2017年6月7日，在该校商学院及法学院毕业典礼上，我与毕业生们分享了萨大这段经历留给我最珍贵的精神财富：We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give — 生命以获取而续存，却因给予而繁盛。
Chancellor Romanow, President Stoicheff, government representatives, distinguished guests, members of the faculty, graduates and friends: This honor means everything to me. I am truly grateful. Thank you so very much.
My new degree makes me a proud member of this Class of 2017. To my classmates, your parents, your families, may I offer a simple message: For the great achievement you share on this wonderful day, Congratulations!
For me, it is especially flattering to be called a Doctor of Laws. Let me tell you why. Long ago, after I earned my Master’s Degree in music, I still didn’t know what to do. So I considered studying at the College of Law. I attended exactly one class, in contract law. Right then and there, I knew that law school just wasn’t for me. One class – and yet here I am with this beautiful, impressive degree as a Doctor of Laws. Those of you graduating from the law school today, who worked and struggled for your degrees, would be entitled to reflect that life is not always fair.
Sometimes we get more than we deserve. I know this, because it is how I have always felt, about what I received from the University of Saskatchewan. The university has honored me, but really, I am here today to honor the university.
Exactly thirty years ago in 1987, my wife Ling and I decided that we were ready to see the world beyond China. If you had lived in a basement in Beijing, and desire a change of scenery, it doesn’t get any more different than the Canadian prairie.
Ling applied to study music here and was immediately accepted. I, on the other hand, had to wait. I went to Washington, D.C., with a hundred dollars in my pocket, and found a job. So my wife was alone with her violin in Saskatoon. I was three thousand kilometers away on the kitchen staff of Mr. Eggroll.
The happy day came when I was also accepted at this university. Nobody was ever as excited as I was to spend three days on a Greyhound bus to Saskatchewan. Ling and I had both received scholarships. That made all the difference for us. The same amount of money would have taken many years to earn in China at that time. We were amazed that such a gift could be granted by people who did not even know us.
With special affection, I recall the generous spirit of Dr. David Kaplan. If you knew him, it was a privilege. He was the founder of the music department. To many foreign students, he was a source of constant help, friendship, and encouragement. Often in my life, Dr. Kaplan’s example has shined before me, a reminder to share with others as he shared with me.
I received so much from the University in those years, but life beyond campus was not nearly as forgiving. Upon graduation, it didn't take long for me to realize that I would not make my fortune as a performing musician. As much as the world loves the sounds of Mozart and Bach, the world was not waiting to hear them from my violin. I started my own music business, but business was slow. I wrote and recorded folk songs, but the folks were not listening.
It was truly a difficult period for me. I watched our children at home while my wife taught school. I took various jobs, including one job that involved fast-paced and time-sensitive transactions. If anyone here received a delivery from Pizza Hut in 1995, there is a good chance we have met before.
I do not recommend a period like that in your own careers, if you can avoid it. But sometimes it happens anyway. That doesn’t have to be the end. It can even mark a late beginning, as it did for me. Even in my darkest moments, I had a sense of who I was and what I could do. More than once I failed, but I refused to give up. I knew in my heart that I was here on earth to achieve good and meaningful things. I never let any failure take that conviction away.
Sustained by this feeling, I went back to China and joined a small English school in Beijing. China had opened up and many young people were eager to see the world. I threw myself into the work of helping them find opportunities to study abroad. I shared everything I knew to serve them in every way I could.
Ten years later, after that school, New Oriental Education, went public in the U.S., many of my former students returning from overseas approached me looking for money for their business ideas. At the time in China, there was no such thing as angel investing. I understood these men and women, because I knew what it was like to be rich in ideas and poor in money. So I began to finance their start-up dreams and became an angel investor before I knew it.
I am happy to be called a success today – and frankly, still a bit relieved. It was a close call. But I do not measure success in rankings of wealth. I do not measure it in the things I can buy. I measure success, not just in overcoming one’s own adversity, but in helping others overcome theirs. My favorite line in the musical Les Miserables is from the Bishop: “Though our lives are very humble. What we have, we have to share.” I don’t recall if my friend Dr. David Kaplan ever heard those words, but he certainly lived them. And mine is just one life that he, and this university, changed for the better.
In business, in law, in any work we do, all of the same things are true about succeeding. First jobs – maybe even second or third ones – are not always dream jobs. Yet there is one opportunity that we never have to wait on – that is the chance to give our best, to give without holding back, and to give more than what is asked. We can do that in every position, high or low. We can do that in every circumstance. Every day, at every turn, we are needed; there are good things that only we can do. That’s how we show who we are, and find success along the way. There is great wisdom in the saying: We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
For each one of you graduating here today, I wish a great career and a happy life. And I hope that you will always share the feeling I have toward this university: respect, affection, and gratitude for all it has given to us. The kindness and generosity I received here long ago still touches me. May these years of learning leave a gracious mark on you as well.