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University Medalist Margaret Ann-Chia Chow: 'Many years ago we came here timid, and now we leave with voices, and the courage to use them'

The following are the prepared remarks of University Medalist Margaret Ann-Chia Chow, delivered at Convocation.

– First and foremost, a word for those that are dear to me: mom and dad, my family, and my friends. If only you could see into my heart, then you would see that it is filled with you, and all the years we have spent together. I love you.

To the parents, alumni, faculty, and friends in the audience, on behalf of my class, I thank you.

Now, Cal graduates of 2004, congratulations! Not only are we blessed to have lived in one of the most diverse and vibrant communities in the nation; we are now graduating from one of the finest institutions in the world. I have to be frank, though. I feel the things I learned in the classroom have already started to fade from memory. Thankfully, that is not what the core of our education is about. In our years at Cal we learn how to be a certain type of person in the context of a greater society. We know how to think, to discern, to speak up. We understand there is a real value to every perspective, however different from our own. These are things that, once learned, forever change you and never fade away.

Berkeley fosters in us an unshakable determination and confidence. When faced with opposition, or worse, apathy, we do not resign in fear. Rather, we at Berkeley know all too well how to fight for a worthy cause. Maybe you are fighting to call attention to atrocities abroad, or for gay and lesbian rights at home, or maybe you were out on Sproul fighting against the ban on affirmative action. Maybe, like me, you simply fought for that last open seat in Chem1A. The point is, many years ago we came here timid, and now we leave with voices, and the courage to use them.

Perhaps we learn by example. As I'm sure many of you know, just this week, our own school took a stand for us against what it perceived to be a threat from the government. The faculty members of the Academic Senate voted unanimously to challenge the application of the Patriot Act on our campus. That takes nerve, and I applaud our faculty for it.

When you are put in positions of influence, as you undoubtedly will be, I hope that you, too, will use your voice to protect your brothers and sisters in society. After all, our University degree is but a symbol that we are trained servants of humanity. I will not even begin to remind you of all the ills within our world today. In any discipline you choose there will be worthy battles that call upon your dedication.

Let me tell you about an issue I care about: and that is, whether science is wielded as a sword or a shield. Just a couple months ago, a group of renowned scientists-many of whom were Nobel laureates-issued a statement to denounce of the misuse of science by the government. The current administration disbanded technical advisory committees responsible for counsel on nuclear arms control and biological weaponry, when that advice ran contrary to the government agenda. By making a stand, these scientists went beyond their calling as researchers, to make sure the products of science weren't being exploited to the detriment of the rest of us. If you were in that position, would you have spoken out? Given that you are a Berkeley graduate, I know you would have.

So now as we graduate I hope that we will continue to strive for something beyond intelligence, I hope we will strive for wisdom. And I hope we will continue to be servants, showing love and concern for each other. Lastly I urge you to remain courageous in the face of opposition and uncertainty. Long after the knowledge we gain from books has dimmed, this is what remains. This is the Cal spirit. GO BEARS!