Following is the full text of President Lee Myung-bak"s congratulatory address at the 2009 KAIST Commencement Ceremony.
Beloved graduates, proud parents, dear family members,
Mr. Cho Jeong-nam, Chairman of the Board of Directors,
Dr. Suh Nam-pyo, President of KAIST,
Esteemed faculty and staff members,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is great to see you all.
First of all, I must begin by extending my most sincere congratulations to the 1,976 graduates who are receiving their degrees today. You worked hard, you earned it and I congratulate you.
We must also remember your parents who worked just as hard as you did, if not more, to support you. You may have family members whom you wish to thank for their support and understanding. I also thank and congratulate the faculty and staff members who worked hard to provide the best possible education for you.
Today is also a great day since we can all join together to recognize the achievements of Dr. Ryu Geun-chul and show him how deeply we respect and appreciate his generous contributions to KAIST. Today, Dr. Ryu received an honorary doctorate in science for his life-long contributions in the field of Korean traditional medicine. He has also donated a vast portion of his personal wealth to KAIST for educating future leaders in science and technology.
Dear graduates, faculty members,
KAIST has been in the forefront of leading Korea’s development over the last thirty-eight years. As the preeminent institution devoted to educating the very best minds in science and technology, more than 20% of all doctorate degree holders in Korea’s science and engineering field are KAIST alumnus. KAIST has led the drive to create more than 470 venture start-ups, opening up a vast new horizon for Korea’s scientific and technological breakthrough while leading the economic growth of Korea.
KAIST has done exceptionally well even compared to the world’s best. It is ranked 34th in engineering and IT. It is ranked 46th in natural sciences. These rankings are a demonstration that KAIST is a research-focused institution with global competitiveness.
Moreover, KAIST has been an example for other higher institutions seeking to reform the way colleges and universities operate. KAIST has demonstrated its forward-looking and reform-minded vision in terms of selecting students, recruiting and evaluating professors and managing its courses. In particular, when KAIST selects its students, it doesn’t look only at their test scores but looks for creative and innovative minds with real character and potential. Such practices are having positive influences on how other universities and colleges select their students. Furthermore, KAIST has taken the lead in applying their research skills to matters of global concern through its EEWS initiative. I am proud of such visionary work and will continue to have high hopes for KAIST.
Our promising future depends on gifted individuals and gifted individuals are nurtured through solid education. For a country such as Korea with no natural resources, human capital is our greatest and most precious resource. We must overcome our lack of natural resources with our abundant and limitless brain power.
The 21st century will be a knowledge-based society and so national competitiveness of individual countries will be determined by how competitive its universities and research institutes are. And the time calls for universities with world-class capabilities in research. Especially, our investments in science and technology today will ensure a brighter tomorrow.
I assure you that this government will spare no effort to KAIST so that it can continue to foster the best minds for even greater achievements.
My dear graduates and professors, proud parents and family members,
All of us are going through difficult times due to the global economic crisis. At the same time, we must face global climate change which is our common concern. And this global concern must not be put aside or given less priority because of the economic crisis. We must do all we can to overcome the economic crisis while aggressively and consistently implementing measures to deal with climate change. At the same time, we must continue our quest to develop the next-generation engines of growth in preparation for the future when this economic crisis is eventually over. This is killing three birds with one stone and this is the core of my Low Carbon/Green Growth vision for Korea’s future.
For a country like Korea with no oil reserves whatsoever, Low Carbon/Green Growth is a must. We simply do not have any other choice. It is also the path that the global community must take.
Korea was late in joining the club of industrialized countries but we are ahead in the information technology sector. But, because we did not possess the core technologies in information and communication, we were unable to fully benefit from being ahead.
Now, we must excel in all areas in the age of green growth. Korea’s future growth will depend on how many core technologies we manage to accrue in green technology, such as technologies to conserve energy, development of new and renewable energy. The government will double, compared to last year, its investments into research and development of green technology.
The government has a long-term vision and this vision calls for continuously increasing strategic investments into the new engines of growth and they include basic sciences, core technologies and big science. Deregulation will continue so that we can foster scientific and technological advancements and also attract more investments and people from abroad.
Another source of our new engine of growth and our green technology is none other than fusion technology. Our bio, IT and nano technology will come together, and coupled with what is already a world-class IT industry, we can create future engines of growth.
President Suh Nam-pyo stressed that “Inter-disciplinary study that takes place amidst the boundaries of different disciplines is where new discoveries and added-value are found.” This is a reminder of the importance of fusion research. And we all know that KAIST is the leader in this endeavor.
Fusion technology will greatly improve our quality of life and introduce new and innovative ways to solve our real concerns. Healthcare and medical science are just two examples. As our society becomes an aged society, identifying the causes of and finding the cure for degenerative diseases such as Pakinson’s and dementia are becoming more and more important. If we manage to successfully combine our knowledge in medicine, science and engineering, we can come up with revolutionary ways to detect and cure these and other diseases.
In particular, we will soon see science and medicine come together to create an entirely new paradigm in how we take care of our health. Medicinal research and high-tech research hospitals will be the norm. I truly believe that we can save both this planet as well as ourselves by utilizing green technologies and high-tech fusion technology. The government will continue to support such efforts.
Dear graduates, the heroes of today,
Some of you may wish to pursue higher degrees in order to reach even loftier academic goals. Some of you may opt to venture into society.
Wherever you go and whatever you decide to do, do not be afraid of failure. Pursue your dreams. Face the challenges that come your way. And when you boldly face these challenges with the most precious gift you have, your youth and ideals, your dream will come true. Remember that history is made by those who take up the challenge. Do not be discouraged if you fail today. Just pick yourselves up tomorrow and try again. And again.
Do not be consumed by selfish ambitions. But instead, always think what you can do for your society, your country and for humankind.
Science and technology that is used for personal gains or new innovations and technologies lacking even the very basic ethical standards can become a curse to mankind. This is why those aspiring to become scientists and engineers must first agonize over how they plan to better the lives of man before they learn how to conduct experiments. Once you’ve gone through this, you will then be eligible to become true leaders, with your character and technological know-how.
Remember the time you spent hunched over a book, in the classroom, in the library or in laboratories. Do not forget why you came here in the first place. Aim for higher goals in your respective fields.
With that, I wish you a wondrous and exciting new journey.
Again, congratulations and well done!
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