John Liufu Class of 2021
Good afternoon distinguished guests, teachers, parents, and fellow graduates of class of 2021. I am John Liufu, and it’s my honor to be here today.
Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from myself on September 3rd 2018.
For you guys who don’t recall, that was the due date of our three-year plan written before our story unfolded.
A pretty interesting thing is that three years ago I made the plan in the form of a survey and requested the present self to go through the plan as a checklist, to see whether my high school education ends up alright.
Decent TOEFL and SAT scores, check; a vocabulary sized at least twenty five thousands, I have that; high GPA and extracurricular awards, I guess so.
Speaking frankly, I checked most of the items, and the survey led me to this final conclusion: “Congratulations, you had a fantastic education.”
This short line threw me into deep thinking.
I don’t doubt the fact that these three years we spent with each other have been splendid, but my understanding of education has changed because of you.
What makes an education great and meaningful?
The answer that I most often get goes that a successful and meaningful education means the acquisition of knowledge and truth.
This was also what I believed when I made the three-year plan.
Three years ago, the word education summoned in my mind the image of Apollo standing upright at the peak of Mount Olympus, shining the eternal light of unwavering truth aloft a vast sea of darkness.
It will clear up unknowns and direct me to a promising future.
But let’s give this theory a second thought. It builds on the assumption that there exists such thing as the one true knowledge and the absolute definition of success, and that’s not necessarily correct.
Actually, I prefer seeing human knowledge as dependent on individual experience, relative instead of absolute, variable instead of immutable.
True knowledge - sounds like an passive object beyond doubt.
Something inert, forever waiting for somebody to pick it up just like picking up our favorite grilled Naengmyeon from the SCNU back gate.
We don’t worship and revere the grilled Naengmyeon like what we do for knowledge, exactly because knowledge is no passive object: it’s the elusive, the mysterious and the inconclusive.
Our HFI experience explains this idea perfectly.
With that three-year plan or graduation checklist I actually wanted to summarize what we’ve learned with numbers and awards, but our education goes far beyond those absolute indicators.
It was every moment of nirvana, every birth of insights and every evolution of worldview that weaved every single day’s unnoticeable growth into our convoluted journey of greatness.
Not reducible to any score, award, or title.
Everyday in these three years with all of you, you impressed me with diverse ways of being awesome, great and educated.
Mr. Frost taught us that being a kind human being is a great career already: there are a lot of opportunities and very little competition in this area; I always admire his habit of greeting everybody from the lobby all the way to the teacher’s office.
Jeff taught us to have consistent passion in our fields of study and be proud of it; I will never forget about his toilet paper experiments, the ingenious handouts and the “profound students break systems” motto.
Ms. Xu taught us that getting eighty percent done then getting eighty percent correct is not the end of the world; the more mistakes we make, the more chances to learn and make progress.
The take-away point is, there are simply too many moments and versions of success and happiness here.
Some of us didn’t get offers from your dream colleges, but maybe you got to invoke all interpersonal boundaries on the Voice competition and HFI Talent Show and excite the auditorium into an emotionally interconnected crowd with incredible music and dancing.
Some of us didn’t become experienced debaters and writers, but maybe you were lucky enough to enjoy seeking order and regularities in our chaotic world via differential equations, computer algorithms and chemical reactions.
Some of us haven’t joined in the social activists’ noble cause of fighting for the minorities, but you took pleasure in attending Marco, Mama and other cute cats without whom our campus would never be as lively.
As I said earlier, there is no one absolute truth in general for all humanity to pursue, so the criteria of success and the value of life are probably also relative and unique for every individual.
HFI didn’t light up THE correct path for us to undertake in the future, nor did it reveal THE divine truth for us to uphold for the rest of my life.
On the exact opposite, we learned to be open-minded and prepared for changes instead of limiting myself to a single answer.
To keep curious about the unknown rather than settling with what is already known.
And most importantly, to realize that there is only one constant in this indeterminate, random and variable world: our own persistent passions and pursuits.
All particles are doing unceasing random Brownian movements.
Our genes are undergoing random mutations at every second.
We tried to understand why and how the water coming out of those bath tubes in our dorms goes suddenly from freezing to boiling; NOBODY ever succeeded.
No absoluteness can survive in such unpredictability and inconstancy, so what we can have faith in is really our personally unique definition of “successful” and “meaningful”.
Think what we think, love what we love, do what we do, and steadfastly follow our hearts.
May it be materialistic, romantic, quixotic or even agonistic.
May that mean being an expert of airplanes, a marathon runner, a vlogger or just an actively thinking mind.
Just like what we’ve been doing at HFI.
This is the greatest lesson an education can teach.
Thank you my fellows and teachers, thanks for providing information, ideas, skepticism and discussions that intermingle organically to become critical thinking and self-knowledge.
Thank you our dear parents, thanks for supporting us to freely explore this mesmerizing cosmos here at HFI, and after a few months, in the prosperity of New York, in the lukewarm sunshine of California, in the sweeping wind of Illinois and in the milky fog of London ......
When the time comes, my fellow graduates, seize the precious opportunities to indulge in the vastness, the boundlessness and the ambivalence of our world.
To read philosophy and history, to reach the moments of Eureka among the debates of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and Derrida;
To challenge math and science, to contemplate the nature of universe under the reasoning of Descartes, Newton and Schrodinger;
To create arts, to feel the resonance among all souls along the brushstrokes of Monet, Van Gogh and Picasso.
To relentlessly question and reorganize conceived knowledge about the world and ourselves; to quest for possibilities beyond impossibilities.
To find our passions and have confidence in them; to independently determine for ourselves the value of life.
To hold responsible and accountable; to be each other’s reliable comrades in your crusade towards inconstancy and unknown.
I don’t suggest the word “bright” for summarizing our future, as the word’s simple meaning overlooks the inspiring enigma that success, failure, reflection and rebirth will altogether enrich our souls in the future.
I wish you immense possibilities.
Thank you, and Congratulations Class of 2021.
真理 - 听起来像是一个毋庸置疑的、无可变化的东西。
我们中的一些人或许没有收获来自梦想的橄榄枝，但你们在Voice比赛和HFI Talent Show上用令人震撼的音乐和舞蹈来消解人际隔阂，去将讲学厅里的观众们变为一个情感共通的整体。