Monday, September 24, 2018

Jason Y Ng: You are an inspiration to me

Transcript of Jason Y. Ng’s Speech Graduation Ceremony, ALSE 59 and ALSE 60
23 September 2018
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Thank you for the introduction, Anna. I’m always embarrassed when I hear my bio being read out loud in front of a big audience. But indeed, as Anna has just mentioned, I do have many interests and do many different things—which is why my Mom always calls me a “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

Among the different things I do, the most enjoyable and rewarding is working with the foreign domestic worker community. And among the many organizations I work with within the community, Wimler and the Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship program stand out, not only because they make an impact on beneficiaries like yourselves, but more importantly because it has the potential of changing entire communities.

So let me begin with a heartfelt congratulation to the LSE graduates today. You all have come very far to be sitting here in this auditorium. Do give yourselves a big round of applause!

I’m particularly excited to see quite a number of employers and their children sitting in the audience. It warms my heart to see the support and love they’ve shown their domestic workers. Please give all the employers a big round of applause as well!

It’s fitting to celebrate your achievement in this wonderful auditorium. This is the second year that the Chinese University has graciously hosted the LSE graduation. For those of you who aren’t familiar with CUHK, it is one of the top universities not only in Hong Kong but also in the region. CUHK and HKU are the only two medical schools in Hong Kong, and it is one of the only three law schools in the city. CUHK has also produced a number of Nobel prize laureates, such as Charles Kao who won the Nobel for physics in 2009. I’m very pleased that your graduation is taking place in such a dignified venue.

Like I said earlier, all of you have come very far to get to this auditorium—to attend today’s graduation ceremony. I’ve been working with the FDW community for over ten years, long enough to notice that the FDW community itself has too come a long way. In recent years, we’ve seen more and more press coverage of amazing examples of FDWs who have broken the so-called “helper ceiling” and achieved great things in life. Inspirational examples include the helper who climbed Mount Everest, who won photography competition, and who published critically-acclaimed poetry. All that is proof that all of you are meant for big things in life and that you are not—and no one is—defined or limited by what he or she does everyday in his/her line of work.

But you don’t need to climb Mt. Everest or have your own photo exhibition to be an inspiration. To me, each and every one of you is inspirational.

You are an inspiration to me because you left behind your family, your friends, your life back home, and came to Hong Kong to be able to better provide for your loved ones.

You are an inspiration to me because you contribute tremendously to the Hong Kong economy, and even though if you don’t always get the credit for your contribution, you continue to work hard and give your 100 percent.

You are an inspiration to me because Hong Kong is not an easy place, and you or your friends have to put up with biases and prejudices on a daily basis, and yet you are brave and you shrug them off and don’t let them get to you.

You are an inspiration to me because you tough it out six days a week and still struggle to find a dignified place to spend your day off, but you still have a great time on Sundays whether you are sitting in a Starbucks or on the street.

You are an inspiration to me because you live with another family and look after other people’s children and old parents, and you don’t get to see your own children and parents and you miss them every day.

You are an inspiration to me because you knew you wanted more in life and you therefore sacrificed your personal time and put yourself through a six-month training with LSE to better yourself, to challenge yourself, and to equip yourself, so you can do even more to contribute to your families and your communities back home.

You are an inspiration to me because you stepped out of your comfort zone in order to acquire new skills in finance, in presentation, in public speaking, and in starting a new business, even though doing all that within such a short time was difficult, uncomfortable, even scary.

You are an inspiration to me because you are sitting here in this auditorium among your friends, your colleagues, for a few months, your competitors, and you are genuinely happy for and proud of each other for making it through an intensive program and seeing all your hard work pay off.

You are an inspiration to me because many of you are about to embark on a new journey, putting your new skills to use by executing your business plans; some of you will do well and succeed, others may stumble at first but pick themselves up and learn from their mistakes and do better next time, but all of you will come out a better and stronger person and form lifelong friendships with your business partners.

You are an inspiration to me because just hearing myself say all these things make me want to give each of you a big hug and tell you how incredibly honored I am to be here with you today to celebrate your achievement, and to thank you for welcoming me into your community even though I’m not a Filipino, and giving me the opportunity to get to know so many strong, amazing people.

And so when Leila asked me to give an inspirational speech to the graduating class, I told her I would love to, but deep down I knew I wasn’t qualified to do that. Deep down, I knew that you should be giving me an inspirational speech, and not the other way around. That’s why I very much look forward to hearing the testimonials from some of you later in today’s program. Because you truly are the stars and heroes of today’s celebration.

Hong Kong is a special place. I know that not only because I was born and raised here, but also because I’ve also written several books about it—the good, the bad and everything in between. Like any other place, there are things we Hong Kong people do well, but at the same time, there is also a lot of room for improvement. We have bright moments of course, but we also have some not-so-proud ones as well.

Some of you will leave Hong Kong this year or the next, others will stay but may eventually leave. I hope all of you will take the good with the bad and cherish your time here. After you go home and start your new chapter in life, remember the things that Hong Kong people do well, and apply those lessons to whatever it is that you plan on doing. Years later, when you look back on your time in Hong Kong, I hope those memories will give you, if nothing else, a smile on your face.

But more importantly, I want you to acknowledge and appreciate all the things that you do better than we do—things that we in Hong Kong ought to learn from you. And there are so many examples, starting with your kindness, your generosity and your optimism.

So let me leave you with a few parting words. Embrace all the wonderful things that make you who you are and that you have yet to offer. Celebrate them and pass them on.

Thank you and congratulations!

Watch here Jasons speech

About Jason Y. Ng

Bestselling author, news columnist, and adjunct law professor at the University of Hong Kong. He is the President of PEN Hong Kong, the local chapter of PEN International which promotes literature and defends the freedom of expression around the world. For years, Jason has been an outspoken advocate for the rights of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong, writing extensively about the challenges they face and working with support groups including Help for Domestic Workers, the WIMLER Foundation and Pathfinders Hong Kong.

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