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‘We Can Become Winners in Our Own Right’: Bishop of Hong Kong Embraces Inclusivity as Class of 2024 Commencement Speaker

Bishop of Hong Kong, Stephen Chow, S.J., urged the Class of 2024 to seek out inclusivity and meaningful dialogue amid an increasingly fractured world during his commencement address on Monday morning.

“The seemingly dominant narrative of our ideological world is one of opposition,” Chow said. “This kind of narrative is unlikely to create sustainable peace for a … desirable future, a future which you and your peers are going to construct together, with the inclusive love of God in your discernment, transcending the borders of politics, beliefs, faiths, values, economies, ethnicities, realities.” 

Chow also commended Boston College for holding an in-person commencement ceremony amid the protests and sanctions at universities across the country. 

“We can appreciate Boston College for being bold enough to hold a live commencement exercise during this time,” Chow said.

University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., started the ceremony by honoring the nearly 5,000 graduating students across all schools and their families’ sacrifices that helped them achieve their diplomas. 

Leahy presented Chow and four other individuals with honorary degrees from BC—including Jim O’Connell, the founding physician of Boston Health Care for the Homeless, and the inspiration for Rough Sleepers: Dr. Jim O’Connell’s Urgent Mission to Bring Healing to Homeless People, the 2023 convocation book. 

“This commencement is also an occasion to recall how much those graduating today receive from parents, spouses, family, and friends,” Leahy said. “These individuals deserve appreciation and recognition this morning.” 

Leahy added that while the Class of 2024 underwent some of their college experience during the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, they showed resolve throughout their journeys nonetheless.

“They started amid the challenges of COVID-19 and persevered,” Leahy said. “We remember, and we are grateful.” 

Leahy also addressed the growing need for committed graduates to aid in bettering society, asking the audience to bear in mind ongoing global conflicts—including wars in Ukraine and Gaza—and calling upon the Class of 2024 to make positive change.

“Our world today desperately needs people of intelligence, faith, and commitment to work for the good of society, to help root out racial, social, and economic inequality, and to strive to bring an end to poverty, illiteracy, and prejudice,” Leahy said. 

Chow compared the unrest across universities to the protests in his native Hong Kong and called for meaningful conversation between opposing parties to find “unity, not uniformity.”  

“Despite [Hong Kong] returning to a good degree of peacefulness, there remains a need for reconciliation and internal healing,” Chow said. “I believe unity in plurality is what we want to embrace, not an oppositional mentality and certainly not violence.” 

Chow concluded his address by asking the graduates to redefine competition as a journey to better themselves and encouraging students to help others reach their full potential. 

“If the focus of competition is on ourselves, we can afford to help each other improve because the others are not my competitors,” Chow said. “I can help them, I can help me, so that no one can lose out at the end, which means we can become winners in our own right.” 

May 22, 2024