Honoring Jeffrey K. Chin ’94
Read Jeffrey K. Chin’s honorary degree citation
Jeffrey K. Chin ’94 remarks:
Thank you, President Hanno, Board of Trustees, honored guests and the entire Wheaton community. A huge congratulations to everyone here involved with the Class of 2019. What an incredible day that starts with what, undoubtedly, will be an interesting journey for all of us and all of you.
I am so, so incredibly honored and humbled to be here today. I am excited to join today’s esteemed speakers, the Reverend Dr. Barber and Judge Wittner.
To be honest, I am really nervous about how this is going to go today as I’m usually terrible about reading prepared remarks. I typically do much better speaking off the cuff and rather spontaneously, but I made a promise to my family and friends not to wing it for this event or I might embarrass myself or my 25th Reunion classmates.
• Watch the video replay of Chin’s speech
Shout out to ’94. I think they are as surprised as I am that I am up here today and the fact that I could not make it across Peacock Pond for the Head of the Peacock when I was here and now I’m in the Navy. Go figure.
Back in 1994, our keynote speaker, speaking of which, was Connie Chung. Some of you might know her as the wife of Maury Povich. At the time, she was well regarded as a TV journalist for NBC, ABC and even hosted the evening news with Dan Rather on CBS Evening News. She was also the rare Asian-American at the time that was part of the public sphere and was a celebrity of sorts, at least in the eyes of my mother, who is with us today.
While I am a far cry from Connie Chung, first of all, I would hate to be a celebrity and I certainly would not enjoy being married to Maury Povich.
There are some comparisons that can be made. We are both Chinese-Americans hailing from large families. Shocker. We both work in the field of communications and have had the opportunity to work with national media members. And we both have the support and the approval of one Carrie N. Chin, my dear 71-year-old mother, who is happening to celebrate her birthday today.
I think it fills my mom with a certain sense of pride to see her son standing here on the same stage 25 years later. In terms of Wheaton Commencement speakers, I would say we’re two for two in her eyes. I think it’s reasonable to assume that after hearing my introduction and looking at my resume, that I would speak to you all about the importance of volunteerism and giving back to the community. Yes, this type of service is truly important.
Service is a singular activity that assures us that our society doesn’t deteriorate into an apocalyptic free-for-all where it’s basically every person for themselves. But in thinking about my mother, I am reminded of another kind of service that propels all of us forward, the type that every one of us needs to succeed. This can come from a variety of sources, but most often this service comes from parents or grandparents, guardians, mentors or just a champion in your life that provides you with the help that you need to achieve and grow. The impact of this service to your success cannot be overstated.
My mom emigrated here from China when she was a child. She left her parents and the conditions in her village in Canton to live with her grandmother in Hong Kong with the hopes of finding a life full of prosperity and a freedom of choice.
After getting married and settling in Providence, Rhode Island, my mother was focused on creating a life for her children that was not possible for herself or her siblings. The opportunity to shape a future through hard work, access to education and ability to pursue a career or vocation that we were passionate about motivated my mother to provide the best type of service: the service of helping and advancing the opportunities afforded to me and my sister.
My mother worked in a factory that manufactured jewelry for over 20 years. She also worked to get her citizenship in 1975. She worked nights at our family’s restaurant. She worked two jobs to help us achieve and gain access to things that she did not.
Some would say this is due to a parent’s love for her children. And while that is true, it also speaks to a selfless devotion to help others ignite their potential. My realization of this type of service didn’t really manifest itself until this day, 25 years ago today, when I was the first in my family to attend and graduate from college.
Admittedly, back then it was hard for me, as a typical 21-year-old college graduate, to see and fully appreciate the type of dedication my mother personified all those years. It is well past time that I honored her devotion and sacrifice in service to our family. This introduction to service helped me follow volunteerism and then shaped and ignited my career first as a clinical social worker, then later as a member of the U.S. Navy.
My mother demonstrated that true service involves personal sacrifice and an understanding that we each have an obligation and responsibility to use whatever gifts and talents we have for the greater good of others. For my mother, it was always about creating better opportunities. This is an ideal that we can surely abide by and strive for as we move through this world.
Thank you 2019 and go forth in service.
• More 2019 Commencement coverage here.