Speaker: President Oh Se-Jung
Date: August 29, 2019
Venue: University Gymnasium
Graduates who have completed your undergraduate, masters, and doctoral programs and are now about to begin a new journey, I congratulate you all on behalf of Seoul National University. I would like to applaud our 293 international students, in particular, who have overcome the challenges of studying abroad to be here today. I express my sincere gratitude and congratulations to the families and friends of our graduates, who, with love, have helped our graduates successfully finish their studies. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to our professors, staff, and alumni for their commitment to cultivating and supporting these brilliant talents.
Class of 2019 Graduates of Seoul National University, as joyous as it is to be here today, there must also have been many difficulties on the way. I matriculated at SNU in 1971 in the last class to graduate at SNU’s Yeongeon campus. When I reflect back, my twenties were an intense and beautiful time, formative for who I am now, but it seems it had not been a time of only happiness. It was difficult to manage others’ expectations of me and the anxiety of having to make life’s important choices while I felt I was not yet mature. I’m sure many of you can relate. But you’ve all pulled it off wonderfully and deserve to be proud of your achievements.
Starting from tomorrow, you will all each go on to lead different lives. 30 or even 50 years from now, where might you be, and what might you be doing? I am excited to think about the various possibilities that lie ahead of you. As a way of celebrating your graduation today, I would like to share some thoughts about leaving SNU and entering the world around us.
Wherever you are and whatever you do, I hope you will always be true to yourself. And I wish that you will make decisions by listening to your inner voice and following your heart. Please pay special attention to your inner voice that tells you to make the right choice when you are faced with difficult decisions. While we gladly do our best and take responsibility for our own decisions, we often regret choices that were dishonest to ourselves and seek opportunities to blame others for them. As you know, regret leaves us unhappy and stuck in the past. In order to love yourself and make a good life, you need to first believe in yourself and respect your choices.
As you go on with your lives, however, there are often times when it is unclear what you want. And at times, your heart may also mislead you. This is the reason why we ought to engage diligently in lifelong learning. Starting from tomorrow, you will learn many new things as you expose yourself to various experiences in the vast world. The world is a classroom of difficult lessons that will occasionally furnish you with dilemmas or discord, but as you know well, the harder the problem is, the more interesting it is and the more you will grow in the process. I hope that throughout your lives you confront these difficult challenges and grow from them. If you communicate and cooperate with others in the process, you will be able to achieve remarkable growth that wouldn’t be possible on your own. I hope you will always look around and help others grow together with you. Through this growth, you will be able to foster your hearts to become trusted guides in your lives. I hope the intellectual faculties and the attitude of passionate inquiry that you have honed at SNU will serve as valuable assets to you all.
The big and unexpected gift we get from developing ourselves is that our capacity to benefit the community and help others likewise increases. Henceforth, the choices you make in society will not only affect you but also others around you, both directly and indirectly. As you grow older, the scope of your choice’s impact will gradually widen. This includes people you don’t know, countries you haven’t been to, and the future that you have yet to meet. Therefore, I hope that throughout your lives you will make an effort to consider with empathy other people’s perspectives and to imagine things that you have never experienced. I hope that you will see things from your perspective and others’ perspectives together with everyone’s shared perspective and that you will try to consider each individual society’s position together with the position of the whole world. I expect that your free minds will make our society an all the more free and prosperous place to live.
As you all ardently go on to lead your lives, SNU and I will be ardently striving along your side. Universities are halls of intellectual virtue that cherish their mission of benefiting human society through education and research. As the finest university in Korea, and as the university steered by the support of Korean society and its people, SNU will continue to deeply reflect on its mission and boldly enact what needs to be done. We will lead the development of science and technology, represented by AI, and will research the changes it will bring about throughout society and people’s lives. And at a time that calls for specialists equipped with excellent skills to untangle conflicts between countries, SNU will take the lead in making Korea a truly advanced nation. As you continue to adhere to your own philosophy and live a life that benefits our society in various ways, please remember that SNU will also continue to be an excellent and warm academic community that contributes to national development and human prosperity. SNU will always be your proud alma mater.
Class of 2019 graduates of Seoul National University! I wish you luck in your future endeavors. In case bad luck comes once in a while, may you always find strength and courage to get back up again and continue pursuing your aspirations in life. Now everyone, please join me in giving a hearty round of applause for our graduates, the new generation that will lead our future. Thank you.