I hope you can grow into patriotic leaders with international horizons through communicating with and learning from the youngsters from different countries and interpreting the world with open attitudes and global awareness.

The journey to brilliance, in my opinion, requires you to “bend yourself”. That means you have to start from low and accumulate strengths. The unfailing perseverance, ceaseless struggles, and accumulation of strength have won Sun Yang, your predecessor at the university, the championships in two Olympic Games. His excellent performsin the hundred-meter games resulted from his painstaking efforts in the over50 kilometer swimming trainings. The confidence and pride on the medal-giving podiumis the reward for his strenuous efforts sustained for 20 years. I hope that, by following the steps of Sun Yang, you will also accumulate strengths for the dreams in the depth of your heart, and fight for a bright future with tears and sweat of youth during the yourera.  

The journey to brilliance, in my opinion, should be realized through a “cross”. To cross means you should have solid preparations and powerful executive capacity. Thomas Carlyleurged the youngsters that they should “cherish every minute with the comparison between the efforts under the sunrise and one’s fantasies in the sunset”. Like Carlyle, I also attach great importance to early preparation, for I know that a minute late in the self-study classroom means no seat is available; and a delay in action may result in the vanishment of great ideas. As what Mr. Wang Guozhen once emphasized, “one could eventually conquer the long journey step by step, while nobody could arrive at the destination if not willing to take the first step”. In this case, I hope you will become a practitioner instead of a talker. Always bearing in mind that the flower of dream only blossoms on the tree of practice, you are expected to treat each trivial task in your study and research seriously.

Dear students, you should keep two important numbers in mind: 100 and 120. By 2020, our country will have fulfilled the Chinese Dream set as the objective of the first one hundred year rejuvenation project. By that time, Soochow University will also witness her 120th anniversary. Hence, I hereby sincerely encourage you to devote yourself to the development of our country, and spare no effort to create your own miracles. I firmly believe that after the four years’ study at Soochow University, you will eventually make an brilliant talent out of yourself!

The arrow would never return once it is shot. Your time has come and the keyto the new world is in your hand. Soochow University will provide you with a stage as big as you can dream for you to perform. It is my fervent hope that you can make great achievements along the journey to brilliance by setting great expectations, adapting yourself to the new environment, expanding your horizons, accumulating necessary strengths, making solid preparations and executing with determinations. It is also my hope that you will have the most valuable and memorableexperience in this university,keepyour original inspirationsand dreams, and prove yourselves in the prime time of your life.

Finally, I’d like to invite Secretary Jiang Yong of the Party Committee, all the leaders presented, 5196 staffs of the university and the 47233 enrolled undergraduates and graduates, to join in with me to send our best wishes to the 14 newcomers on the date of their birthday!

They are:

Mr. Li Lei and Li Tai Lei of the School of Railway Transportation;

Miss Zhou Yiting of the Finance and Economics School, and Miss Qin Xiyuan of the College of Textile;

Mr. Chen Jun of the School of Electronic and Information Engineering, and Mr. Zhou Tianrui of the School of Mechanical and Electric Engineering;

Mr. Wu Haiyang of the School of Computer Science and Technology, and Mr. Pei Fengfan of the Physical Education College;

Mr. Weng Xinyue of the School of Mathematical Sciences and Mr. Bao Chengyang of the School of Foreign Languages;

Mr. Lu Zhongyi and Miss Wang Dan of the Medical College;

Mr. Ji Jiajun of the School of Political Science and Public Administration; and Miss Meng Wenzi of the Medical College.

Let’s wish them a happy birthday with the warmest applauses!

Thanks you!

(Translated by Juming Shen, Xiaofei Xu)