Last week, a valedictorian who gave a graduation speech at the East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST) graduation ceremony won a long standing ovation from the audience, and soaring popularity among China’s netizens. The girl’s name is Gao Yuye (高羽烨), and she is no different from any other model college graduates, except for the fact that she suffers from a hearing impairment. In her speech, she shared her journey of soul searching and transformation. She used to feel self-conscious about being “different” from others. As a result she told her parents that they should refrain from communicating with her using sign language in public. But now she has grown out of this self-pitying shadow and is living her life full of hope and inspiration, like any of her peers.
In China 85 million people, or 6.3% of the population, live with some kind of disability, involving close to 300 million families. However, lack of awareness of disability and even discrimination still prevail in Chinese society. People with disabilities are often viewed as “the other”, and the barriers for them to fully participate in social and political life are still insurmountable. As Gao Yuye appealed in her speech, “I hope that everyone can treat me like a normal person, just like everybody else who strives to work hard and live a full life. Equally, I will also do my best to help others.”
Below is a translation of Guo’s graduation speech:
Good morning, I am really honoured to be here and share this monumental day with all of you. I am deaf, so if you may excuse me, my pronunciation may be a little inaccurate, but I will try my best.
My name is Gao Yueye and I am graduating from the College of Art and Design. I am going to America this August for my future education. From being a congenitally deaf girl who had trouble talking clearly to studying in America, I know that these four years of college played the most crucial role in my life.
Thanks to my family who came all this way for my graduation, and thanks to my university, ECUST, that accepted a student who is different with an open heart. Since I grew up with a disability, it was hard for me to learn to speak.
During the course of pursuing my education, I was rejected many times, but ECUST gave me knowledge and helped me to become a better person, and I will remain grateful and appreciative about that for the rest of my life. I am also sending my gratitude to my professors; today I can still recall vividly the day my counsellor celebrated my birthday for me.
I remember how my professors helped me with my schoolwork after class, and without them, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. I can feel their love towards a student with special needs like me; they are the people who demonstrated the open-mindedness of ECUST to me and epitomized the core values and spirit of our school.
And now, I am going to walk out of our school with this spirit already grown inside of me. I remember that our professor asked us to write a letter to ourselves in four years time when we started school. What I wrote was: “in four years time, I am going to be a strong person who loves studying and craves challenges, and who has her own personality. I hope I will be able to utter each word accurately, overcome every obstacle and achieve all my goals.”
However, on my freshman year I failed a course, and the time of the makeup test clashed with the funeral of a beloved relative. This painful experience was a warning of the consequences of indolence.
From then on, I valued my time to study with my professors and peers. As you can imagine, because of my listening disability, it takes me way more time and efforts to study. Still, on this very day, I can proudly announce to my old self from four years ago, and to my family, professors and classmates, that I’ve made it!
In these four years, my classmates and I have witnessed together what our cafeteria is like at four in the morning; we’ve tasted it’s famous red braised pork, and we’ve enjoyed the beautiful lake at ECUST
I love and cherish every moment I shared with you and I am proud of all our efforts dedicated to becoming better people.
Whatever we will be like after four years’ time or after decades, I sincerely wish that we will always be diligent, virtuous people who are seekers of truth. With our school spirit, I wish we will make contributions to the society as our thanks to our school and our nation.
Finally, I wish everyone a happy graduation! I wish good health to all my professors, and I wish ECUST a better future! Thank you!