Few thought President George W. Bush could say anything right, particularly after he had made a series of gaffes, including the one before Queen Elizabeth II in Washington.As a matter of fact, he said not too long ago he was glad he had not been welcomed to give a commencement address at St. Vincent College as “the first President for whom English is a second language.”But then he astonished everybody by going on to give one of the most inspiring speeches that should be heard in colleges and universities in Taiwan.
President Bush told the graduating students of the Catholic college St. Benedict founded at Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 1846 millions of Americans “are living the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves,” representing the true strength of the United States.He cited the story of a St. Vincent student who volunteered to take care of a dying patient in a Brazilian AIDS clinic.The patient was so weak that he could not even speak.All the volunteer could do was to hold his hand in a show of love.That seemed a small thing to do.“But because it was done with great love, it helped fill a dying man’s final days with dignity and grace,” the president said.
Such a simple show of love is needed everywhere in the world.Mother Teresa told the story about visiting a nursing home, when she accepted her Nobel Prize.It was well equipped and very attractive, but none of the residents were smiling and all were looking at the door. She asked why they seemed so sad, and one caretaker explained: “They are hurt because they are forgotten.”They stared at the door in the hope that it would open and someone who loved them would walk through it.
"My challenge to you today,” President Bush said to St. Vincent’s Class of 2007, “is this:Be the person who walks through that door.Be the face that brings a smile to the hurt and forgotten.Lead lives of purpose and character – make a difference in someone else’s life.And if you do, you will lead richer lives, you will build a more hopeful nation, and you’ll never be disappointed.”
So inspired, St. Vincent’s new graduates will be rising to the occasion.At least five of them have volunteered to serve in the armed forces.Many others have chosen the path of teaching, which, more often than not, helps “make a difference in someone else’s life.”
Teaching is more than a job or profession.It is a vocation.That is one of the words in English, the exact equivalent of which can’t be found in Chinese.The word is almost always translated as a trade or an occupation or just a job.The Chinese tend to associate “vocation” with “job” like in the case of “vocational training” versus “job training.”The trouble with Chinese students learning English is that they seldom consult English-English dictionaries.They just try to find Chinese equivalents in English-Chinese dictionaries, picking up the first definition of the word they need to know and believing that is the only definition they need to know.
"When you make the decision to become a teacher,” President Bush told St. Vincent’s Class of 2007, “you know that your reward will be greater than money.It will happen in wonderful moments when you see a student grasp a difficult concept, or come alive during the reading of a poem, or discover how a work of history speaks to our time.To do this for even one child is special.To do this for hundreds of children over a career will bring you a satisfaction that few other professions can match.”Indeed, such satisfaction cannot be matched by other professions, for teaching is a vocation one has to pursue with profound, unselfish devotion.
President Bush noted one of the graduating students, Kara Shirley, went on a service project to Brazil, where she visited an AIDS clinic.She helped clean up a patient, administer his medicine, and just sit by his bedside holding his hand.The patient was so weak that he could not even speak, she recalled.“It was one of the most moving experiences of my life,” Kara was quoted as saying.“Kara’s gesture,” the president went on, “seemed like a small thing to hold a man’s hand.”“But,” he pointed out, “it was done with great love, it helped fill a dying man’s final days with dignity and grace.”
Love and care are needed everywhere in the world.When Mother Teresa accepted her Nobel Prize, she told the story about visiting a nursing home.The home was attractive and well equipped.But none of the residents were smiling.All were looking at the door.When she asked why everyone seemed so sad, she was told: They are hurt because they are forgotten.They stared at the door in the hope that it would open and someone who loved them would walk through it.
Kara Shirley is one of four dozen graduates from St. Vincent who will start teaching school shortly.When they do they teach with love and care, setting an example for their students to follow.They will make a difference in the lives of the next generation of Americans.
Taiwan needs many teachers like Kara Shirley.As a matter of fact, more and more teachers in Taiwan have turned themselves into no more than dispensers of the knowledge students need to pass examinations.Teachers are teaching strictly and rigidly to the test.Love, care, honesty and other virtues are not tested.So they are not taught in school now.In the past, however, such virtues used to be taught at home.The core family in an all but postmodern Taiwan with both parents working to make ends meet surrenders that traditional duty to teachers whose sole care and concern are how many of their students can enter star high schools and universities.No wonder so many young professionals are Machiavellian. They are by and large egoists and egotists at the same time.
Confucian education of the past aimed at developing decent men and women.In that sense, it is a religious education.It was then supplanted by modern education introduced from the West without its core Christian value of love and service.
Educational reform was launched a decade ago.It was a failure.Dr. Lee Yuan-tseh, the Nobel laureate who was then president of the Academia Sinica, formulated the reform, but he attached little, if any, importance to the Confucian value, which is fundamentally the same as the Protestant ethic.So does President Chen Shui-bian, who is a product of Taiwan’s new modern education with that all important work ethic lost in its educational transition.
I wish the next president would deliver an address like the one President Bush did at St. Vincent College at Latrobe, Pennsylvania.