This Commencement Speech was delivered in July 2019, addressing all of Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management Faculty and Graduates, including Bachelors, Masters, and PhDs. The speech was first published by Tsinghua University, and below is the full transcript.
Honorable Professors, Fellow Classmates, Distinguished Guests:
I am Jireh Li, Class of 2019 from our Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA. I am honored to be graduating from two of the finest universities in the world.
Today I want to share three stories.
Let’s start off with: “Being Present.” On Day 1 of the program, 37 top executives from all over the world gathered in Beijing. They came from Holland, Pakistan, France, Egypt, Singapore and more. They were asked to climb over a 3-meter wall during orientation and did it with nothing but faith, trust and combined effort. We were those 37.
Pulling each other up with our bare hands and getting completely out of our comfort zone somehow had a liberating effect. Little did we know of the path ahead, but this wall gave us confidence, hope, that together we might achieve something greater than ourselves.
And we did as we explored new horizons and challenged our beliefs. Each simulation, each case study taught us how to be better executives – To be present not just with our responsibilities, but also with our teams and our emotions.
I hope we can all retain the gift of “being present,” for only when we stop chasing shadows can we start to enjoy the ride.
My second story is about “Seeing the Beauty.” It was during this EMBA journey that I found the strength to stretch my boundaries, carve out my own career path, became the first Chief of Staff in China’s Venture industry, and pioneered new VC business models.
Yet this hardly reflects the full professional value our program achieved. Some classmates are channeling their Tsinghua thesis into AI, pharmaceutical and manufacturing breakthroughs. Some made country-level policy recommendations. Others have become Regional Heads, CFOs, CEOs… I am proud to be here today, alongside my classmates.
Above all, this program taught us to see the beauty of “East meets West.” In this age where China takes leadership in the global arena, our EMBA has all the more value, having integrated diverse traditions with novel ideas in management and entrepreneurship.
Looking ahead as alumni, let’s continue to be ambassadors of “East meets West,” and carry the Tsinghua and INSEAD values to our workplace, our industries, and our personal lives.
This leads me to my final story, which is about “Taking it Forward.” Our Professors, EMBA administration, and our Families have so generously supported us. Each and every classmate, especially our Class Representatives, have collectively made our experience a fantastic and meaningful one.
Our life-changing EMBA has nurtured us into more mature leaders – equipped with the confidence to lead with strength, character, tact, integrity, and grace. Now it is up to us to take our learnings forward and make our time on earth worthwhile.
So, “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…
Exercise caution, but let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
Many persons strive for high ideals;
And everywhere life is full of heroism.
You are a child of the universe,
No less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.”
Our classes may have ended, but our friendship journeys ahead. As we walk out as leaders each in our ways, remember to be present, to see the beauty, and to take it forward. Thank you.