I originally came from China’s coastal province of Shandong, which is quite well known domestically as well as internationally for Tsingtao Beer, Haier electronic appliances and Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius, often referred to as the sage or great teacher of moral principles and social responsibilities. What is often overlooked in the Judea-Christian dominated western world is that it was Confucius, a couple of centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ, who came up with the so-called golden rule: “You should not do unto others what you do not desire yourself.” People in Shandong are generally okay with the fact that many foreigners credit the Bible, not Confucius, for the adage (格言), but they would be somewhat offended if the outside world fails to recognize that Shandong has some of the prettiest and most livable cities in China, and that the province is the economic powerhouse of China and among the most affluent Chinese provinces, with a nominal GDP well over 4 trillion yuan—about US$712 billion.
This is not the Shandong I knew intimately. The part of Shandong where I grew up, on the west side, is called Liaocheng. There, one-fifth of the population, close to a million, are categorized as either below the poverty line or low-income. And yet, for three years now, the local government has invested more than four billion yuan on a cultural preservation development project aimed to restore the central part of the city to its ancient forms. There has been no indication that the investment has benefited the local people, many of whom are desperately trying to uplift themselves out of poverty.
My interest in the marginalized and underprivileged sectors of the Chinese society stemmed from my years of experience as a volunteer. It all started in May 2008, when China’s southwestern Sichuan Province was hit by a deadly earthquake that claimed approximately 69,000 lives and left five million people homeless. Not long before the earthquake, my grandfather passed away. I knew how difficult it was personally for me to experience the loss of a loved one. As I watched TV reports of younger children in Sichuan having lost all other family members or older folks having to bury their children who perished under the rubble, I could not even begin to imagine their suffering. I told myself I should do something. In the following several weeks, I organized a fund-raiser at my high school. The event attracted many students and teachers who either gave money or school supplies or spent time with me collecting donations inside the school campus and in residential areas outside the school. When I handed our donations to the Red Cross on behalf of our school, I felt a great sense of accomplishment. I realized that as an individual, my means were limited; but as a team, as a group and as a society, our strength was boundless. I learned that leadership is all about identifying and championing a good cause, galvanizing (激励) people and demonstrating that giving is rewarding.
I have since regularly participated in charity and volunteer work in my hometown of Liaocheng. For two years, I volunteered at local nursing homes and orphanages once a month and all through my summer breaks. I was also a member of the Spring Rain Charity that provided monetary support to school children whose families could not afford to have the kids attend school. My most memorable encounter was with Wu, a junior high school student who lived with his diabetic and bedridden mother in a poor village outside the city proper. His father was a migrant worker whose meager income, which he sent home, was not enough to provide the bare necessities, let alone buy books and pay tuition for Wu. At one point, Wu told his mom that he wanted to quit school and join his father as a migrant worker so the family could at least have two incomes. His mother was furious and told him never to enter the house anymore if he ever wanted to quit school. Such was Wu’s plight: he was an honor-roll student with outstanding academic performance, and yet he could not go on studying when his mother could not afford to visit the doctor. When I presented the 5,000 yuan check (about US$800) on behalf of Spring Rain Association in support of Wu’s schooling needs, both he and his mother starting crying. When Wu said his ambition was to finish school and get gainfully employed so he could take his mother to a big city hospital for treatment, it was my turn to get teary. I was happy for Wu, but I was sad that many students like Wu right here in Liaocheng needed help: but help is not coming soon enough.
此外，有关资助贫困学生一事，中文原稿说“我暗暗发誓要为更多人不再愁学愁医而努力”，而英文稿故意放低姿态，说“many students like Wu right here in Liaocheng needed help”。言下之意，“我”个人做的非常有限，“我”该怎么办？这反映出申请者是在思考问题而不是急于表功。低调和幽默一样，代表的是一种豁达。同样 “I realized that as an individual, my means were limited; but as a team, as a group and as a society, our strength was boundless” 也反映了学生不愿招揽功劳，而是愿意把功劳给他人的大气。
I took an AP macroeconomics class last year. I know China still has a long way to go before we enact legislation to protect the interests and well-being of the economic and social underdogs. The social security system in China, as it is, does not even cover half of the population. In economics, I learned that an unemployment rate of about 4%~6% is considered healthy and that lower rates are seen as inflationary due to the upward pressures on salaries. From a social worker’s point of view, behind these numbers are hundreds and thousands of people who are struggling to put food on their tables, or who are forced to quit school or give up medication. They simply cannot survive if their financial, emotional, psychological, educational and medical needs are not met. In the United States, social work, as an academic discipline, a concept, a career and a cause, has a long history and wide acceptance and recognition. In Liaocheng, in Shandong, and in the People’s Republic, social work is just beginning to emerge in the public consciousness. Much can be done and much needs to be done.
“ I congratulate all the parents who are here. It's a glorious day when your child graduates from college. It's a great day for you; it's a great day for your wallet. (Laughter.)
Most important, congratulations to the class of 2001. (Applause.) To those of you who received honors, awards, and distinctions, I say, well done. And to the C students -- (applause) -- I say, you, too, can be President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.) A Yale degree is worth a lot, as I often remind Dick Cheney -- (laughter) -- who studied here, but left a little early. So now we know -- if you graduate from Yale, you become President. If you drop out, you get to be Vice President. (Laughter.)
This is my first time back here in quite a while. I'm sure that each of you will make your own journey back at least a few times in your life. If you're like me, you won't remember everything you did here. (Laughter.) That can be a good thing. (Laughter.) But there will be some people, and some moments, you will never forget.
Take, for example, my old classmate, Dick Brodhead, the accomplished dean of this great university. (Applause.) I remember him as a young scholar, a bright lad -- (laughter) -- a hard worker. We both put a lot of time in at the Sterling Library, in the reading room, where they have those big leather couches. (Laughter.) We had a mutual understanding -- Dick wouldn't read aloud, and I wouldn't snore. (Laughter.)
Our course selections were different, as we followed our own path to academic discovery. Dick was an English major, and loved the classics. I loved history, and pursued a diversified course of study. I like to think of it as the academic road less traveled. (Laughter.)
For example, I took a class that studied Japanese Haiku. Haiku, for the uninitiated, is a 15th century form of poetry, each poem having 17 syllables. Haiku is fully understood only by the Zen masters. As I recall, one of my academic advisers was worried about my selection of such a specialized course. He said I should focus on English. (Laughter.) I still hear that quite often. (Laughter.) But my critics don't realize I don't make verbal gaffes. I'm speaking in the perfect forms and rhythms of ancient Haiku. (Applause.)
I did take English here, and I took a class called "The History and Practice of American Oratory," taught by Rollin G. Osterweis. (Applause.) And, President Levin, I want to give credit where credit is due. I want the entire world to know this -- everything I know about the spoken word, I learned right here at Yale. (Laughter.)
As a student, I tried to keep a low profile. It worked. Last year the New York Times interviewed John Morton Blum because the record showed I had taken one of his courses. Casting his mind's eye over the parade of young faces down through the years, Professor Blum said, and I quote, "I don't have the foggiest recollection of him." (Laughter.)
But I remember Professor Blum. And I still recall his dedication and high standards of learning. In my time there were many great professors at Yale. And there still are. They're the ones who keep Yale going after the commencements, after we have all gone our separate ways. I'm not sure I remembered to thank them the last time I was here, but now that I have a second chance, I thank the professors of Yale University. (Applause.)
That's how I've come to feel about the Yale experience -- grateful. I studied hard, I played hard, and I made a lot of lifelong friends. What stays with you from college is the part of your education you hardly ever notice at the time. It's the expectations and examples around you, the ideals you believe in, and the friends you make.
In my time, they spoke of the "Yale man." I was really never sure what that was. But I do think that I'm a better man because of Yale. All universities, at their best, teach that degrees and honors are far from the full measure of life. Nor is that measure taken in wealth or in titles. What matters most are the standards you live by, the consideration you show others, and the way you use the gifts you are given.
Now you leave Yale behind, carrying the written proof of your success here, at a college older than America. When I left here, I didn't have much in the way of a life plan. I knew some people who thought they did. But it turned out that we were all in for ups and downs, most of them unexpected. Life takes its own turns, makes its own demands, writes its own story. And along the way, we start to realize we are not the author.
We begin to understand that life is ours to live, but not to waste, and that the greatest rewards are found in the commitments we make with our whole hearts -- to the people we love and to the causes that earn our sacrifice. I hope that each of you will know these rewards. I hope you will find them in your own way and your own time.
For some, that might mean some time in public service. And if you hear that calling, I hope you answer. Each of you has unique gifts and you were given them for a reason. Use them and share them. Public service is one way -- an honorable way -- to mark your life with meaning.
Today I visit not only my alma mater, but the city of my birth. My life began just a few blocks from here, but I was raised in West Texas. From there, Yale always seemed a world away, maybe a part of my future. Now it's part of my past, and Yale for me is a source of great pride.
I hope that there will come a time for you to return to Yale to say that, and feel as I do today. And I hope you won't wait as long. Congratulations and God bless. (Applause.) ”
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