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Graduates told spiritual wealth pivotal

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

09:17, July 06, 2012

Graduating students from three prestigious universities were urged by their university presidents in recent days to resist material temptations and strive for spiritual excellence.

The presidents of Fudan, Peking and Tsinghua universities gave separate but eerily similar speeches to the class of 2012, who are about to step out into the wide world.

Each urged their graduates to persist in their ideals despite the prevailing utilitarianism of society.

At Fudan University in Shanghai, President Yang Yuliang warned outgoing students about the darkness and complications ahead of them, encouraging them to live like a "candle at midnight" to light up their own and others' lives.

"As we are inspired by the first docking mission of a Chinese manned spacecraft, we are equally deflated by corruption, rights infringement, food safety issues and unemployment rates," Yang said in his address to graduates on June 26. "However, an undesirable environment is never an excuse for you to be a coward ... since it is always more constructive to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.

"One day you may encounter an elite member of society who hands you a card that lists a dazzling roll of academic and official titles. These people fit into society with flexibility, resourcefulness and a deep understanding of the rules, both explicit and hidden. But they are driven only by personal interests. They are egoists."

Zhu Jisong, professor of English at Fudan, said the speech was a direct hit to the lack of human spirit, which is the most important but last lesson schools and society pass down to students.

"Take our department as an example. Only two out of 49 undergraduates this year have completely read a work of William Shakespeare, who is top of the reading list," Zhu said. "Meanwhile, subjects like business English and English-Chinese interpretation, which are seen to help earn big money, are gaining momentum."

Zhou Qifeng, president of Peking University, struck a similar tone in his speech to graduates when he urged them to adhere to the truth and remain undaunted by people with power and influence.

"Life never goes smoothly ... there are ups and downs, there are victories and defeats. The pursuit of truth and adherence to independent thought are always worth remembering," he said on Wednesday.

At nearby Tsinghua University, President Chen Jining also spoke about life lessons.

"We hone our skills over rounds of competitions, during which some may mistakenly take the most difficult aims as the most valuable ones."

"Care not about if you can walk faster on an ordinary road, care about if you can walk steadfastly on a piece of unknown wasteland. Only in this way can you see the landscape that never unfolds to others."

Xu Junqian in Shanghai contributed to this story.

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