75th Jubilee Speech Day
15 November 2007
Speech by Mr Michael M Y Suen, GBS, JP
Secretary for Education
[Theme: In pursuit of excellence]
Rev Brother Patrick, Rev Brother Thomas, Mr Wong, distinguished guests, old boys, parents, teachers and students,
It gives me great pleasure to join you this evening on the joyous occasion of your 75th Jubilee Speech Day. For the last seventy-five years, the brothers, principals and teachers of the La Salle College have written a history of determination and perseverance on grooming generations of outstanding graduates. With the established tradition and culture, I am confident that La Salle will carry on the vision with even greater success in the next 75 years.
La Salle boys are well known for their strong sense of belonging to the school. I have been reliably informed that it is absolutely indispensable to sing the school song whenever old boys get together. In case you wonder about my source of information, I am sure the following passage should sound very familiar to you all. It runs like this, “Come whatever kind of weather, come the stormy days along; when the old boys get together, they will always sing this song”. What do La Salle boys most cherish in their school lives? The answer might vary, yet I believe many La Salle boys would take pride of a spirit that bonds them together; that is the spirit to do better, or, the spirit to excel.
Contrary to many people's belief, striving for excellence is in fact a mindset rather than merely looking for achievements and outcome. I would like to explore with you some of the key ingredients for achieving excellence.
Let me begin with a story.
Some twenty years ago, the prevailing view in the medical community was that stomach ulcers were caused by stress and unhealthy lifestyle. When Dr Barry Marshall at the Royal Perth Hospital and his colleagues suggested that a spiral bacterium, namely the Helicobacter pylori (幽門螺旋桿菌), is the real cause, most experts dismissed the idea outright, since they believed that bacteria could not survive, let alone cause disease, in the corrosive environment of the stomach.
For many years, Dr Marshall’s theory was rejected by other medical professionals. To prove the doubters wrong, in 1984, Dr Marshall swallowed a fair amount of the bacteria himself. Several days later he became violently ill with symptoms of ulcers. He then administered the standard treatment for ulcers with antibiotics. After about two weeks, the bacteria and his symptoms disappeared. Dr Marshall's brave and bold move at last aroused the general attention of the medical profession, and he won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2005. The Nobel committee praised Dr Marshall and his colleagues as having the tenacity and a conviction to challenge prevailing dogmas. Thanks to the pioneering discovery by Dr Marshall, stomach ulcers are no longer a chronic and frequently disabling condition, but one which can be cured by antibiotics.
So, what does this story tell us? Of course, I am not telling those of you who would like to pursue medical studies in university to swallow bacteria to attain achivements. I am talking about the perservance we should have in chasing our dreams. In other words, if you have a good idea, you have to work it out. Just like what the school motto of La Salle College says, "fides et opera", or "faith and works". Faith without good works is dead, as is the fate of many a good idea, or lofty vision. Thus, to set a goal, stick to it firmly even in the face of adversity. Also, be prepared to take novel steps where necessary. These are important ingredients which must be present in the mindset of a person who is in pursuit of excellence.
To sum up, the essential qualities for pursuing excellence include -
For the graduates here, your aspiration may be in the area of academic achievement, or other learning areas like sports, music and art. No matter what it is, I hope you will learn from Dr. Marshall and strive to develop those qualities to excel in whatever fields in your chosen paths ahead.
Finally, I would like to convey my gratitude to the brothers, principals and teachers of the College for nurturing our young people over the years, with great success. I would also like to extend my warmest congratulations to each and every graduate and award winner today.
This is a day of harvest for you all. May I wish all of you good health and ever success.
(About 815 words)