In Wuhan, Huazhong University president encourages students with ‘free development’
“Fellow students, I, like you, desire to develop freely (自由发展)!” The front page of the Changjiang Daily (长江日报) from Wuhan in Hubei province today features the story of an emotional speech delivered by the president of Huazhong University of Science and Technology (华中科技大学) to the new class of students. Li Peigen (李培根), amicably known as Uncle Gen by the students, used the word ‘freedom’ 44 times in his speech yesterday to 2,300 new undergraduates, leading to vigorous discussions among the students.
“After I became 60,” Li said, “I sometimes asked myself: ‘Who am I? What am I doing? What can I still do?’ Some questions are not so easily answered. Sometimes it makes one think, and it makes one become quite anxious.” On the 60th anniversary of Huazhong University’s founding, Li made it clear that he understands education from a humanist perspective, and this means that students should be allowed to develop freely: “a university should have a spirit of independence, and should be expressive of freedom.”
In his emotional speech, Li quoted (among others) Wen Jiabao, Karl Marx, Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Erich Fromm, Romain Rolland, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to illustrate his points on the importance of free development.
What exactly is free development then? Li put it thus: “I believe it means to become yourself. Becoming yourself does not only mean high achievements, it also means to have free will and an independent and distinct personality.” And how can students develop freely? They need to study and practice proactively, they need to question and query, they need to think independently, and an open environment sometimes needs the individual to go out and investigate. In addition, students should not place too extreme restrictions on themselves, otherwise they will face even more restrictions for their whole lives when they compare themselves with others.