Pan Yunzhu '20 at Commencement 2020

Yunzhu pre-recorded
May 29 2020

President Hamilton, Chancellor Yu, vice-Chancellor Lehman, respected faculty, distinguished guests, family members, friends, and the fellow members of the Class of 2020, welcome.

August 19th, 2016, we stepped into Jinqiao residence hall with our hands full of luggage and stomach full of butterflies, not knowing what to expect in our upcoming college life, or whom to meet in our new dorm room. The very next day, in his first speech, Chancellor Yu told us we’re the fourth class of NYU Shanghai, the class of 2020, the class that finally made this school’s student body complete. Sitting in our shiny purple auditorium, little did we know, we’re about to go through one of the most unforgettable college experience, GPS, in this very same room.

Like many other non-native English speakers among our fellow students, I was overwhelmed by the amount of academic reading coming our way every day, with phrases and concepts that I’ve never seen before in my life. “Stereotypes”, “alienation”, “privileges”, “assumptions”. But it is by paddling through this river of new pieces of knowledge, that we began to ask important questions like “What is ‘one’ and ‘other’?” “What costs are we paying for the development of metropolitan cities?” “What’s the full story of globalization?” “What exactly is burning in Paris?” 

More than often, we find ourselves in the middle of a conversation bringing two or more different worlds together. I have many close friends whose cultural backgrounds are drastically different from mine. We talk, discuss, and even debate in classes, on the slide outside of Jinqiao, in balconies from a Manhattan dorm; on topics from self-identification, to the scenes they picture in their first movie, to “could Wakanda really have existed?” Four years’ time has passed, and our language skills went from没有vocab, to 4000 word capstone papers. These dialogues are like moments and sparks on a grassland at dawn that lit up our undergraduate times.

Dumbledore once said, “there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” We’re in an era where positions are taken so easily, that we often forget the fundamental things we share; where there’s full of divergence and disagreements, it seems like everyone wants to talk, and no one wants to listen. And it was small moments like those discussions on the slides of Jinqiao that kept me believing - believing that we’re on a great journey moving towards something extraordinary.

As students of NYU Shanghai, we are, in a sense, among the luckiest of our generation, to become part of this unprecedented educational experiment; where the torch that has been standing for “ethics, efficient learning, equity, diversity, and inclusion” since 1831, is now also burning under the Oriental Pearl Tower for a more deeply and widely connected future world.

The Chinese writer Lu Xun, wrote in 1938 a line that I think well embodies our founding spirit. “无穷的远方,无数的人们,都与我有关。Endless distances, countless people, they’re all related to me.” As children of NYU Shanghai, we’re not only cultivated as globally-minded scholars in various professional fields, but also active citizens in this new era, who understands the desire,love and duty that connects us all as human beings. 作为上纽学子,我们不仅是各自专业领域具有全球视野的求学者,更应当深刻理解那些将我们作为人类紧紧相连的爱,希望,责任,成为这个全球化的时代下,心性端正,思想深刻,理性求索的人类社会一员。

Fellow graduates of the class of 2020, I have the deepest and most genuine faith in you, in us, that we will continue to grow as global community a community of life-long scholars and to give back to our global society. We will be a forest, with our roots growing deep into the soil, and our branches reaching higher for the sky. 我们会像一片森林,根系愈深入厚实的土壤,枝丫愈伸向高远的天空, 登攀不止,不断成长,回馈社会。Collectively we hold together the seven continents while embracing a bright future.

Congratulations class of 2020. We’ve made it. Thank you!


Watch Pan Yunzhu's full speech at NYU Shanghai's 2020 Commencement on Youtube and Bilibili.