Speech by CS at 57th International Mathematical Olympiad Closing Dinner (English only) (with photo)
Professor Geoff Smith (Chairman of the 57th IMO Advisory Board), Professor Shum Kar-ping (Chairman of the IMO Hong Kong Committee Limited), Professor Tony Chan (President of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology), 李魯部長 (Director General of the Education, Science and Technology Department of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special administrative Region, Mr Li Lu), distinguished guests, academic leaders, dear contestants, ladies and gentlemen,
This has been a much anticipated occasion for me, as I am standing here, speaking to you not only as the Chief Secretary for Administration of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government who is delighted to welcome you all to Hong Kong for the 57th International Mathematical Olympiad, but also as the mother of a son who has contested twice in IMO - IMO 2011 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and IMO 2012 in Mar del Plata, Argentina, though I have to confess that since Josh was attending high school in England, he was a member of the UK team! So it is through a personal connection that I understand how this prestigious competition can impact and shape young students in mathematics.
Let me start by extending my warmest congratulations to all our young contestants here for the passion, persistence and extraordinary talent you have demonstrated in IMO 2016. Congratulations to the IMO Advisory Board, IMO Hong Kong Committee Limited and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology for making this exciting contest a huge success. I wish to pay particular tribute to Professor Shum and Professor Chan for their selfless dedication and hard work in organising this international event in Hong Kong for a second time since Hong Kong hosted the 35th IMO in 1994, and for the first time since the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 1997.
In the past 10 days, Hong Kong has been lit up by a group of over 600 bright young minds from around the world. Tonight we celebrate their remarkable performance and the successful completion of the 57th IMO.
Each year, IMO brings together some of the world’s brightest high school students to compete in solving mathematical problems which are designed to test the brainiest. Mathematics, however, is much more than an academic subject to tackle at school or in contests. Let us recall the moment we faced an obstacle, and the moment we overcame it. Let us recall how our ideas, knowledge and endeavours guided us through problems after problems. We might then realise that mathematics actually has a key role to play. Indeed, mathematics is pivotal to the development and advancement of civilisations. Take a look at the four pillars of the IMO contest. Geometry provides us with the path to construct an ideal world. Number theory crystalises the human instinct to seek orders and natural laws. Algebra symbolises the structures of a vague world, making unknowns known. Combinatorics shows us the way to count and to count for favourable outcomes. These are all mathematics, and these are ideas which essentially guide our minds and thoughts to know ourselves, our society and our world. Speaking personally, mathematics often finds its place on our dinner table at home as my husband and two sons are all addicted to this discipline.
Mathematics training can teach rationality, creativity and determination, which are virtues all dearly cherished by the people of Hong Kong. Rationality is the foundation of every respectful society. Here in Hong Kong, an international metropolis with over 7 million people of diverse cultural, ethnical and educational backgrounds, you are bound to hear different voices representing different interests if you ask about views on any given issue. It is rationality that has enabled us to respect and resolve such differences, and find a consensus in the best interest of all.
While rationality underpins mutual respect and social harmony, creativity is the driving force behind progress. Hong Kong highly values original ideas, especially those from our younger generation. The people of this city have long been famous for their ingenious flexibility. We want the next generation to build on it further and let their creativity boom. This is why we are actively promoting STEM education in schools. To solve an IMO problem, a contestant needs a creative mind to spot the hidden key, think out of the box, and flexibly tackle the challenges en route. These are the very same skills our next generation need to survive and excel in the fast-moving 21st century.
Determination keeps us going in times of difficulties. The process of solving a mathematical problem, or any problem in life for that matter, can be rough and tough. Success only comes to those who persevere and stay in the game till the end. I would say Hong Kong people have been well trained in this regard. For a small place with so many geographical limitations to develop into a world city, people’s determination to find solutions and succeed definitely has a key role to play.
So, my young maths enthusiasts, the rationality, creativity and determination you have shown in this competition mirror Hong Kong’s core values. We share the same pleasure and courage in the pursuit of solutions. I am sure that we are all on the same track of making our society and the global village a better place to live. Witnessing what young people like you have accomplished fills me with confidence for a brighter future and a better world.
Today we close this year’s IMO, but it can well be the beginning of your progress to a higher goal. Many IMO contestants have great accomplishments, very often regardless of what medals they received. Being a woman, I would like to particularly mention Professor Maryam Mirzakhani who participated in the IMO in 1994 in Hong Kong. She became a full professor at Stanford in 2008 at the age of 31 and in 2014, became the first woman ever to receive a Fields Medal.
Ladies and gentlemen, the success of this competition owes much to the educators who have devoted enormous efforts to honing our young people’s talent to let them shine in contests and in life. Both as a government official and a parent, I want to say a big thank-you to them from the bottom of my heart. And I would also like to send my best wishes to IMO for its future endeavours, particularly for the IMO 2017 to be held in Brazil next year.
Alongside the challenging competition, I hope our contestants and guests have had a chance to enjoy Hong Kong’s urban and countryside landscapes, which show a harmonious co-existence of a vibrant economy, expeditious technological development and endearing nature. You are most welcome to return in the future to congregate once again with our top mathematical brains or pursue your higher aims. I look forward to welcoming you back to our lovely city.
Ends/Friday, July 15, 2016
Issued at HKT 23:18
Issued at HKT 23:18