University of Technology, Sydney UTS Graduation Speech 2006

Well, the ceremony was cool. I’m glad it’s over. I’m quite happy with it. Read my speech here.

I shook hands with the Chancellor, walked down the wrong aisle, forgot to take my cert.

As for my “valedictiorian speech” – I wasn’t introduced well (something to the effect of… now let’s have random Graduate with Distinction kid, Khai Lee Ng to speak on behalf of everyone who doesn’t know him).

Proceeded to deliver my speech poorly (used a script! Ill prepared!) – and after the speech, my Harry Potter outfit snagged onto an expensive-looking stick – and almost took it with me – off the stage.

But I’m still happy – because after multiple script revisions – I got to say what I really wanted to.

I will be uploading a video of my clowning soon – in the meantime, here is the transcript of the speech.

UTS Graduation Speech 2006

Fellow graduates, we have come a long way to graduate.

So I will try to keep my speech short and fun, with the help of my special effects team behind me (points to academicians)

Pro-Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and President, Council Members and Staff of UTS and Taylor’s College, distinguished guests, families and friends

Are you surprised we got this far?
Really, without all your support we wouldn’t have.
Today, you guys must’ve lost a finger clapping for us. Thank you.

Oh, yeah my name is Khai Lee, and I wanna dedicate this next song to mom and dad – and a shoutout to Peter Meyer who got me here to speak.

I’m here, on behalf of all graduating students, to thank everyone who has helped us complete this chapter of our lives.

We mean it, thank you.


Now I can spend the rest of my speech
on how you should continue to learn
on how you are the leaders of tomorrow
And one of you will be the next Einstein… or Enron.
But no, you already know that right?

You’re graduates! You know what’s good for you.
Do the parents agree?
Or is it – “Kids these days, don’t know what they want……”

Do you remember when you were deciding on where/what to study?
– everyone, friends, family, aunty, neighbour’s uncle’s dog
– everyone was telling you what’s best – what’s safe – what the job market wants…

Sometimes – it seems – everyone is telling you what you want
instead of helping you find out….

So we learn. And we listen.
And we should always learn, and listen.

But, at some point, fellow graduates,
we might get used to give in to conventions
blindly follow rules and instruction –
And once we lose our ability to think independently
We lose our ability to think differently
And that is the end of leadership – it’s a pity.


Everyone knows it’s important be independent in thought.
But those of you who have tried –
Especially in a culture like, say, Malaysia,
will know how difficult and painful it is.

I tried, but I was an idiot –

I almost dropped out of university in 2nd year.
I fought with tutors and lecturers.
My classmates thought I was weird
And I had to get kicked between the legs
To know I’m wrong.

Then I learned from my mistakes.
I thought hard about what it meant to act independently
Especially how to go about things differently

Soon, I loved what I was studying
Getting distinctions all the way
Won an art competition in Sydney,
And regional business plan competition in Hong Kong,
Now working with an internet startup I love to death…
Along the way, meeting many like-minds…

But this doesn’t mean as much to me as knowing
I did things MY WAY, and it didn’t have to be painful.

Through my struggles to get this degree –
and your struggles as well –
You might be familiar with these 4 lessons that I will quickly, share with you.


1 – Experiment.

We’re young – we can try different hobbies, pursue different interests – without sacrificing work or study –eg. A former classmate in KL ran his own Terengganu travel agency to pay his fees.

2 – Earn your respect.

Because of your age – if you want people to trust you – you gotta know your stuff – and that means a lot of hard work. If you want to follow your own voice – you got to find that voice, and support it – build your case before you shout.

3 – Pick your fights.

Pick your fights – all coz you think differently doesn’t mean you have to fight. Especially if you have a thick skull like me – it’s true sometimes it’s just not worth it. And most of the time it helped – to be ready to say – I’m sorry – I’m wrong.

4 – And most importantly – Work with the system, not against it

Learn the way people work – before you try and change things. Know the rules before you bend it.


It is these 4 lessons which helped me keep afloat when the currents were against me. I hope you find them useful.

In closing, I wanna thank UTS again,
For giving both the structure and the flexibility
To educate ourselves –

I wanna thank – the teachers who rewarded a different approach to problem-solving.
The kids who raised their hand in class and said – “I have a different idea.”
To those of you who pursued your passions after class is over.
To the deviants – I admire you – for your courage to defy

For those of you who haven’t found your inner voice
LOOK FOR IT – as long as you look hard enough – you’ll find it

For those of you who suspect you know what to do – test it
Earn your respect.
Pick your fights.
Work with the system, not against it.


Graduates, Let us thank our family, friends and the University community for their support and encouragement – and good intentions – yes.
Take your certificates – and hit the person beside you
And remind them that you can think for yourself!

Don’t take it from me – hear the founder of Apple, the iPod-father, Steve Jobs –
I’ll leave you with what he said to Stanford students last month –
He said –

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.
Don’t be trapped – living the results of other people’s thinking.
Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own, inner voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition –
They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
Everything else is secondary.”

Thank you.

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