Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Third Class of Schwarzman Scholars
Dear Mr. Schwarzman,
Dear Schwarzman Scholars,
Colleagues and friends,
On behalf of the faculty and staff of the college, a warm welcome to the Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University, the location of your pursuit of knowledge and skills of global leadership for the coming year, and hopefully, your intellectual home for the rest of your professional life.
This year, we are seeing 135 Schwarzman scholars from 38 countries and regions, a group with great diversity, amazing talents, and tremendous potentials. We have Justus Uwayesu, a student from Rwanda, who founded a nonprofit organization in his hometown to help children from low-income families receive basic education. We have Claire Colberg from Stanford University who visited 25 countries during her tenure in McKinsey & Company. When she joined a Mongolia youth organization, Claire became very interested in Mongolia and other countries along the Belt and Road. We have Hugo Wood, a student from Panama, who served as the public policy consultant working for the Vice President and Foreign Ministry of Panama. He hopes to learn more about the economic development of China and other Asian countries, and draw experience from these countries to develop the economy in Panama and across Latin America. The story can go on…
One might ask, why Schwarzman college, being so new on the map of global education, is able to attract such a distinguished group? You may all have your individual answers. As a long-time observer and practitioner in higher education, I will follow the Chinese tradition to look for traces from three sources, timing, location, and people (天时、地利、人和). Let me elaborate further.
In terms of timing, the globalization or anti-globalization has become the dominant themes of our times. Quite some years ago, “The World is Flat” was the best seller not just because Tom Freeman’s writing is excellent, but the phenomenon he described in the book struck a chord with many people around the globe. While globalization has brought many benefits, it has also brought home many challenges, particularly in public domains, such as peace and security, global migration, pandemics, climate change, financial market regulations, risk governance for new technologies, and so on, not to mention many other national issues with grave global externalities, such as violence, income disparity and extreme poverty. This is partly why the voice of anti-globalization has gained its momentum around the world. While these are all challenges to the global community, they are also particularly opportunities for new generation of movers and shakers, such as our Schwarzman scholars, to show their intellectual leadership and practical relevance in addressing these challenges. So, we are very lucky to be in this new golden age of global challenges to offer our best energy and talent.
In terms of location, China’s development and emergence as a major player in the global arena over the last 40 years will be recorded in the history as one of the most significant events in our time. China’s economic system, industrial structure, society, and governance system have all gone through fundamental changes. Never before have all of these transformations happened in such a short time of 40 years, and in such a big country. The difficulties, challenges, conflicts, unrests, dilemmas are abundant. It is the largest on-going social experiment in the world. To understand what is happening in China, what are the useful experiences and regrettable lessons, and what are the implications of China’s emergence, there is no better place than in China, in Beijing, and in Tsinghua. You will have much time to learn about the history of Tsinghua, but I do want to mention that despite Tsinghua’s reputation in science and engineering, and, of course, Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua has a long tradition of cultivating leadership in China. In the 100+ years of its history, Tsinghua University has educated generations of leaders in politics, academia, and business who played key roles in China’s unprecedented transformations in recent history. Both of China’s current and former Presidents, President Xi Jinping and former President Hu Jintao are Tsinghua alumni. Such tradition stems from a strong sense of public responsibility, a unique combination of multi-disciplinary strength, the cutting-edge research, advanced teaching facilities, and a demanding intellectual environment. These resources have created a solid foundation for the development of Schwarzman College.
The last piece of the puzzle is people, namely you, the scholars of the college and the professors and staff who are working in the college. You scholars are the sources of new ideas, the inspiration for excellence, and the ultimate purpose of the college. It is your willingness to share your experiences, your courage to challenge the familiar, and your sincerity to learn the new that will make this place so interesting to stay. You will be constantly exposed to new ideas, different perspectives, and alternative approaches. The differences and contradictions certainly make one feel uneasy, and sometimes painful. But you are encouraged to be open and tolerant, and even to embrace them, with careful thoughts and independent judgment. The unique perspective and the fresh ideas you bring to each class flows like small brooks that cumulate into big rivers of knowledge and wisdom that makes teaching in Schwarzman College an intellectually challenging yet rewarding experience.
While you have made the right choice to come to the right place at the right time with the right people, the year’s study will not be an easy cruise. In the following, let me offer some advice to our scholars.
First of all, embrace scholarship, the art of learning—In today’s world, we need a new generation of leaders who have the intellectual horizon beyond disciplinary, geographical, and cultural boundaries; who can engage in current debates about contested issues; who can use their lived experiences and acquired knowledge to examine emerging trends; and who can apply big data and fresh evidence to challenge widely accepted conclusions. These skills and capabilities can only be fostered through hard work in reading, writing, thinking, and communication. In other words, the full engagement with scholarship.
Second, penetrate stereotype and veneers—Your year in Schwarzman College will be full of opportunities for you to learn everything about China, from its culture to its governance, to its people. There are many people working hard to design various experiential programs for you, including deep dive, PTP, and many others. Please treasure these opportunities and try to penetrate the stereotype in your mind or the veneers shown to you to get a real picture of China. Also, please get out of this building, explore Tsinghua campus, take courses in other schools, join research work in various research centers, get to know professors, and play with other sports teams. I hope by the end of this program, you have not only friends and bodies from the Schwarzman College, but also from other schools and departments in Tsinghua, and from the places you visited or worked. The bridges of heart are built by raw feelings, by being there, seeing happening, and sweating together.
Third, innovate and make things happen along the way. As you all know, Schwarzman program is a pioneer in global leadership development, but it is also brand new, only 3 years old. There are many areas that need further refinement. While all the faculty and staff are working hard to address these issues, you should not hesitate to join us in this effort since you are not passive by-standers, but comrades in addressing these challenges. We need your talents and efforts to figure out innovative solutions. By the same token, as members of Tsinghua community, don’t be shy about identifying problems and providing constructive ideas.
Dear Schwarzman scholars, let me repeat, you have come to the right place, at the right time, with the right people! Let us begin this new and exciting intellectual journey together! Thank you!