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Schrieffer Lin Class of 2019

My fellow students, teachers, parents, distinguished guests,

Are you OK? Hello, thank you, thank you very much. I mean, good afternoon. I am the valedictorian of this Class, and it is my honor to address you today.

Fifty years ago, the Cold War and a divided Berlin made stage for "the proudest boast in the world of freedom":

"Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a citizen of Berlin) .

Today, in the world of international departments, the proudest boast is "I go to HFI."

Yes, I see the Toulmin Model from AP Language spinning in your mind

Dying to add the qualifier "in South China."

Regardless, their pride is different from ours.

For their fighting spirits they were lauded

But they merely endured what had to be endured -

What the larger context required of them.

You are different.

You came here, and you became here.

You are this place, this school.

So unlike the Berliners,

There is no larger context for you to be proud of.

You can only be proud of yourselves -

Your idiosyncrasy, passion, audacity, resilience

Your friendship, your love and pain

And your baths in Songs of Ice and Fire upstairs.

I am always fascinated by the stars

Always told to look for them in the countryside

Where technology is backwards and where buildings are shabby.

So I came here

Where technology is backwards and where buildings -

No, where the building is shabby.

And I found you the Class of 2019 -

the most luminous and wonderful galaxy of 131 stars.

Last month, after the AP Literature exam

I heard two HFI students' short exchange -

one remark echoed by another.

One said, "I did the first passage and slept for the rest of the hour."

The other responded, "Oh come on! How can sleep compare to the charming poetry and passages?"

A remarkable manifestation of our stellar diversity:

We are not 131 boring, identical suns.

We have passionate learners like the latter, and at the same time

We have devout members of "Xixi sleep cult" like the former and also me.

Diversity, a much hated concept that barred us from better colleges we deserved

That dimmed us in their offices of admission

Paradoxically bent the iron Law of Conservation of Energy in the other direction

Made each of us radiate with ever growing intensity

Allowing us to absorb from each other without abating ourselves.

Diversity, diversity among us

Like a limit

Can be never equated but only approached

by any series of words however rich -

Chefs, football players, writers, philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, linguists, musicians -

No, not even these would be sufficient.

Still are we held together albeit the differences

Not by waves of gravitation traversing spacetime

But by ripples of the precious, often trifling moments we shared

That rebound to our heart strings once in a while.

There was a time when we were still "Xiao Peng You Men"

When we were soothed by the truth that eight times eight is greater than sixty.

My mind's ear still sometimes hears a kind Irish man leaning against the wall

Plucking the strings and singing "The Fields of Athenry".

And no sooner had again come August along with a new "Defense Against the Dark Arts" teacher Than came rushing back the dreamy afternoons filled with "fauna and flora" that "waxed and waned" in the air

The mountain's summit and Monet's garden

Conjured by Wendy's General English and Economist magic.

My undertaking to note down Mr. C's every suit and tie never concluded

And my attempt to record Russael's every joke was in vain

But still I recall Mr. C rushing around the classroom to hand back everyone's essays

And still I laugh at Russael's summary of Journey to the West as "mountain, demon, mountain, demon, mountain, demon…" accompanied by a post-modernist illustration.

Although the spicy fried pot and 85℃ at the backdoor have gone to Heaven

Still linger their heavenly tastes and the blissful moments of chatting and feasting after summatives or gobbling down sandwiches in morning classes.

Passion, passion, what is your passion?

Since Day 1 you have been asked this question

As if there is one big solution -

A specter hidden away in the mysterious forest of your disposition.

With tens of courses and clubs as your direction

And with upperclassmen's wise words as your illumination

Determined to hunt down that apparition before application

Into that forest you marched.

Polish your case

Parry your opponents' questions with grace.

On fields you swear and sweat.

With friends you compile and compute.

L'Hôpital and Locke's names you murmur in sleep

Montesquieu's Spirit you see in dreams.

With wands of chalk you practiced Newton's magic and Green's witchcraft.

Java and May'u you now speak with ease.

Into that forest you marched.

Passion, passion, what is your passion?

Weighing every endeavor on a scale

We plot our own maps to find the solution.

But to me the question smacks of an insidious assumption - a sense of exclusion.

Are we not like the librarian who uses binary search to find the unchecked-out book?

Should we not test convergence before solving for the limit?

Must we squeeze ourselves through the funnel?

Perhaps the rightful path through the funnel is the other path -

Not from uncertainty to certainty, but from uncertainty to more uncertainty.

Maybe we don't have to hunt down the specter of passion after all.

Maybe we should just enjoy the pleasure of being in the forest.

Pleasure precedes passion.

I say, this is the essence of our education here and hereafter -

The heart of liberal arts education:

To see the options, but not to choose;

To study universal knowledge, but not skills.

Hence I say, education - college education in particular - is no path to occupations.

Education simply is.

Hence, let the wind and waves worry about employment.

Let us study whatever may please us, be it useful or useless.

Let us improvise where necessary.

Let imagination be always our company.

And thus

Let there be light.