Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience. Today I would like to begin with my personal experience.
Before getting enrolled in college, I had been bombarded with suggestions.
"Take courses of different subjects. Broaden your horizon." my high school teacher advised.
"Dive into campus activities. Have fun!" a friend said. She was well seasoned in Student Union affairs.
"Work hard. Get as many A's as possible. Make your transcript look good!" my cousin offered. By the way, she was a senior busy hunting for a job.
As for my mom, she simply said, "Take care. Don't be too hard on yourself."
Composed but hopeful, I eagerly set out for an exciting life at college. Yet very soon, as I pondered these golden rules, I was overwhelmed and bewildered. Such advice all made perfect sense. Yet I couldn't figure out what should top my priority list.
My first semester at college was stimulating in a somewhat anarchic way. I rushed from library to club, from classroom to tennis court, "enjoying", as it were, the freshness of being a freshman at the expense of my sleep. Little by little, however, I became overtaxed and eventually fell victim to the "Yu Men" syndrome - "Yu Men" being stressful misery. Literally, I was overwrought from the pressures of work and life at college. I wanted to experience and excel. I wanted everything. Emotionally, I was like an insatiable kid whose hand had got stuck in the candy jar with way too many sweets.
Luckily I didn't suffer for too long from my "get-everything" malaise. Recently, Mr. Tom Freston, president of the media company MTV came to my school. His talk inspired me. He proudly told us that the average age of his employees is only 28. What's the secret behind the success of his young team? "Sagacity," he told us, "In other words, being conscious of what one is doing and what one is able to do."
Exactly! As a freshman about to be a sophomore, I realize now that our time and stamina don't allow us to extend ourselves in all directions. So the moral responsibility of college education is to teach students the art of making important choices. No matter how hard the growing pains are, mastering this art is at the heart of every undergraduate's success, whether in school now or in life later on.
So I am learning to make such choices. Joining this competition, for instance, has been one. I've wanted to fully experience this contest, to make friends, to discover what my age peers believe and to stretch myself in new and unexpected ways. I imagine this is true for most contestants here today. But to do so, we've chosen to set aside pleasures, such as watching TV series "Friends" and karaoke evenings, so we could invest more time in more reading, speaking, and study.
Yet this competition, by forcing us to take charge of our decisions, has surely helped us define our values, find out what we're capable of doing, and learn what best suits our individual development. I believe this knowledge of one's own caliber is the most valuable, integral and longest lasting lesson for students in this increasingly competitive world.
As for the challenges and opportunities for us, they will be determined by how adequately our education trains us to gain a clear perception of ourselves, and thereby to make sensible choices that follow. College education, as British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said, "should be energizing as the poet of our dreams and the architect of our purposes." Such purpose, self-discipline and vision all hinge on the art of choice-making.
As I look back on the advice received those very first days on campus, I no longer feel perplexed, because I now have my own guideline: Make choices that lead to a clearer vision of who I am, what I can do, and how I may best tap my potential. The horizon is now wide but distinct. And the taste already feels sweet.