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SED's speech at 37th Speech Day of SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School (English only)

     Following is a speech by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, at the 37th Speech Day of SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School today (November 20):

Bishop Soo, Madam Yuk, Mr Mak, Distinguished Guests, Parents, Teachers and Students,

     I am delighted to join you all today on this special occasion.

     First and foremost, let me offer my warmest congratulations to the graduates.  Today is a day that you should all be proud of.  It marks the end of your secondary school days, and the start of a new stage in your young lives.  As you go on to further studies, you will face new problems, meet new horizons and learn not to be intimidated by new challenges that are both real and unexpected.  In short, you will have a lot more to learn, regardless of the path you may wish to pursue.

     My congratulations also go to the school authorities on the quality education it has provided you over the years.  With the boundless care and unremitting support from your teachers and the School, generations of graduates of Lam Woo have achieved a consistent high level of attainment at public examinations.  It is more encouraging to note that the School has always accorded greater importance to nurturing students with whole-person development.  Great care has been taken to provide a wide variety of learning opportunities outside the classroom so as to instil in students positive attitudes and good virtues.  All the bright and beautiful young minds in front of me in the school hall owe very much to the School's wise counsel.  Apart from your School, your parents' relentless support and love over the years also count.  On this special day you should not forget to say a big thank you to them, as well.

     Last Sunday, the Science Faculty of the University of Hong Kong celebrated its 70th Anniversary with a Celebration Dinner at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.  I graduated from the faculty in 1966, having studied Physics and Mathematics.  I met quite a few old acquaintances at the dinner whom I have not seen for quite some time .  We talked and reminisced about our times at the University.  I found out that not too many of them took up professions which had direct relations with the science disciplines.  This applies to me as well. By chance, more than by design, I got the opportunity to work for the Government after my graduation, and before I had time to consider the option of pursuing an academic career.  And now, after 42 years, I am still in the public service.  Many of my classmates have also stayed in their own chosen field of profession for their entire career.

     You may wonder whether the same will happen to you and your friends.  I don't know.  But my guess is that, you may have to envisage more than one job or career.  In fact it is highly likely that you will be working for different employers during your career.  This is because the world is changing at an unprecedented pace.  We are seeing the effects of globalisation which has taken hold.  And no one single economy entity can operate on its own.  We find ourselves inevitably interwoven and affected by the developments in the rest of the world.

     The financial tsunami which caught us unawares more than a year ago was a telling example.  It has ripped out many formulas of success and models of prosperity which were in place for decades.  Its dire consequences were felt everywhere and at every level.  Although we are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, there are still challenges on the road of recovery in many parts of the world.

     These challenges may have already affected your family in more personal terms.  Some of you may be wondering whether the fields of your study you have chosen or will choose for further studies could give you shelter from such economic uncertainty.  Perhaps you may even be worried about how your future career paths might be affected.

     It is understandable that anyone could feel lost amid all these challenges.  But you must prepare yourselves - you must learn to adapt to the ever-changing economy, respond to the new phenomena with an open mind, and always be prepared to acquire new knowledge and skills.  You are setting out on a journey for lifelong learning.  You should count yourselves lucky as your School has prepared you to learn how to learn.  You are already equipped with the requisite skills in the pursuit of more knowledge.  Yet, whether you can in fact seize the opportunities which come your way depends very much on your attitudes and beliefs.  On this, I would like to make a few points.

     First, trust yourself and be true to yourself.  Always keep trying and never lose hope.  You are unique in this world and you are not replaceable by any other soul on this planet.  To your parents, to your teachers and to your friends, you are precious.  I want you to imagine that you are a sea-faring explorer, setting sail on your own journey.  And you are in charge, deciding its course, and choosing fellow seafarers as your companions.  You know best what you want and what you dare to want.  If you can imagine that, you have a reasonable recipe for being able to meet your challenges in life with some success.

     I am sure that most of you have heard of the author, J. K. Rowling.  If it doesn't ring a bell, then have you heard of Harry Potter?  She is the creator of Harry Potter.  Her story teaches us to keep working on our dreams until they come true.  With a strong affection for writing novels, J.K. Rowling had never given up creation even during the most difficult times in her life.  When she started her first Harry Potter novel, I suppose she might not have envisaged the great success she now has.  Her experience should be a warm reminder to all of us, in our weaker moments, when we have lost the conviction of making our dreams come true.

     Second, we are fortunate to live in a society that embraces diversity and equality.  The success of Hong Kong is underpinned by law and order, and also a level-playing field.  These are the cornerstones of our society.  Everyone of us can claim equal opportunities to excel, regardless of our background.  Trust that.  If you are prepared to flex your muscles and devote all you can in your endeavours, your efforts will bear fruit and there will be commensurate return.

    The recent success stories of some students with special education needs are truly inspiring.  These students suffer from multiple physical disabilities and three of them have just been awarded degrees at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University for their studies, the best one being awarded a first-class honour.  This year, many more students with learning difficulties or special education needs have achieved good HKCEE results. One of the successful stories actually happened in this school.  I understand that he has attained six distinctions and two level 5s in the language subjects.  We should give him a round of applause on his success and achievements.  Our society provides opportunities to every one of them to develop their potential to the full.  Remember the same applies to you.

     In the future, apart from the traditional opportunities for social mobility and success through academic qualifications, there will be alternative paths for our young people to build a career with their creativity.  The Chief Executive mentioned in his Policy Address this year that we need highly versatile people with a broad knowledge base to sustain the development of our economy.  Apart from our traditional pillar industries - financial services, tourism, trading and logistics and professional services - the Chief Executive has also highlighted the importance of the development of six other priority sectors, one of which is the cultural and creative industries.  I urge you to continue to expose yourself to different experiential learning activities and explore your capacities in different areas.  The school campus provides you with plentiful opportunities to bring out the latent creativity trapped inside you.

     Lastly, as you proceed to achieve your goals please do not forget those behind you.  Everyone has a role to play in building a caring society.  As you help others you are helping the community as a whole, and most probably you are also helping yourself.  Even where you are a mentor you are also a mentee.  In caring and helping others, the feedbacks and gratitude will work miracles and guide you through your own difficult times when they come by.

     We need our young people to sustain a caring society to provide equal opportunities for generations after generations.  Through your service and commitment, you could build a better world for tomorrow.  As Mother Teresa once said and I quote: "Love cannot remain by itself -- it has no meaning.  Love has to be put into action, and that action is service".

     I say to all of you, whatever your future roads may be, please help foster a caring society.  We do not expect any less of you after your graduation.  Develop your identities not just as members of this school, but also as caring and respectful players on the social stage and in the global arena at large.

     Congratulations, once again, on your graduation.  I wish all of you every success in your future endeavours.  Thank you.

Ends/Friday, November 20, 2009
Issued at HKT 19:48


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