Speech by Dr. Judith Longstaff MACKAY


[At the 41st graduation ceremony of Hong Kong Shue Yan University]

It is with deep gratitude that Dr. Jeannie SUN and I accept the honorary doctorates conferred upon us. And we regard it an especial honour to share this occasion with so many young people who have today received degrees, and who are looking to their future.

Both Dr. SUN and I have worked for many decades for Hong Kong. Since the 1950s, Dr. SUN has been devoted to community service, education, women, youth and the elderly. Since the 1960s, I have worked on some similar topics – such as women’s issues – and also on health, initially in Hong Kong, then in many countries in Asia. Between us, we have over 100 years of community service, and have seen many changes in Hong Kong.

For all of us who call Hong Kong home, there are many reasons that we have to appreciate Hong Kong – here are 15:

1. This may be a strange point to start with, but Hong Kong is not at war. Not only are there no direct consequences of war such as fighting, death or destruction, but Hong Kong also has no military spending (while some countries in Asia spend up to 30% of their government budget on the military).

2. Health: Hong Kong enjoys the 2nd longest life expectancy, very low infant mortality, and has among the lowest smoking rates in the world.

3. Health care: Hong Kong has good value public hospitals for permanent residents.

4. Safety: The murder rate is extraordinarily low for city of 7 million. I can go to virtually any car park at midnight to collect my car and not be afraid.

5. Leisure: We have 43 country parks and many gazetted beaches.

6. Transport: My job involves travelling internationally, so I particularly appreciate our public transport, overhead walkways such as in Central (encouraging exercise, reducing congestion and pollution), and concessions for the elderly.

7. Corruption: Hong Kong is the 2nd least corrupt place/government in Asia after Singapore.

8. Racial harmony: Compared with many countries, there are relatively good race relations.

9. Gender: There is less gender discrimination, at least at the professional level, than we see in some other Asian countries.

10. Elderly: Although this is lessening, there is still a high degree of respect for older people, certainly more than is found in many places in Europe or North America.

11. Press: In contrast with a number of countries in Asia we have a ‘free press’.

12. Hong Kong has a liberal economy, with a low and simple tax structure. We have considerable money reserves, although many would hope that the government spends more of these.

13. Clean, efficient.

14. The unemployment rate is low at 3.1% (2014).

15. Education: Hong Kong enjoys compulsory, free, secondary education, including girls (different from some Islamic countries where I work); there is a high literacy rate in Hong Kong.

These are the privileges we all enjoy from living in Hong Kong and, for you in particular, its education system, culminating today in your university degrees. Hong Kong is certainly not perfect, and there are serious issues to be addressed, for example housing, welfare and the elderly. But in comparison with many of our neighbours and much of the rest of the world, we are indeed fortunate. So, my advice for life is always to look (realistically) for the positive, live life with thankfulness for what you have, be on good terms with all people, err in the direction of kindness, and this will serve you well.

Professionally, your degree today is like a passport – you can use it to travel to many destinations (or not at all). In my own profession, a basic medical degree enables graduates not only to become family doctors or specialists, but also to work with murders (forensic pathology), population health, fathom the workings of the human mind and brain, or with life itself (DNA and stem cell laboratory research).

Your degree today in Arts, Commerce, Humanities and Social Sciences is also like a fundamental stem cell that can develop into many different types of cells/careers. Dr. SUN and I have done what we could to improve Hong Kong for your generation. We congratulate you, wish you every success and happiness for your future, and hope to see the impact you will all have upon Hong Kong in the years to come.

We thank the University, and will treasure the lasting bond between all those who have received degrees on this occasion: at your university and on your day. Celebrate the day.


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