Graduation address given by Dr Su Guaning

Dr Su Guaning gave the following occasional address at the University of Sydney graduation ceremony held at 7.00pm on 16 September 2009 in the Grand Ballroom, Marriott Hotel, Singapare. Dr Guaning is President of of Nanyang Technological University.

Dr Su Guaning
Dr Su Guaning

Top: Guest speaker Dr Su Guaning.

Above: From left, Dr Su Guaning, Professor John Hearn (Deputy Vice-Chancellor, International), His Excellency Doug Chester, The Australian High Commissioner to Singapore and Professor Bruce Sutton, Chair of the Academic Board and Presiding Officer.

Photos, courtesy of the International Office.

Graduation address

Your Excellency Doug Chester, The Australian High Commissioner to Singapore, Professor Bruce Sutton – Chair of Academic Board (Presiding officer), Professor John Hearn – Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International), Graduands, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am delighted to be here today, to share in your celebration of success. Let me congratulate each of you on your graduation from one of Australia’s finest universities. This is a special occasion which attests to your hard work and sacrifice. Your beaming faces, and those of your family and friends around you, say it all!

Lofty aspirations
As you arrive at this milestone in your journey of life, I would like to share with you the story of another journey which holds a special place in my heart.

In May this year, six courageous women embarked on the final leg of a voyage that had taken years of preparation, training and sacrifice. Their journey achieved a historic feat for Singapore. I am, of course, talking about Singapore’s first, all-female team who made history by scaling the summit of Mount Everest, the highest peak on earth at 8,850m. Among them were two alumnae from Nanyang Technological University.

Everest, symbolically, embodies values of passionate pursuit, resilience, tenacity and a sense of enterprising adventure. The expedition undertaken by the Natas Singapore Women’s Everest Team encapsulates the belief that passion and conviction can bring dreams into reality. In spirit, this expedition extends beyond mountaineering.

To me, this remarkable journey encapsulates the passage of a university education. Beyond the acquisition of knowledge and skills, the process of learning pushes you to discover your strengths and limitations. I am sure your days at university have gone some way to help you discover your dreams and how to get there.

Realising your dreams
In an interview given shortly before the ascent of the peak, one of the mountaineering team members said: “I don’t dream of climbing Everest, I plan to.”

Indeed, the group members dedicated years of training and hard work in preparation for Everest. From 2004, when the idea to scale the peak was first given shape by the formation of the team, the six women set about to put their plan into action.
Against the odds, they cajoled and convinced backers and trainers to support their cause. At first, the reaction was sceptical. Funding was difficult to come by. Jobs, careers and family responsibilities had to be reconsidered. And, as you know, the Singapore terrain does not lend itself as a natural training ground for mountain climbing.

One step at a time, however, they surmounted the challenges. The team first started out with a technical mountaineering course in New Zealand. The next year, they scaled Nepal’s Mera Peak and then attempted ice-climbing in Sichuan, China. Following that, the team conquered other mountains in China and Pakistan, with a single-minded focus on their ultimate destination: Mount Everest.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Pushing the boundaries
I was personally moved to hear accounts of how members of the Everest team suffered, and overcame, tremendous hardship in their descent from the Everest summit. They endured terrible gales, freezing temperatures and frostbite, to achieve their lofty goal.

Their determination and resilience symbolise the aspirations and achievements of those who dare to dream, and more importantly, of those that care to put their dreams into action.
To you, the University of Sydney’s newest graduates, I wish you all the best, as you go out into the world to pursue your own dreams and fulfil your aspirations.

In closing, I would like to share with you the words of the American novelist, Henry Miller, who once said: “One’s destination is never a place but rather a way of looking at things.”

You have reached a milestone in your personal climb. Keep in mind Miller’s words and you will continue to rise in your career and make your university proud of you.

Thank you.