I was going to speak today about the necessity for an open-mind as you approach new opportunities, new environment and new paradigm, the need to have stamina in times of difficulty and to not be afraid to take the road less travelled. But I believe most of you know this or you wouldn’t be here today in the first place.
So I'm just going to give you a piece of avuncular advice, tell my story and be boring:
Close to thirty years ago, I was where you are today and only a few years before that, it would have seemed impossible to me that I would ever sit where you are today. You have earned this seat, through intelligence, diligence and discipline, my deepest congratulations to all of you. For all the cynicism in the world today, especially given how people perceive the practice of law, I encourage all of you to preserve your optimism, idealism and passion for what you do.
You have proven that you have a lot to offer this world, now you need to prove you can make a difference, whether that be in the courtroom, classroom, NGO or office lead by example because ANYTHINGIS POSSIBLE! I want to share with you some of my experience in the hopes that it encourages you to not accept barriers at any cost.
As a teenager, I was sent to a railroad construction site deep in the mountains in Western China. Food was rationed and workload was heavy. However, what made it more unbearable was the lack of knowledge and information. I devoured every piece of paper that had any word on it, like a hungry man. Together with a few co-workers we started a study group called "The Communist Laborer's Night School", with the few old text books we brought with us, and a radio we used to learn English from VOA and BBC, at the risk of imprisonment for listening to "enemy stations".
After 3 years of hard labor and a head injury, I was given a job in an artillery factory making machine guns. I biked about 10 miles twice a week to learn English taught in the Radio Engineering School of a university in Xi'an. Most of the 200 people quitted the class during the one-year study, and I was one of the dozen remaining, together with the chief engineer of my factory, who later put in a strong recommendation for me to go to college in Beijing, without having ever been to a high school.
After graduating from both college and law school in BJ, I was sent as an exchange scholar to work in a law firm in California. Boy I remember the cultural shock I had when I first arrived in SF in 1982! There I realized that my knowledge of law was utterly inadequate to deal with international transactions, which I was supposed to teach back in Beijing. I decided to go through the hardship of studying for a JD degree in the US. That started my honey-decades with Duke law, which gave me a full scholarship and a fuller education in American law.
I was once asked by a hard-struggling law student from China why I seemed so happy and content with my studies then, living mostly in the law library. I answered, if you have experienced the deprivation of knowledge for so long as I have, you would, too, view this place as the heaven of learning. I said that despite the many occasions when a few professors would vote against granting the scholarship to a "red Chinese", or some fellow students spoke right in my face that they were "abhorred" by the Chinese communist system. When I was later asked of a similar question as a junior associate in the sweat shop of a Wall Street law firm, I happily told the fellow associate that Vladimir Lenin taught me to learn your skills so to dig the grave for capitalism.
The ensuing 1987 financial crisis jolted me to an opposite direction, though. I was so fascinated by the intricacies of the capitalistic financing machines that I decided to study it carefully and try to transplant it to my own home country. I went back to China in the summer of 1988, after visiting most of the stock exchanges in Europe and some in Asia, in a seemingly fool-hardy effort to persuade the Chinese government for the establishment of a capital market.
Among all the people who were skeptical of our idea, was an American consul in Beijing. After suspiciously questioning my intention to have gone back to China and hearing my explanation about my ambition to start the stock market there, he said, this is all BS, and tore up my application forms. This is in early 1990, when I applied to come to teach a short course at Duke law. By the end of that year, we have helped the opening of two stock exchanges, the SHSE and the SZSE, which have a combined market cap of several trillion dollars today. Two years after, the unintended consequences started to show and the central government finally adopted our proposal of setting up the regulatory agency and persuaded me to join it.
Being a regulator is like being a matchmaker, when the marriage is successful, the couple would think it's their own good fortune, will be busy enjoying themselves and very seldom grateful to you. But if anything goes wrong, then both sides blame you for it. I got just that sort of treatment, blamed all the time, for good or bad reasons. I was yanked out of the agency to run the newly established Social Security Fund in 2003, and then, 4 and half years later, the Sovereign Wealth Fund. After almost 7 years serving as an investor, I'm finally relieved of my duty and allowed to retire to do what I love the most, i.e., working with young people every day, teaching and, more importantly, learning.
Why do I want to tell you the boring story of a personal life? Because I can't help offering you my advice, having made so many mistakes and suffered so many detours. Here are the few things I learned in life in the vain hope that you would avoid them.
1. Different views, different people, different culture and different ideology may not necessarily a bad thing. They just teach you to be more tolerant and open minded. Vive la difference, as the French would say.
1. 不同的思想、不同的人、不同的文化以及不同的意识形态或许并不是一件坏事。他们只是在教你更加宽容，保持更加开放的心态。就像法国人说的那样，Vive la difference（差别万岁）。
2. Taking hardship is not necessarily a bad thing, it may pay in the long run. Of course in the long run we will all be dead, as Maynard Keynes said. And that's why we need the next suggestion.
3. Taking the road less travelled is not necessarily a bad thing, it just makes your life much more interesting. Let's try to live an interesting and significant life.
4. Setting high material demands in this world today is not necessarily a good thing, as it may keep you from realizing your ideals or keeping your vision.
I want to leave you today with the words of the great American poet, Max Ehrmann because he said it infinitely better than I can. Hope you guys can remember this as you go forth.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with universe, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.