I’m overwhelmed today, and it’s a little hard for me to get up there because I was telling Steve this morning I am an emotional person, so for me, days like this are very emotional because you are like my family. My scholars are leaving me and I’m not going to see them again even though I know it’s not true.
I want to welcome and thank you all for coming today, my colleagues from Beijing and New York, their families and guests, and others from around the world, so welcome and mostly my scholars. I can’t believe I am standing before the second class of Schwarzman Scholars. I don’t think any one of you understands how overwhelming this is for Steve and myself, especially because like David said, it’s been eight years.
I’m going to be a little bit unconventional. I don’t have any inspirational messages to give you, maybe one, but first I do want to take a moment and do something that people forget to do, which is a special shout-out to those who are here today, who worked so hard in the early years, often forgotten on this journey for the Schwarzman Scholars to deliver on this big journey. I especially want to thank David Pan, David Li, Gao Hong and Yang Bin. We wouldn’t all be here today if it weren’t for this proof of bond. Then of course not to be forgotten, I need to give an extra special shout-out, and that’s an understatement, to the one and only person here in this room who not only had the vision but also the drive, energy and persistence to make this program happen. And many of us in this room actually secretly wish he didn’t have this much drive, persistence and energy, but he does and he did and yes he certainly couldn’t have done this alone. This would not exist without him. You wouldn’t exist. The building wouldn’t exist. None of us would exist without him, so let’s give a huge round of applause, and if you don’t mind, stand up for Steve Schwarzman.
You may wonder why someone in my age would have you all stand up for someone who had me come to China 51 times in 8 years, but it’s life for Steve Schwarzman. It’s only a mystery. I want to face the scholars more than the audience. You already made several important decisions that got you here as Schwarzman Scholars. One to begin with, you applied to the program. Second you luckily got through to the program and third you came to the Schwarzman College for a year. You learned about and from everyone around you, navigated and adapted to China and for our Chinese scholars, you operated and survived and co-existed with scholars from around the world. And hopefully you all learned from them.
Now at the minimum, what I want for all of you is to maintain and nurture the bridges that have been built this year and carry on as the proud alumni of this program. And second, share your knowledge and understanding of China and develop the bond as you would of your life. From what I learned, the more time you spend in time, the more you realize you don’t understand China. So that is something you could never forget. You are not leaving understanding China. You are actually leaving beginning your journey to live your life of understanding China. And more importantly, if anything you ever do career-wise or organizations you end up leading if you do end up leading, that you will continue to be open to others. You will be flexible. You will always try to communicate effectively. You will be tenacious and you will always be humble and responsible, not too much to ask, but that’s really what a leader is.
I remember the words of wisdom from meetings I had with Steve this morning and with some of our colleagues at Tsinghua. He said, only do things that are great no matter what it is. If it’s not great, don’t do it.
I will leave you with those words. Congratulations, Class 2018!
Executive Director, Blackstone Charitable Foundation