His­tory be­ing made at Har­vard

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By NIU YUE in New York

Har­vard com­mence­ment ad­dresses, with their cen­turies-old his­tory, are wel­com­ing their first-ever Chi­nese ora­tor on May 26.

He Jiang, a 2016 Har­vard PhD grad­u­ate in bio­chem­istry, will de­liver a speech rep­re­sent­ing the univer­sity’s 13 grad­u­ate and pro­fes­sional schools at the com­mence­ment on Thurs­day. Other guest speak­ers shar­ing the podium in­clude Academy Award-win­ning di­rec­tor Steven Spiel­berg.

By tra­di­tion, Har­vard se­lects three grad­u­at­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives to speak at the com­mence­ment: One of the ora­tions is de­liv­ered in Latin by a grad­u­at­ing se­nior from the col­lege; the sec­ond, in English, is also by a grad­u­at­ing col­lege se­nior; and the third by a stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the grad­u­ate and pro­fes­sional schools.

Af­ter three rounds of fierce com­pe­ti­tion, in­clud­ing drafts and au­di­tions, three or­a­tors were cho­sen by a panel of judges to de­liver an ad­dress — from mem­ory — to an assem­blage of about 32,000, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the gov­ern­ing board, hon­orary de­gree re­cip­i­ents, fac­ulty, par­ents, alumni and grad­u­ates.

He Jiang, a young Chi­nese scholar who comes from a small vil­lage in Cen­tral China’s Hu­nan prov­ince, never thought he could achieve such a high honor for a stu­dent.

“My par­ents knew I was par­tic­i­pat­ing in the com­pe­ti­tion from the very be­gin­ning be­cause I shared my thoughts, my stress and panic with them dur­ing the three rounds of elim­i­na­tion,” he said. “So when I got se­lected, they were re­ally happy for me.

“I also shared the news with one of my pro­fes­sors at USTC (Univer­sity of Science and Tech­nol­ogy of China), he was so sur­prised be­cause he never thought a Chi­nese stu­dent could give a speech on such a lofty plat­form,” He added.

Asked why he en­tered the com­pe­ti­tion, He sim­ply said, “I wanted more voices from China to be heard.”

He said from the point of view of a science stu­dent, his speech will fo­cus on the un­even dis­tri­bu­tion of science and tech­nol­ogy in the mod­ern world.

It will “com­bine our ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence at Har­vard, ex­tend it to our mis­sion and what re­spon­si­bil­i­ties we should un­der­take af­ter grad­u­a­tion to make the world a bet­ter place,” He said.

He said his speech will be un­der seven min­utes long and a pro­fes­sor has been help­ing him edit the draft and coach­ing him on pub­lic speak­ing skills.

But abil­ity and hard work are what re­ally have led He to the podium.

He grew up in a small vil­lage with poor ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties. His fa­ther, who didn’t fin­ish high school and was locked out of many work op­por­tu­ni­ties in big cities be­cause of it, im­pressed upon He and his younger brother from their boy­hood the im­por­tance of study­ing hard, us­ing his own ex­pe­ri­ence as an ex­am­ple.

“My fa­ther was al­ways strict with us so we’d avoid re­peat­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence,” He said.

I wanted more voices from China to be heard.”

“My fa­ther was al­ways strict with us so we’d avoid re­peat­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence,” He said.

Un­like his fa­ther, He’s mother was more like a friend, who al­ways en­cour­aged him through the chal­lenges of learn­ing and life.

“One of the big­gest prob­lems for ru­ral stu­dents is that the avail­able ed­u­ca­tional re­sources are lim­ited and stu­dents lack mo­ti­va­tion,” He said. “So thanks go to my dad for push­ing me to study in that en­vi­ron­ment and to my mom, whose en­cour­age­ment helped keep me fo­cused on my stud­ies.”

He grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Science and Tech­nol­ogy of China — one of China’s top uni­ver­si­ties — with a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in 2009 and was ac­cepted into Har­vard’s PhD pro­gram on full schol­ar­ship the same year. All he knew about Amer­ica was from books and films and he was in for some cul­ture shock.

“I hope more of China’s voices will be heard in the West, since what we have done so far is far from enough,” He said

He is now do­ing post­doc­toral work at MIT in bio­engi­neer­ing, study­ing meth­ods of com­put­eras­sisted drug screen­ing and early de­tec­tion of can­cer.

It hasn’t been an easy road, but that’s okay. “Per­haps it’s be­cause I suf­fered a lot grow­ing up, so many frus­tra­tions to me are things I can def­i­nitely bear,” He said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.