Richard Liu, chairman of the board and CEO of JD.com, returned to Jiangsu Suqian Middle School to speak, revealing his childhood dream was to eat meat.
Richard Liu remembers that he used to only get pork once or twice a year. His childhood dream was to become a village head. “I wondered at that time, if I became the village head, would I be able to help all the families in the village have pork on their tables?”
Liu said he still works for 16 hours every day, including weekends. “I hope I can see more and achieve more through my effort.”
Below is a transcript of Liu’s speech (excerpt):
Honorable Principal Wang, distinguished guests, faculty, alumni and dear friends, good morning! I’m Richard Liu, an alumnus from Class 1992 in Jiangsu Suqian Middle School. It can be said that, for many people, their experiences in middle school are life-changing. I believe that is true for each of us here today. Our middle-school years are of the greatest importance in our lives. Such was my experience.
I did and experienced many things for the first time when I was enrolled at Suqian Middle School. Before I came to study, I spoke Lailong dialect. I learned of Suqian dialect only when my Physics teacher asked us, “One electron here and one there, where’s the third electron then?” (spoken in dialect) I can still remember meeting a beautiful young woman when I was studying beside Yueyahu Lake in the old Suqian School during 11th grade. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. All of sudden, she looked back and said, half annoyed and half smiling, “Anything wrong?” I was so embarrassed that I wanted to escape from the scene. I didn’t realize until I met my wife many years later that “is what first love feels like.”
I could share countless stories about myself and Suqian Middle School. But as our time is limited, I want to focus on my advice for seeing and achieving more.
When it comes to seeing further and achieving more, I have to explain the social conditions of China during my youth. Suqian was a poverty-stricken area and I grew up in an impoverished rural family in Lailong, a northeastern county in Suqian, Jiangsu province. People in my village were so poor they could only have pork for their meals once or twice a year. It was a time when pork was only accessible in farmers’ co-ops. There were no other vendors selling pork. I still remember how my grandma, every time she and I went to buy pork, would give the vendor a few kilograms of peanuts. It was a way to make sure the vendor gave you fattier meat. Fatty meat produces oil when cut into shreds and boiled down. We would store the oil in a jar tied to one of the house beams. It was not to keep oil away from dogs or cats, but to keep it out of our reach. Occasionally, my grandma untied the jar from the beam and scooped out a spoonful of oil for our meals at family celebrations. I was the first in the family to suggest that we wash the dishes with hot water so the oil would come off and be usable in soup. We were that poor. The rural area expanded afar, but I was near-sighted and could only see as far as the pork slices hung below the roof of our village head. The villagers didn’t have much to eat, but our village head had pork all the year round. That’s why I dreamed of becoming a village head when I was a child. I wondered, if I became one, whether I could enable all families in the village to have pork on their tables?
Then I went to primary school, and electricity was transmitted to Lailong when I was in 4th grade. To learn what electricity was, I led all my classmates after school from Changan Village to the local government, where an electric bulb shined brightly. Was it hot enough to light a cigarette? Where did the electricity come from? These were the questions that popped up among us. Then I realized that I wanted to see more, and I wanted to see further.
I went on to junior high. With my savings of 50 yuan, I dreamed of seeing more and traveling. I wore shirt, shorts and slippers and took 50 yuan on my trip. All I wanted to do was see what the outside world had in store. I traveled from Lailong to Xuzhou by car, and from Xuzhou to Nanjing by train, where I arrived at 1 am. It was my first time to arrive in a big city, and I saw the Jinling Mansion Hotel, a 37-story building which was the highest back then. I circled around the building many times, and to be honest, that was the first time I realized there was a bigger city than Suqian. Next, I went to Jiujiang by ship, wondering what Beijing would look like, what Shanghai would look like, and what New York, London and Tokyo would look like. After three years in Suqian Middle School, I went to Renmin University of China, all thanks to the education I received here.
When I applied for universities in China, I only applied for universities in two cities: Beijing and Shanghai. I wanted to study in a large city because I believed it would give me a platform to see more and achieve more. When I went to Suqian Middle School, I took 5 kilograms of rice and a jar of soybeans. When I went to Remin University, I took 500 yuan and 76 eggs. I was dedicated to studying during the next four years: I knew I wanted to go beyond Beijing to places further away. Thus, I became an entrepreneur and went to the US in 2000 and visited Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York. Some may wonder why I’m still talking about seeing more, after I’ve already been to places all around the world. Actually, I haven’t. I want to tell you that humans can see even more than we can imagine. The Hubble Space Telescope enabled us to see billions of light years away. We humans can finally see the beginning and end of our universe. We have gone as far as landing on the moon and sending our first artificial ship out of the solar system.
I still work hard and study 16 hours every day, even on weekends. It’s because I hope I can see more and achieve more through my efforts, not just to achieve more in my career.
I struggled in Beijing for 10 years, and fought another 10 years to be able to see more places around the world. But you live in a different time from my world of 30 years ago. Today, China is a great country, and you don’t need to spend 10 to 20 years struggling to catch up to the outside world. You stand at the same starting line as teenagers in other countries around the world.
It took us 30 years to catch up with the world, but what do we have to do to get ahead in the future? I believe everyone here can make China a greater nation by seeing more and achieving more.
We should always have “high aims and dreams.” If we keep this motto in our hearts, we won’t be bothered by trivial matters. A few day ago, I read in the newspaper that a girl still in junior high jumped out of a window and committed suicide because of her boyfriend. If only she could see further and realize there are smarter and cuter boys in the world. Let’s commit that lesson to heart and explore the future of the world. Never forget to look up and see further, so that we can see more and achieve more!
At the end of my speech, I would like to say thank you for your listening. Happy birthday to my Alma Mater!