The sun shapes every aspect of our lives.
It gives light… it provides heat… it drives the weather, climate, and oceans… it grows plants… and it allows animals to eat.
Without the sun, we live in darkness. Without the sun, we wouldn’t exist.
That is why the sun represents ‘hope’.
I speak of the sun… not as a physicist… but as your President at The University of Hong Kong.
For over a year, the world has lived in chaos and a pandemic that’s killed over four million people.
This is a difficult time for everyone, and you have my full empathy… but I encourage you to look to the future with optimism.
In joining HKU, you become part of a community of brilliant minds.
You represent the best of a generation who will mould the global future…
You’ll be supported by a faculty that’s earned a reputation as leaders in their areas of expertise…
And you’ll be cared for by a family of like-minded individuals.
Together, we’ll push forward the frontlines of learning in a landscape shaped by ideas and ideals.
I can’t speak of ‘hope’ without acknowledging the complex challenges in this city we love.
Of course, it’s not just the pandemic. Division and disappointment in recent years have created fault-lines in our society.
We must reflect… and find a way forward with respect, compassion, and kindness for one another.
At HKU, we’ve nurtured generations of thought leaders… unlocking potential… and unleashing the imagination.
Like them, I see in this room future scientists… educators… health workers… humanitarians… entrepreneurs… urban planners… artists… engineers… climate leaders… and much more.
By providing answers to questions… and solutions to problems… your innovations will progress the human condition and advance human society.
My hope is that your years at HKU will be the best years of your life.
Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who graduated last year from Oxford, said she was so busy with clubs and societies, that she often started essays the night before they were due.
I don’t advise leaving your work to the last minute!
But… I advocate for a full student experience… and, like Malala, a life in humble service to others.
You see, your years at HKU should be happy. The friendships you make will last a lifetime.
Meanwhile, there is plenty to look forward to… next year, we celebrate HKU’s 111th Anniversary.
To honor this milestone, events will take place across campus and elsewhere in the city… and we ask you to really absorb this special moment in our history.
I want to finish with a personal thought.
Thirty years ago, I left home and traveled thousands of miles to study in America.
I had no idea what the future would hold.
But, today, I’m certain of one thing:
You’re beginning a journey of wonder and discovery… and the experience you gain here will help you thrive in a rapidly changing world.
The future awaits you.
So long as the sun rises, there is reason to hope.
Welcome to HKU.