Jireh Li,Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA Program Class of 2019, Gave a Student Speech at Commencement 2019
July 12, 2019
I am Jireh Li, Class of 2019 from our Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA. I am honored to be graduating from two of the finest universities in the world.
Today I want to share three stories.
Let’s start off with: “Being Present.” On Day 1 of the program, 37 top executives from all over the world gathered in Beijing. They came from Holland, Pakistan, France, Egypt, Singapore, Australia and more. They were asked to climb over a 2-meter wall during the Outward-Bound orientation and did it with nothing but faith, trust and combined effort. We were those 37.
Pulling each other up with our bare hands and getting completely out of our comfort zone somehow had a liberating effect. At that time, little did we know of the path ahead. But this wall gave us confidence, hope, that together we might achieve something greater than ourselves.
And we did as we explored new horizons and challenged our beliefs. And because we were able to “be present,” we were able to soak in so much new knowledge and grow together. We debated strategic marketing theories, tested our corporate finance skills, examined new ways of talent management. Each project, each simulation, each case study taught us how to be better executives – to be present not just with responsibilities at hand, but to be present also with our teams, our insecurities, our strengths, and our emotions.
As we move on from this program, I challenge us to retain the gift of “being present,” for only when we stop chasing shadows can we start to enjoy the ride.
My second story is about “Seeing the Beauty.” It was during this EMBA journey that I found the strength to stretch my boundaries, carve out my own career path, became the first Chief of Staff in China’s Venture industry, and pioneered new business models for Venture Capital firms.
Yet this hardly reflects the full depth and professional value our program achieved. Some classmates are channeling their Tsinghua thesis into pharmaceutical business breakthroughs, or are revamping manufacturing with AI. Some made country-level economic policy recommendations. Others have taken on bigger roles as regional heads, CFOs, CEOs… I am proud to be here today alongside my classmates.
More importantly, our Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA has taught us to see the beauty of “East meets West.” In this age where China charters future tech innovations and takes leadership in the global arena, our EMBA has all the more value having integrated diverse traditions with novel ideas in management and entrepreneurship.
Looking ahead, let’s continue to embrace the beauty of diversity as alumni – and continue on as ambassadors of “East meets West,” carrying the Tsinghua and INSEAD values to our workplace, our industries, and our personal lives.
This leads me to my third and final story, which is about “Taking it Forward.” Our Professors and EMBA administration have so wonderfully put together this global program for us, and our Families have generously provided their support. Each and every classmate, especially our Class Representatives, have collectively made our experience a fantastic and meaningful one.
Our life-changing EMBA has nurtured us into more mature leaders – equipped with the confidence to lead with strength, character, tact, integrity, and grace. Now it is up to us to take our learnings forward and make our time on earth worthwhile.
So, (and I quote from Desiderata):
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
And remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender,
Be on good terms with all persons…
Keep interested in your own career, however humble.
Exercise caution, but let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
Many persons strive for high ideals;
And everywhere life is full of heroism.
You are a child of the universe,
No less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.”
Our classes may have ended, but our friendship journeys ahead, and our legacy carries on. As we part now and walk out as leaders each in our ways, remember to be present, to see the beauty, and to take it forward.