Students carry forward the work of a research tradition. This is certainly true of the work of the CCA. I have long held the knowledge that it is in the work of our students that the openings for new imaginations are created. With their passion and courage, they build new paths for articulating and carrying forward the spirit of social justice. Their authenticity and commitment, not jaded by the parochialisms of academic power plays and seductions, speak truth, taking on power and challenging it.

This is the facebook post and the valedictory speech delivered by my PhD advisee Dr. Pauline Luk. Pauline is currently a Lecturer in the Li Ka Shing School of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong. Pauline's speech embodies many of the values that are so fundamental to the work we do:

"Prof. Mohan Dutta, thank you very much for your teaching, encouragement, support in the past years. It is a very fruitful journey for being a supervisee under your mentorship. I learned a lot. I wish you was there in the commencement, seeing me walking on the stage and be the one witness the completion of my PhD journey. I know you would not be in the ceremony, but the valedictory speech is dedicated specially for you! Here is the script: https://www.facebook.com/notes/pauline-luk/valedictory-speech-nus-commencement-2018-c21-19-july-10am/10155714518302253/ and you can watch the delivery here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQ-SeFgBeMI..."

Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, NUS Chairman; Ms Audrey Tan, Co-Founder, Angels of Impact; Chief Dreams Architect and Co-Founder, PlayMoolah; Distinguished Guests; Fellow Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen, a very good morning.

I am deeply honoured and privileged to represent the graduating cohort of postgraduate students of Communications and New Media, Sociology, and Social Work of 2018. I would like to begin my speech by offering my heartiest congratulations to my fellow graduates. Today is our day, and we have earned it!

I would also like to express my gratitude on behalf of my fellow graduates to the professors and administrators who are here today, and also to those who are not. Thank you for providing us with a nurturing environment to learn and grow, preparing us for the challenges that lie ahead.

Some people do not dare to enroll in graduate programmes because of a fear of the unknown, a lack of confidence, or simply, a desire to avoid a few years of sleepless nights! Yet, all of us sitting here today, show that we have the tenacity to achieve academic goals. Each of us here has achieved a goal that has made us a better person, a more knowledgeable person and a person our families can be proud of.

We might not share the same struggles and hurdles in our academic journey. We do have something in common, namely overcoming of challenges, in manifesting these challenges we express two traits that we all have.

But before I share with you what these essential traits are, I would like to share a short story with everyone. (pause) This story begins with a little girl, who came from a family farming rice in the villages of olden day China. Back in those days, education was not easily available. Public schools were unheard of, and if you were lucky, your village would have a private one, called “Bu Bu Zhai” in Cantonese. The little girl carrying a bamboo basket of rice grains on her tiny shoulders, using the rice to pay for the tuition to the private teacher. When she made her way across the river, halfway through, she tripped and fell. The rice that she was carrying emptied into the river, only to be swept away by the currents. As the rice disappeared, this little girl watched her hopes for education dissolved into the murky water as well. She would never have the opportunity to go to school again. This little girl was my mother. (pause)

More than a decade later, another teenager came to Hong Kong alone from China to escape poverty in the rural areas and became a plasterer. He had never received formal education, but signed up for evening classes after work each day to learn basic English. (pause)

The little girl and the teenage plasterer are my parents. They are both in their eighties, sitting here today. They were not fortunate enough to be formally educated, but they have ensured that all my six siblings and I receive tertiary education. My parents are my role models, and I learned a lot of insights from them. In particular, I learnt two very important traits that made me a better postgraduate student and person.

The first trait is the passion to succeed. Things may not always happen in the way we want them to, but what is important is to have the passion and the staying power to work through your struggles and pursue your dreams. My parents did not get a chance to have formal education, but their passion and determination enabled them to provide education for all their children.

My passion in creating a better society always pushed me to think and act out of the box. Doing things I never imagined. I remember that when I first arrived at NUS as an international student, the call to be an environmentalist in my heart made me form a team with my friends in NUS. We initiated a new project, NUScycle. We collected unused items from students in the UTown residence and re-distributed the items to incoming students who were staying on campus. This project helps us to save tons of useful things, helps students save money, and helps achieve our goal of having a more sustainable environment. Through this project, I made more friends, had the satisfaction of doing a project that I am passionate about, and I received some awards too! This project gave me the fondest memory in my NUS life and will definitely be something that I will remember for very long time. This was how passion drove me to gain an experience I am proud of.

The second trait for success in graduate studies is courage. A courage to take up new challenges. For my parents, they took the courage to flee from China to Hong Kong; I took up the courage to start a project that I had never done before and which was not even related to my research.

My fellow graduates, that you are sitting here shows that you have the courage to start the academic journey. Indeed, you have the very quality to take up any challenges in the future. Prof. Mohan Dutta, my supervisor and former head of department of Communications and New Media shared this hymn in his departure note before leaving for a new job in New Zealand:

It takes courage to answer a call,
It takes courage to lose your all,
It takes courage to risk your name,
It takes courage to be true.
It takes courage to dare,
One that no one will share;
To be standing alone,
One whom no one will own;
To be ready, to stake for another one’s sake,
It takes courage to be true.

Last but not least, I am sure that everyone here has people whom they wish to express their gratitude to. On behalf of the cohort, I wish to thank those who have mentored, supported us, and encouraged us.

On a personal note, please allow me to say a few words in Cantonese to my parents, 爹哋媽咪, 多謝你哋養育我, 今日我終於畢業啦, 這個博士學位是我的, 都係你哋的. “Daddy, mammy, thank you for raising me up. Today I am graduating. This degree is both mine and yours.” I would also like to thank my 15 family members who flew all the way from Hong Kong to celebrate my graduation in Singapore. I know that many other family members have done the same for my classmates.

Once again, thank you and congratulations.

As we remain standing, my fellow graduates, this is a proud day for all of us and for our parents and loved ones, who have supported us in our journey here.

Therefore, before we leave this hall, let us take this opportunity to show our appreciation for our family and friends, with a round of applause. Please join me in this gesture.

Thank you.


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