2017 Princeton Valedictory Address “Our Unsung Heroes” by Ms. Jin Yun Chow

Princeton 2017 Valedictorian Ms. Jin Yun Chow

Princeton 2017 Valedictorian Ms. Jin Yun Chow

Before I quote an excerpt and link to the wonderful speech, here is an amazing story of Princeton 2017 Valedictorian Ms. Jin Yun Chow from Hong Kong. [HT Daisann]

In other words: Valedictorian Chow finds connection, purpose in language and life at Princeton

//“One day we were discussing the Old Irish word for mead (a drink made from fermented honey), which is ‘mid,’” she said. A classmate who is Australian and speaks Cantonese pointed out that “mid” was related to the Tocharian word — spoken in very old northwestern China — for honey, “mit.” Chow noted that in Cantonese, which preserves the oldest pronunciations of Chinese, the usual transliteration of the word for honey is “mat.”

“That one word’s journey — from Proto-Indo-European to the geographically distant languages Old Irish and Tocharian and from there into northwestern China and then Cantonese, which is spoken in southeastern China — was just so cool,” Chow said. “It confirmed that there are moments in esoteric academic study that aren’t so ‘ivory-tower-esque.’ If you’re open-minded enough you can make all these connections with everything else in your life experience.”//

Here is a link the video of Ms. Chow’s 2017 Commencement Valedictorian Speech “Our Unsung Heroes”. And here is a few excerpts from the prepared written text (not quite a transcript).

I would like to start by telling you a story about the most memorable moment I had with one of my own unsung heroes: Margaret Campbell at the Firestone café. A few weeks ago, I was waiting in line for coffee when I saw that she was holding a Kindle ebook. […] [K’s note: I LOVE this story but I don’t want to copy the whole thing here.] I walked away that afternoon with a tingling feeling in my stomach. I marveled at how easy it would have been to have walked away after getting my coffee, not stopping to chat and never learning about her amazing literary endeavors. I wondered how many interesting people I didn’t get to befriend over my four years here because I never gave them a chance to talk and never gave myself the chance to listen. […]

So what I want to say to you today, my friends, is this: slow down. Slow down and take the time to recognize your unsung heroes. […] adulthood will urge us to run faster, climb higher, become more successful; it will entice us to swim upstream through the river that is life itself, and it will tempt us to devote every free minute to advancing ourselves and our ambitions. I challenge us to be the salmon that swims downstream, taking the time to get to know and appreciate the people who surround us as we glide through the water. […]

One of my dearest friends put it best when he said that I am not generous enough with what he calls unscripted time. It is amorphous time that falls outside of the structural rigor of meetings, classes, meals and other obligations; it is unscheduled time that allows for organic, spontaneous and unscripted interactions. This is the time when instances of extraordinary candor crop up naturally, when episodes of exquisite tenderness surface unexpectedly, when heartfelt sincerity slips out spontaneously.

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