你們是香港大學一百周年的畢業生，而香港大學的前身，是一八八七年成立的「香港華人西醫書院」。如果這點你們不覺得有甚麼特別了不起，那我們看看一八八七年前後是一個甚麼樣的時代。我們不妨記得，在一八八七年，屍體的解剖在大多數中國人眼中還是大逆不道的，而西醫書院已經要求它的學生必修解剖課。我們不妨記得，當魯迅的父親重病在床——那已是一八九七年，紹興的醫生給他開的藥引，是一對蟋蟀，而且必須是「元配」。了解這個時代氛圍，你才能體會到，一百二十四年前，創辦西醫書院是一個多麼重大的、改變時代的里程碑，你才能意識到，那幕後推動的人，必須配備多麼深沉的社會責任感和多麼遠大的器識與目光，才可能開創那樣的新時代。是何啟和Patrick Manson 這樣的拓荒者，把你們帶到今天這個禮堂裏來的。
一八八七年十月一日，香港華人西醫書院首度舉行開學典禮，首任書院院長Patrick Manson 致辭——曾經在台灣和廈門行醫的Manson 到今天都被尊稱為「熱帶醫學之父」——他說，這個西醫書院，「會為香港創造一個機會，使香港不僅只是一個商品中心，它更可以是一個科學研究的中心」。看着台下的入學新生，他語重心長地說，「古典希臘人總愛自豪而且極度認真地數他們的著名偉人，我們可以期待，在未來的新的中國，當學者爭論誰是中國的著名偉人的時候，會有一些偉人來自香港，而且此刻就坐在這個開學典禮之中」。
從 Manson 一八八七年的開學致辭到今天二零一一年的畢業演講，我們的生活方式有了深沉的改變，而這些改變，來自一些特出的人。目光如炬者，革新了教育制度；行動如劍者，改造了整個國家；還有很多既聰慧又鍥而不捨的人，發明了各種疫苗。今天你我所處的世界，天花徹底滅絕，瘧疾和霍亂病毒已經相當程度被控制，台灣和香港的女生已經不知道有「頭蝨」這個東西。西醫學院創立一百二十四年之後的今天，港大醫學院培養出很多很多世界頂尖的學者和醫生，為全球社區的幸福做貢獻。
我無意鼓吹你們應該效法魯迅棄醫從文，或者跟隨孫逸仙做革命家，或者全都去從事社會工作，因為人生有太多有趣的路可以選擇了。我想說的僅只是，身為這麼一個重要傳承的接棒人，你也許可以多花那麼一點點時間思索一下自己的來自哪裏、何處可之。一百二十四年前，第一顆石頭打下了樁，鋪出的路，一路綿延到下一村——你今天的所在。Patrick Manson 抵抗無知，堅持科學實證的知識學習；孫逸仙抵抗腐敗，堅持清明合理的管理制度。你是否想過：在你的時代裏，在你的社會裏，你會抵抗些甚麼，堅持些甚麼？
Patrick Manson 後來擔任倫敦殖民部的醫療顧問，負責為申請到熱帶亞非地區做下層工作的人進行體檢，體檢不通過的，就得不到這樣的工作機會。這時，他發現了一個未曾預料的問題：百分之九十的體檢者都有一口爛牙，檢查不合格。畢竟，有錢人才看得起牙醫。他該怎麼辦呢？
Manson 是這麼處理的。他給上司寫了封信，說，以爛牙理由「淘汰掉他們等同於淘汰掉整個他們這個階層的人」。 他建議政府為窮困的人提供牙醫的服務。
Members of the faculty, distinguished guests, proud parents, and graduates:
I am most reluctant in giving graduation addresses because the given audience is usually the worst kind–before you open your mouth, they wish you were already done, and whatever you say, they are determined that they won’t remember a thing once they are out of the hall.
Under these tough circumstances, I still have to say that it’s not only an honor and pleasure for me to be here with you today; it’s also a calculated pre-emptive measure because sooner or later, one way or another, I am going to fall into your hands. And when our paths do cross, I naturally would hope that you are not only professionally excellent but also socially committed and compassionate.
Today is the graduation ceremony for your Study Phase I, medicine, and it’s also the inauguration ceremony for your Study Phase II, the study of life. So I’d like to share with you some of my own notes about life.
I grew up in a port city in southern Taiwan called Kaohsiung. In 1961, when I was in the 2nd grade, something happened to my class. A girl vomited so violently that she had to be taken to the hospital. Very soon we were told to go home; all schools were shut down indefinitely. When we came back to the classroom some days later, several seats were empty. That was the first time I heard of the disease called “cholera.” Of course I didn’t know that our neighboring “village,” Hong Kong, was hit by the same epidemic that year and 15 people died from it. We are much more connected than we know.
I was a child of the so-called “third world.” Imagine these snapshots in black and white: young mothers spent all day piecing together plastic flowers and cheap Christmas lights in the crammed living rooms while their children ran around with T-shirts sewn together from sacks in which milk powder had been transported as American aid; printed over the chest of a child might happen to be the picture of two masculine hands engaged in a shake, with the caption, “China-US Cooperation,” or “net weight 20 pounds.” One of the major surprises I had when I arrived in the US for my graduate studies in 1975 was to discover that the milk people were drinking was not made from dried powder. In my class of 1961, nearly every girl had head lice in her hair—the tiny white eggs of the lice sticking to the hair look like dandruff, and oftentimes you would see a schoolteacher holing up a can of DDT, a synthetic insecticide, spraying at the head a crouched girl.
Hong Kong people of my generation have very similar memories of their past. Milk powder and cheap Christmas lights, cholera and head lice were all footprints of poverty. And if we go one or two generations further back, the pictures would be even bleaker. A Western missionary who arrived in China in 1895 described what she saw on the streets: “Everywhere are people whose skin have festering sores, people whose thyroid gland was so overblown that they couldn’t walk straight; everywhere are the deformed, the blind and beggars of incredible shapes and forms.”
A Japanese writer called Ohashi Otowa visited Hong Kong in 1900. By chance he stepped into a hospital and caught sight of a sickroom: “I peeped into an ill-lit room and saw a lowly Chinaman lying on a bare board wriggling like a maggot. It was so filthy and the stench so penetrating that we took immediate flight.”
But why am I telling you this? Why am I telling you this on this particular day, for this particular occasion, at this particular place?
I have my reasons.
You are the centenary graduates of the University of Hong Kong, which was built on the foundation of the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese established in 1887. Keep in mind that in 1887, post-mortem examination was still considered by most Chinese as a sacrilege, an offense, if not a crime; keep in mind that in 1897 when Lu Xun’s father was fatally ill, the local doctor’s prescription for him was to find a pair of crickets, which must be “yuan pei” (元配)—a pair from first mating. Only in this historical context you come to realize that the founding of the Hong Kong College of Medicine 124 years ago was a ground-breaking, epoch-making milestone and the people who made it possible must have been people with a tremendous sense of commitment and, above all, with the power of vision. It’s people like Ho Kai and Patrick Manson who paved the way for you to arrive in this hall today.
On October 1, 1887, the inauguration ceremony for the Hong Kong College of Medicine took place and its first Dean, Dr. Patrick Manson, who is still revered today as the founder of the tropical medicine field, gave the address. This medical college, he predicted, will offer an opportunity for Hong Kong “to become a center and distributor, not for merchandise only, but also for science.” Looking at the freshmen amongst the audience, he added, “The old Greek cities used to boast of their great men, and claim them with jealous care. Let us hope that in the new and greater China of the future, when the learned dispute of their great men, not a few may be claimed for Hong Kong and for the school today inaugurated.”
Among the 30 some students inaugurated in 1887, only 2 graduated, in 1892. One became a country doctor in Malaysia, and the other, thinking that “healing men” is not as important as “curing the country,” gave up the medical profession for something else.
Originally, when Sun Yat Sen was still a student in Hong Kong, he had in mind only a very modest project. So impressed by the modern management of this colony, he intended to carve out a Hong Kong “on small scale” out of his hometown, Heungshan. The young man began to build a road with shovel and pickax, hoping that it would connect his own village with the next. Only when this small project failed due to local corruption, he turned to something bigger—he overthrew the Chinese empire.
From Manson’s inauguration address of 1887 to this graduation speech of 2011, our lives—yours and mine–have been changed by many extraordinary people. Some men of vision transformed education; some men of action started a revolution and founded a new nation; some men and women with perseverance and intelligence created vaccines or provided cure–small pox and rinderpest are eradicated, malaria is largely eliminated, cholera is under control, and most school girls of Taiwan and Hong Kong today do not know what head lice are. 124 years down the road, this medical college of the University of Hong Kong, which began with the daring dream of a handful of people, is turning out some of the best scientists and professionals shaping the future of the global community.
And you are part and parcel of this heritage. However, if so much has been accomplished by your “village elders” like Patrick Manson and Sun Yat Sen, is there anything left for your generation, for you, to dream, to dare, to devote yourselves to?
I think yes, there is.
Before the 43-year-old Dr. Manson decided to help found the Hong Kong School of Medicine, he had studied his place and time. The place was Hong Kong, where health care for the local population was in a miserable state. The time was late Ching, when old structures had begun to crumble and new values had not been formed. Sun Yat Sen was 26 when he graduated from this college but decided to make the country his patient. He studied medicine, he walked the streets of this colony, and he pondered upon the maladies of the nation, looking for remedies.
So what is your place and time? First let us look at who you are. About 20% of you, the medical students of HKU, come from families with both parents or one of the parents being healthcare professionals– doctors, nurses, CM practitioners. Close to 60% of you come from families with a post-secondary education. It is pretty safe to say that you are, or will be, the elite of the society.
But exactly what kind of society do you find yourselves in?
There is something very “unique” about this “village” you belong to. In a city of 7 million people with an average per capita income of nearly US$30,000, 1.2 million people live below the poverty line. If that sounds abstract, try stand on a corner of Bonham Street and count the children who walk by–one, two, three, four–one out of every four children in this glamorous city live in poverty.
And have you ever paid attention to those elderly women who are pushing heavily loaded trolleys up the steep hills in Central? In this society, nearly 40% of the elderly fall below the poverty line. When visitors arrive at the airport, they immediately see an attractive slogan: “World City of Asia.” What’s not spelled out in that slogan is that income equality of this city is the worst in Asia, worse than India or Mainland China, and the wealth gap here ranks the biggest among all developed economies in the world.
This society that you and I have membership of is probably the easiest place in the world for a photographer to find a spot on any street and he can catch the moment when a Rolls Royce or a Bentley happens to be driving by an elderly man who is scavenging a garbage bin.
I am not suggesting that you should follow Lu Xun and turn to radical writing, or emulate Sun Yat Sen and engage in politics or become social workers. Life offers too many interesting as well as surprising possibilities. But as centenary graduates of this institution of such important heritage, you might consider spending more thoughts on where you have come from and where you may choose to go. The first stone of the road was laid down 124 years ago with the hope to connect to the next village, which is where you are today. Patrick Manson fought against ignorance and insisted on learning; Sun Yat Sen fought against corruption and insisted on good governance; as the torch relay continues, what will you fight against, and what will you insist on?
I hope you don’t have ready answers for me, because if you do, I would be suspicious. What one fights against and what one insists on, taken in its totality, are called personal beliefs. Personal beliefs are not declared. They are practiced in the minute details of life. They are revealed in the smallest decisions of daily routine.
Patrick Manson later worked as advisor to the Colonial Office in London and his main job was to examine recruits and select those who are physically fit for jobs in the tropics. An unexpected problem arose, that is, he discovered that more than 90% of the applicants for subordinate positions such as railroad workers had bad teeth, which by regulation should disqualify them. He had to make a decision what to do.
Manson wrote to the Colonial Office: “To reject these would amount to almost wholesale rejection of all men of their class.” He therefore suggested that the government provide dental care for those who couldn’t afford it. Some professionals would see decayed teeth just as decayed teeth, but some others, people like Manson, would see things on the existential level–he sees human plight. And it’s small, banal decisions such as this that make us what we truly are.
My family moved to a fishing village when I was 14. We were so poor that, when the children got sick, my mother would not dare to go to a clinic. One day, my youngest brother had a fever so high and coughed so badly that my mother was forced to go to the village doctor. We all went–four children of different age and height stood face to face with this very quiet man. He hardly spoke, and when he did speak, with a very soft voice, it was either Japanese or the Fukien dialect, which we could not understand a word of. He checked the little boy, pressed the medicine into my mother’s hand, coached her in the unintelligible language how to care for the young, and refused to accept fees. And thereafter, throughout our childhood, he declined any fees from us.
That was my very first memory of a doctor’s visit. The room was barely furnished but extremely clean and outside the room was a small courtyard, glittering with afternoon sunshine, and I could smell the scent of the summer jasmine in full bloom.
I wish you success and happiness, and thank you all.