Rector’s Speech in Congregation 2020 (28/11/2020)

Honourable Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Ms Ao Ieong U, representing the Chief Executive of the Macao SAR and Chancellor of the University of Macau,
Honourable Chair of the University Council, Dr Peter Lam Kam Seng,
Distinguished Members of the University Assembly and the University Council,
Distinguished guests, alumni, parents, teachers and students,

Good afternoon!

At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is largely under control in the Chinese mainland and Macao, but still an uncertainty at the global level, we are gathered here to mark a special graduation ceremony. This will be one that no one will ever forget. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, some students and parents are unable to attend this particularly meaningful ceremony in person under these extraordinary circumstances. They can only join us via video link. However, I am sure that we are all equally thankful and excited at this moment. On behalf of the University of Macau (UM), I extend hereby my warmest congratulations to students who overcame all difficulties and completed their studies successfully in spite of the pandemic, my congratulations to their families and friends as well. I would also like to pay the highest tribute to all dedicated and selfless professors, and express my sincerest gratitude to all sectors of the society for their strong support to UM during this period.

The coronavirus has been a huge challenge to countries, societies, universities and all individuals. During the pandemic, UM gave top priority to the safety, and physical and mental health of our teachers and students. We have worked relentlessly and done our utmost to minimise the impact on the teaching and research in the university.

I am glad that even though students were compelled to stay apart, they cared for and supported each other, and actively participated in the fight against the coronavirus, all the while keeping pace with their studies. Some students joined the online promotion team of a pandemic response volunteer group, where they completed an online report on the pandemic and shared positive stories with all. There were also students who recorded success stories in the fight against the pandemic in Macao through interviews and surveys, of their own accord. A collection of these stories was published as their graduation work, entitled ‘A Tale of Macao during the Pandemic’. Meanwhile, professors held steadfast to their positions and made unremitting efforts to constantly adapt and improve online teaching. Research teams raced against the clock to provide support in response to the coronavirus outbreak. All sections of the university played an active part to facilitate pandemic control and prevention measures in Macao. For example, a professional psychological counselling team comprising of UM professors, psychotherapists and counsellors provided mental health support services to the community at large. Concurrently, the university consolidated its internal and external teaching resources to offer SME training courses to the public free of charge.

I can say that during the pandemic, professors and students demonstrated strong will and dedication, allowing the university to give full play to its capabilities in order to adapt and serve in face of the epidemic. Each and every one of you deserves the highest applause for your efforts and contribution.

Dear class of 2020, as your alma mater and Macao emerge successfully from the pandemic, the joyous moment also marks one when you are about to bid farewell to the campus and embark on a new journey in life. At this moment, I would like to share three suggestions with you:

First, more than ever, we should have a sense of patriotism and responsibility. In the face of a catastrophe faced by all mankind, the responsibility and strengths demonstrated by our country, which included the concerted efforts of the Macao SAR government and all sectors of the society, have taught us the most profound and inspiring lesson. It has given us a deeper and more direct appreciation for our home and the nation. The world today is undergoing major changes that are unseen in a century. Not only do we need to have a concern for the whole world and the awareness to participate in solving common problems faced by mankind; we also need to have love for our home country and the courage to shoulder the mission to protect and build our home while fulfilling our personal goals.

Second, more than ever, we should stay optimistic and persevere. The unexpected ‘beast’ of the pandemic has caused us to face a lot of difficulties and losses as never before. This year has been a challenging year for all of us, and I believe each of you has your own personal feelings and thoughts on this matter. Perhaps we have had many worries and concerns, but history and experience tell us that we will always find a way to overcome adversity and weather the ups and downs. The coronavirus may continue to bring uncertainties in the future. However, no matter what difficulties or setbacks you encounter, I hope you can always remain sunny and positive, rise up to the problems, find ways to tackle them and achieve self-actualisation in the midst of challenges.

Third, more than ever before, we should keep learning and progress through change. The pandemic has revealed to us that enormous changes will take place in lifestyle, technology application, international relations and other aspects of the future world. I believe that you have equipped yourself with a level of knowledge and competencies during your studies at UM to give you confidence in yourself. I hope you will make good use of your knowledge in the future. The future will need you to continue to advance your knowledge. Be ready to think and dare to innovate, more than ever.

Dear students, ‘what’s past is prologue.’ Now you are off to start a new chapter in your life, I hope you will keep in mind and put into action the university’s motto, ‘Humanity, Integrity, Propriety, Wisdom, and Sincerity’. Give your youthful dreams wings to fly, embrace the world with generosity and virtue, and conscientiously put what you have learnt to practice. In closing, before you leave the university, I would like to convey my heartfelt wishes again to the students who could not physically make it to this ceremony. I look forward to your coming back and visiting us when conditions permit. Your alma mater is always open to you with attention, care and warmth. Once again, congratulations, class of 2020. I wish you every success in the future, and wish our guests good health and happiness.