Professor Mathieson, Professor Tam, Professor Collins, distinguished faculty members, Class of 2017, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to start by thanking the University of Hong Kong for awarding me with an honorary degree. I understand that this is the university’s highest tribute, its top award!
So I am extremely pleased and humbled that you have chosen to give it to me. I would like to thank Professor Wilkinson, the Public Orator, for his very kind and generous description of me.
This honorary degree recognises what I have tried to accomplish as a pianist and through my music. My whole life has been about music. In this sense, I am very lucky, because it is my job, and I love my job.
I have been asked to say a few words to the graduating class. My advice to you is simple: love your job!
This is not quite as silly or simple as it may sound. Let me explain.
I am, first and last, a classical musician. You have just heard my life story. When I was young, it was not always easy. As an artist, you have to make a lot of sacrifices. Your family has to too. And you cannot always be sure if you will succeed or not.
But if you believe that this is your path, and if you love what you’re doing – then it is simple: it is the only path that makes sense, it is the only path where you feel you belong.
And the path that I chose has brought wonderful surprises. I wanted to show that classical music can be cool and fun. Who could have thought that I would end up performing with Pharell Williams at the Grammys? Or with the Brazilian footballer Neymar! I still find it hard to believe!
But I also am amazed by the power of education, which is why I founded the Lang Lang International Music Foundation. There are so many programmes in the Foundation, I cannot tell you about them all, it would take the whole day! But I have discovered that wherever I go when I am on tour, I can also do something else other than the concerts, and my impact goes much further than just me.
Sure, sometimes I play at benefit concerts for various charities. That is an obvious way for me to help, so why not?
But I also love playing music for sick children to see if I can help them take their mind off the illness and pain, to let the music help the healing process.
I like going to informal concerts in remote villages, where the residents would normally never have a chance to hear classical music.
And of course I love being with children, teaching them myself, and hoping that they will grow up to love the music as much as I do. And now, we are using technology and Apps to help bring piano lessons and support to more children.
So, yes, I am a musician, and the piano is my instrument.
But in reality, I have been an instrument of music.
I have performed in the service of music, and in doing so, I have seen how music changes the lives of others, of young people around the world. And that has been amazing and beautiful.
You know what? It turns out that this journey wasn’t about me after all! It was about touching the lives of others, and making a difference in the world. That has been a beautiful thing.
So, Class of 2017, let me close with this advice: don't worry too much about the future. Listen to your heart. Understand what you are passionate about. Stick with it, work hard at it, and let yourself become an instrument to your dream.
I am confident that, in time, that dream will become a reality, and like mine, it will also be a beautiful thing!
This is a very happy day for you – my congratulations to you all! I wish you the best in your future lives, and once again, thank you very much.