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Premier's Remarks To Students At The Hong Kong University Of Science And Technology

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Premier's Remarks To Students At The Hong Kong University Of Science And Technology

Office of the Premier

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. This is the final event of my trip before I return to Ontario.

It is always a great honour to speak to students. I come from a teaching family, actually. My wife is a teacher. My son is in university studying to be a teacher. And my father was a university professor.

That was not what he originally had in mind. He came from a very humble family. And his parents had little formal education. As he grew up, he became determined to succeed in life, and for him, success meant financial success, pure and simple. So, he worked very hard as a student, was awarded scholarships to American universities, and graduated in business.

Then he worked in business for a few years, when, to his dismay, he discovered he didn't enjoy business at all. So, he went back to school and did a PhD in English literature, and for 27 years he taught poetry -- because he loved it.

Now, if there is any lesson here, it is this: Your mind will help you understand the world around you. But only your heart understands you. If you want to be happy, listen to your heart. And the truth is, we all want to be happy.

Happiness might seem like a simple thing. But defining it has resisted all efforts of the world's wisest people for hundreds of years. And pursuing it has even been enshrined in the American constitution.

The more I travel, the more I come to know people, the more I understand that people everywhere are possessed by this powerful desire to be happy. And, sometimes, it feels like the older you get, the harder it is to be happy.

Let me give you a simple example. When I travel, today, I need a big suitcase full of clothes. I need comfortable hotels so I can get a good sleep. I need full, healthy meals. But, 35 years ago, I would have been happy with a backpack, two pairs of pants, three shirts and one waterproof jacket.

I would have been happy to sleep in cheap hotels and content to live on bread and cheese and beer. When you are young, you just carry less baggage. You need less to be happy. That gives you a real advantage in life.

We, the older generation, can and should learn from that. You have a few other things that the world needs.

We need your energy.

We need your vitality.

We need your passion.

We need your restlessness.

We need your impatience.

And, above all, we need your idealism.

We need your marvelous capacity to see beyond the here and now to the what-could-be.

We need you to see the possibilities for us.

And then, we need you to lift us up so that we, too, can see those possibilities.

You see, life can have a corrosive effect. It can wear you down. It can rob you of your idealism.
And you must guard against that.

Don't become a cynic -- someone who has seen it all and knows it all, and thinks they are worldly and sophisticated.

But all cynics have done is give up. They've quit. They've stopped believing. They've stopped helping us build a better world. Don't do that because, as I say, we need you.

The world you grew up in is a lot different than the one I grew up in. It's much faster -- and in many ways it's much smaller.

When I sat where you sit - a young man pursuing a degree in science -- there was no Wikipedia. There was no Facebook. There was no YouTube. My search engine was the librarian at the desk of my university.

Today, it is very hard to say what the world is going to look like in five years let alone 20.

Well, about 20 years ago, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology opened its doors for the first time.

There were a few professors and researchers, a handful of buildings and 2,000 students. And there was a vision that would make sure it was on the cutting-edge: create, don't replicate.

Today, you are one of the top universities in the world. You are home to some of the world's best researchers, award-winning faculty and almost 10,000 students.

And it took just two decades.

The pace of change is breathtaking -- and accelerating.

I tell my kids that being Premier for eight years is not that long. They say, "Dad, that's 24 iPod generations."

And yet, in this world of hyper-fast information available at your fingertips, changing technology and intense competition to get there first, postsecondary education is more important than ever.

And it's important to have a postsecondary degree -- but not because of the facts and figures you'll learn, although those are important. It's important because with a degree, or certificate, or diploma, you will have shown that you have learned how to learn.

You've shown that you possess the skills that will help you throughout your life and career. You've shown that you can make a commitment and manage your time and workload to fulfill it.

And that tells potential employers that you'll be able to keep up with the newest technology, or even design it and that you can problem-solve and work with a team. But the most important thing you can learn today is that you're never done learning.

That's why one of the goals of the founders of this school was to lay the foundation for a knowledge-based economy.

That's something we have in common. In Ontario, we know our greatest strength is our people. That's why we've placed so much importance on public education, from day one in full-day kindergarten all the way through to postgraduate studies.

I want to tell you why I'm so committed to making Ontario schools the best we can make them:
On my dad's side, his mom was married at 16 to a man of 32. They both had their Grade 8 education. They had six kids. My dad was the youngest. My dad's family struggled but they got by.

On my mother's side, her dad left one day when she was very young and he never came back.

So her mother, left alone with five little girls, earned a living cleaning other people's houses.

Two generations later, I am standing before you here today in Hong Kong, as Premier of the province of Ontario, with the privilege and honour of serving 13 million Ontarians.

That speaks to the power of education, this marvelous ladder of opportunity that ensures that success if not a birthright, it's something we can all achieve by climbing that ladder.

The most extraordinary thing about my story is how ordinary it is.

There are millions and millions of people around the world, in so many places who work hard to climb that ladder of opportunity to earn success for themselves and their families.

Right now, Ontario has one of the highest rates of postsecondary education in the world. Sixty-three per cent of Ontarians have achieved postsecondary education. That's 20 per cent higher than the U.S. and twice as high as the U.K. It's pretty good. But we're setting a new target: 70 per cent.

We know that at least 70 per cent of all the new jobs we're creating now require a post-secondary education. Since 2003, we've created spaces in our colleges and universities for 200,000 more students. That's 20 schools, this size, since 2003.

Every Ontarian who wants to go to college or university will find a place, and we've made spaces for students from outside of Ontario, too.

Since 2003, the number of international students studying in Ontario has gone up by 27 per cent to 38,000. Now we want to increase international student enrolment by 50 per cent to a total of 57,000 and to show you how much this goal means to us, I'm pleased to announce a new Ontario scholarship for PhD students.

It means 75 international students will receive $40,000 each year for four years towards their PhD for a total of $160,000. That's enough to cover tuition and living costs for all four years of study.

The first scholarships will be awarded in time for the 2011-2012 school year. That's next September.

So when you're done here, we're inviting you to come study with us, in Ontario. And with a population twice the size of Hong Kong's, in an area almost 1,000 times bigger, there's lots of room.

And whether you come on scholarship or not, we want to make the learning experience the best it can possibly be for all our international students.

I'll tell you the story about international students that I personally got to know. There are about 12,000 students from China studying in Ontario today. In 1973, do you know how many there were? Nine. Of those nine, three moved into my house with me, my nine brothers and sisters, my two parents and two dogs. I kind of felt sorry for them because they were leaving China to come to open space and few people and came into my house which was small space and lots of people.

One of those students came to see me just a few months ago. I hadn't seen him in 37 years. I called him my Chinese brother. He's been working out of New York City for the United Nations. One of those nine until recently was China's ambassador to Canada. So I have a long standing and warm connection to China that developed because some students from over here went over there to study.

Among the reasons I'm so supportive of international education, I see some students here who are not from China, it's because you're going to make sure that the relationship between your country and China will never be exclusively dependent on the two leaders at the top.

The fact of the matter is that leaders come and leaders go but people themselves are always there and the best thing that we can do to build a stronger, safer, more secure world where we better understand each other, better support each other, is by ensuring that the people get to know each other. And international education helps us in that regard.

We want to attract talent from around the world to help us build our knowledge economy. That's why I want you to come and study in Ontario.

Now, let me tell you why I hope you'll want to come.

There's lots of opportunity there.

We've got a five-year plan called Open Ontario. With this plan, we're aiming to make Ontario a global leader in renewable energy -- in generation, manufacturing, research and design. And we've created the conditions to make that happen.

But we need people, ideas and innovation to really bring our plan to life and sustain it in the long term.

We need you -- because we're building the fastest-growing clean energy economy in North America. Already, we're home to Canada's four largest wind farms, and the world's largest solar farm. We're on track to be one of the first in the world to shut down coal-fired power generation.

Not an easy thing to do. Imagine, and this will happen, because you're going to help make it happen. Imagine the day when they shut down the last coal-fired plant in China. That day will come, and you're going to help make it happen.

And our new Green Energy Act is a new economic strategy that's acting as a powerful magnet for business investment.

We've also set aside an area of pristine, protected space in our Northern Boreal forest that's one and a half times the size of Great Britain to be protected, forever. That giant forest acts as a huge lung, helping to absorb C02. It's benefiting all of us every day. So, we're protecting it for all of us for every day.

We're also committed to being a global leader in clean water technology. The global market for water technology is more than $400 billion US per year. They tell me that figure is now doubling every five to six years. That's a lot of business opportunity and jobs.

In the next 20 years, worldwide demand for water is expected to be greater than the current supply. That means a lot of people are going to go thirsty unless you and I come up with solutions. So, in Ontario we're coming up with solutions.

Ensuring a safe, clean water supply is a global challenge. So is ensuring we all have clean energy. And again that's why we need you. We need your skills, ideas and leadership to find more ways to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink.

And here is the sweet spot: when you work hard to protect our natural environment on this tiny, little planet that we share together, not only will you be able to do well with yourself financially, you'll be able to do good for others. It seems to me life being so short, if you can ever find a way to earn a living, doing well for yourself and good for others at the same time, well it doesn't get any better.

The second reason I hope you'll choose Ontario is that you'll feel most welcome there.
In our capital city of Toronto, an area with more than five million people, more than half the people were born outside the country.

We speak every language, celebrate every tradition, and enjoy every culture.

We are very proud of the Chinese influence in Ontario, which is 650,000 strong. Chinese is the third most commonly spoken language in Ontario, after English and French. Chinese-Canadians are playing prominent roles in our professions, our businesses, our universities, our arts and culture, and our political leadership.

Our Tourism Minister, Michael Chan, is a wonderful example of a Hong Kong-Ontario success story.

He came to Canada 40 years ago, with little money, but lots of ambition and a solid work ethic.

Today, he is raising a family, he has built a very successful business and he is a minister in the Ontario government.

In Ontario, we are working hard to build a society where we find strength in the diversity of our people.

We invite all the peoples of the world to come and live with us and to bring with them their traditions, their culture and their faith.

You've got to understand something about human history, it is a pretty common event that runs throughout, by and large society was founded on sameness; the people in charge said, 'we need to distinguish us from them, and when I'm talking about us -- we are all going look the same, we are going to speak the same language, we are going to enjoy the same traditions, same culture, we are going to have the same faith -- that way we will know us from them.'

In Ontario we are bringing a different approach; we're saying we want everybody. We think that makes us stronger.

As I mentioned a moment ago, I come from a family of ten brothers and sisters. You can imagine the volume at our dining room table. But if there's one thing that cut through that noise, it was our understanding that, working together, we could accomplish pretty well everything we wanted to.

When we pulled together, we didn't feel like ten. We felt like 20. That lesson has really stayed with me.

In Ontario, we reject the idea that our province, or the world, must be divided into "us" and "them." There is only us -- all of us, together.

This understanding flows from a fundamental truth -- spoken to, over the millennia, by all the great faiths and the world's wisest people. And that truth is this: when it comes to people everywhere, what matters most is not the colour of our skin. It's not the language we speak. It's not the traditions we cherish. It's not the culture we inherit. It's not the power we wield. And it's not the wealth we accumulate. What matters most is what we have in common -- our humanity.

And it is our common humanity that makes us understand that we are all in this together -- that we are all connected, that we touch one another, that we need one another. And that it is right that we help one another.

I'll tell you one story about Canada's first female astronaut, Roberta Bondar. She was up there in the space shuttle, and she said -- there were two windows that she was looking out of, one looked into the blackness of space -- and she said I saw starlight, but she called it deadlight.

When you and I see the stars, we see the twinkle because the light is coming through the atmosphere - poets have been writing about that for hundreds of years; it lends some romantic connotations to stars - but when you are on the other side of the atmosphere, she said she looked at deadlight in the blackness of space.

Then she looked out of the other window and she saw this tiny fragile little ball. And she said that she was seized with this idea, she wanted to grab humanity by the scruff of the neck and say, 'I've been out there.' To the very best of our knowledge, there is no other place that supports life. This is all that we have. That is why it is so important that we protect it, this precious little bowl that we call planet Earth, that we find ways to support each other.

This brings me full circle to something I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks. I talked about happiness and how it can elude us. Yet, it is remarkable how much closer we come truly happy when we see the world as one and when we each in our own way make some modest effort to build a better world for all of us. With that in mind, my wish for each and every one of you is that you lead a truly happy life.

Thank you.

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