In commencement season, one thing students look forward to is an inspiring graduation ceremony speech before they branch out into the world. There are many memorable commencement speeches that have gone down in history, some of which are still honored more than a century later.
It is a shame that no speeches by Taiwanese spring to mind as timeless words of wisdom. A speech given by New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) on June 14 might be one that will be remembered, except that it was just not a fitting send-off for students.
Chu delivered a speech to Lee-Ming Institute of Technology graduates which concluded with a “reminder” that the students “must never go into politics.”
“This is what I always tell my junior alumni — that it’s not the right path to take to go into politics. The right path is to use your skills to contribute to society,” the aspiring 2016 presidential candidate said.
The one-time patriarchal idea among Taiwanese parents — that having a career in politics is one of the least-liked professions — has its roots in the nation’s authoritarian era.
With the development of democracy, Taiwan’s younger generation has become more interested in politics. The re-emergence of various social forces pursuing different political and social agendas over the years leading to the massive student-led Sunflower movement in March and April, followed by various rallies and forums across the country to stimulate interest in issues of public importance, is indicative of growing awareness of the need for the nation to build a more public-minded version of politics.
Despite attempts to engage more with young people, for example the reform plans proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) at the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-organized “young citizens’ forum” in April, and the recent formation of a youth advisory group under the Executive Yuan, the century-old party seems to be still struggling with the evil legacy of its authoritarian and arbitrary nature that tends to keep as many people as possible out of politics.
This is evidenced by Chu’s speech and the derogatory comments Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) made indirectly about students in the Sunflower movement that they are “nonstop complainers” and “losers who blame others for their failure.”
If it is not for the sake of the KMT consolidating its rule as it did during the authoritarian period, it is because nepotism and cronyism are still at work when the KMT recruits candidates for public office.
The controversial roster of Control Yuan nominees was an example, in addition to the “princeling” label attached to KMT Taipei mayoral candidate Sean Lien (連勝文) as well as Chu and Taoyuan County Commissioner John Wu (吳志揚), who are both seeking re-election. The way Lien dismissed the criticism against him by saying that he cannot choose the family he was born in was a reasonable defense, but the cases of the KMT’s nominees for Greater Kaohsiung mayor, Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興), and Pingtung County commissioner, Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎), once again lend substance to such criticism.
Yang and Chien continue to serve as ministers without portfolios even though they spend most of their time in the south for their campaigns. They could continue to stay put if they fail to win the elections.
Encouraging apathy endangers democracy. Apathy could partly explain why the KMT has ended up in the situation where it finds it difficult to nominate a mayoral candidate not only in Greater Tainan with hard-core green supporters, but also in the traditionally pro-blue stronghold of Keelung City.