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My Three Guiding Principles

"Distress as we may be in, we should hold more firmly to our integrity and never abandon our lofty aspiration"


Editor’s note: In May 2019, Professor Hon-Ming Lam delivered a speech to the graduating class of The Yuen Yuen Institute MFBM Nei Ming Chan Lui Chung Tak Memorial College. Here is the full translated transcript. The editor would like to thank Albert Yu for assisting the translation process.


Dear graduating students,

You are about to enter a new stage in your life. Surely you must feel nostalgic yet hopeful towards the future.

Primary schools prepare students for a world beyond their family; secondary schools prepare students for adulthood; colleges prepare students for their role in society.

As you step out of the secondary school entrance, you will soon become an adult. With greater freedom and power comes with greater responsibility. You all will have to come face to face with more challenges alone while making more choices with your future in mind. Dear students, are you ready?

I’m much older than you all, a bit more seasoned in society, having endured all sorts of challenges growing up and walked through a rugged path. I hope to use this opportunity to share with you anecdotes about some of my guiding principles over these years: a grateful heart, a determined will, and deliberate choices.

A grateful heart:

First, you should thank your parents for giving you the most invaluable gift: life. Although it’s expressed in many ways, your parents’ love and care exceed money and possessions, enabling you to become who you are today. I remember how our family was poor when I was young; my father told me that only knowledge could change our fates. With no money to help me, I was on my own if I had to pursue further studies. I’m grateful that he did not force me to drop out of school and work to make ends meet; he gave me an opportunity to turn around my own fate. I believe your parents must have put in their best effort to provide you with many opportunities. I also believe that you will be grateful towards them, only sometimes you have articulated this fully.

Bumps and bruises are inevitable on the road to growing up. I believe that while you have received help from many others, your teacher should be one of the most important of them all. The effort and hard work put in by your teachers to take care of you occur around you on a daily basis. But perhaps we’ve taken it for granted; oftentimes we forget to give our heartfelt thanks. When I was in primary school, I had to take my secondary school entrance exam. If I screwed up, I would be unable to continue my schooling. Because I didn’t have money to buy supplemental exercises to prepare for the exam, I had to swallow my pride and borrow them from my teachers. My Math teacher grabbed some for me in a heartbeat and even told me that I could ask him for more if I finished them all. It might have been a simple act of kindness for him but from my perspective, his helping hand has left an indelible mark on me.

In fact, every reassuring smile, every encouraging look in the face, every pat in the back, they help nourish the souls of students like a soothing breeze or a drizzle, empowering them to grow without even realizing it. Once I have become a teacher, I strive to remind myself never to be stingy when giving out a reassuring smile, an encouraging look in the face, and a pat in the back. “Do not commit an act of evil or fail to commit an act of kindness just because it is small in scale.” Each small act done by every one of us can have an everlasting impact on somebody else. With a grateful heart, we can spread kindness; this is the best way to repay those who have helped us. I hope that the seeds of kindness sown into your hearts by your teachers could sprout and be passed on through you.


A determined will:

Dear students, your parents, teachers, and every single person in this room will wish that you find success in the future, but they will never engage in wishful thinking and hope that you never stumble. Failure is the mother of success; the only thing separating success from failure is whether you get back up one more time after you’ve fallen down. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; failure and challenges could be tools that sharpen you. Therefore, a determined will is the foundation for ultimate success. Never grumble about the lack of opportunity to showcase yourself. Be well prepared, for opportunity only finds the prepared.

In university, I mainly engage in cutting-edge scientific work. In that, I would never be lazy, but I hope that my research results could help those in need. I believe that science and technology should include humanistic elements because I have a vision in my heart: a world in which everyone could have a chance to live and develop themselves, an equal and just society.