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He Jiang’s Harvard speech: The Spider’s Bite

he jiang, harvard commencement speech, chinese student


It was a long way to graduate school at Harvard from the remote, rural village where He Jiang grew up in a traditional farming family. Fortunately, education changes his life, as it brings him from one world to another world. He Jiang, the young man from Hunan province, delivered a speech at Harvard commencement as the only representative of postgraduates. He is also the first Chinese student doing so at Harvard. Enjoy He's speech below. 

从偏远山村走到哈佛研究生院,对于一个生长在传统务农家庭的何江来说,这条路很漫长。然而,教育改变了他的命运,把他带到了另一个世界。何江是今年哈佛毕业演讲选出来的唯一的研究生代表,也是第一位在哈佛毕业典礼演讲的中国学生。我们来听听何江的演讲。

 

The Spider's Bite

蜘蛛的叮咬

When I was in middle school, a poisonous spider bit my right hand. I ran to my mom for help—but instead of taking me to a doctor, my mom set my hand on fire.

我在读初中的时候,曾被一只毒蜘蛛咬伤了右手。我跑去求助母亲。她没带我去看医生,却在我的手上放了一把火。

After wrapping my hand with several layers of cotton, then soaking it in wine, she put a chopstick into my mouth, and ignited the cotton. Heat quickly penetrated the cotton and began to roast my hand. The searing pain made me want to scream, but the chopstick prevented it. All I could do was watch my hand burn – one minute, then two minutes –until mom put out the fire.

在我的手上包了几层棉纱,用白酒浸湿后,她往我嘴里放了一根筷子,然后点燃了棉纱。高温迅速穿透棉纱,开始炙烤着我的手。灼热的痛苦让我忍不住想尖叫,但是嘴里卡着的筷子却让我叫不出来。我能做的就是看着我的手在火里烧着,一分钟,两分钟……直到母亲把火熄灭。

You see, the part of China I grew up in was a rural village, and at that time pre-industrial. When I was born, my village had no cars, no telephones, no electricity, not even running water. And we certainly didn't have access to modern medical resources. There was no doctor my mother could bring me to see about my spider bite.

你看,我长大的地方在中国农村,那时,我的家乡还是一个落后的小村庄。我出生时,村子里还没有汽车、电话、电,甚至连自来水都没有。我们显然也接触不到现代医疗资源。我妈根本找不到医生来给我处理蜘蛛咬伤。

For those who study biology, you may have grasped the science behind my mom's cure: heat deactivates proteins, and a spider's venom is simply a form of protein. It's cool how that folk remedy actually incorporates basic biochemistry, isn't it?

在座学生物的人,或许已了然我母亲的治疗手段的科学原理:高热让蛋白质灭活,而蜘蛛的毒液也是一种蛋白质。传统土方竟然结合了生物化学的基本原理,这真的很牛,是不是?

But I am a PhD student in biochemistry at Harvard, I now know that better, less painful and less risky treatments existed. So I can't help but ask myself, why I didn't receive one at the time?

但是,作为一个哈佛大学生物化学的博士,我现在知道了,更好的、更少痛苦的、风险更低的治疗方法是存在的。于是我便忍不住问自己,为什么我当时没能接受到更先进的治疗呢?

Fifteen years have passed since that incident. I am happy to report that my hand is fine. But this question lingers, and I continue to be troubled by the unequal distribution of scientific knowledge throughout the world.

那件小事到现在已经有15年了。 我非常高兴地跟大家汇报一下,我的手还不错。但是这个问题一直在我的脑海里徘徊,我也一直因为科学知识在全球的分配不均而感到困扰。

he jiang, harvard commencement speech, chinese student

We have learned to edit the human genome and unlock many secrets of how cancer progresses. We can manipulate neuronal activity literally with the switch of a light. Each year brings more advances in biomedical research—exciting, transformative accomplishments.

我们已经知道了如何进行人类基因组编辑,也解开了许多癌症发生发展的秘密。我们甚至可以用光来控制我们大脑内神经元的活动。每年生物医学的研究都会有更多进步——其中有不少令人振奋、极具革命颠覆性的成果。

Yet, despite the knowledge we have amassed, we haven't been so successful in deploying it to where it's needed most. 

尽管我们已经积累了丰富的知识,但是,在把这些知识运用到最急需的地区上这件事情上,我们做的不很成功。

According to the World Bank, twelve percent of the world's population lives on less than $2 a day. Malnutrition kills more than 3 million children annually. Three hundred million people are afflicted by malaria globally. All over the world, we constantly see these problems of poverty, illness, and lack of resources impeding the flow of scientific information. 

世界银行的数据显示,世界上大约有12%的人口每天的生活水平仍然低于2美元。营养不良导致每年超过三百万儿童死亡。全球将近3亿人口仍然在遭受疟疾的折磨。在世界各地,我们仍不断看到贫穷、疾病和资源匮乏等问题阻碍着科学信息的传播。

Lifesaving knowledge we take for granted in the modern world is often unavailable in these underdeveloped regions. And in far too many places, people are still essentially trying to cure a spider bite with fire.

我们在现代社会里觉得理所当然的那些救生常识,在这些欠发达地区往往尚未普及。世界上仍有很多地区,人们还在用火来治疗蜘蛛咬伤。

While studying at Harvard, I saw how scientific knowledge can help others in simple, yet profound ways. The bird flu pandemic in the 2000s looked to my village like a spell cast by demons. Our folk medicine didn't even have half-measures to offer. What's more, farmers didn't know the difference between common cold and flu; they didn't understand that the flu was much more lethal than the common cold. Most people were also unaware that the virus could transmit across different species.

在哈佛读书期间,我切身体会到科学知识如何用简单,却深远的方式帮助人们。本世纪初,禽流感肆虐,在我的家乡人看来,这就如恶魔施咒一样。民间偏方对此束手无策。而且,农民也分不清普通感冒和流感,他们不知道流感比普通感冒致命得多。大多数人也没有意识到流感可以在不同物种之间传播。

So when I realized that simple hygiene practices like separating different animal species could contain the spread of the disease, and that I could help make this knowledge available to my village, that was my first "Aha" moment as a budding scientist. But it was more than that: it was also a vital inflection point in my own ethical development, my own self-understanding as a member of the global community.

于是,当我意识到一些简单卫生习惯,例如将不同物种隔离,可以控制疾病传播,而且,我可以让村里人了解这些知识时,我有了初露头角的科学家的第一次顿悟。但是更重要的是,这也是我个人道德发展的重要转捩点,我开始自觉意识到自己是这个地球社区的一员。

Harvard dares us to dream big, to aspire to change the world. Here on this Commencement Day, we are probably thinking of grand destinations and big adventures that await us. As for me, I am also thinking of the farmers in my village. 

哈佛让我们敢于拥有远大的梦想,勇于立志改变世界。在毕业典礼这样一个特别的日子,我们可能在畅想着那些等着我们去实现和挑战的伟大征程与冒险。对我而言,我此刻还想到了我家乡的父老乡亲。

My experience here reminds me how important it is for researchers to communicate our knowledge to those who need it. Because by using the science we already have, we could probably bring my village and thousands like it into the world you and I take for granted every day. And that's an impact every one of us can make!

我的经历让我记住,一个研究者将所知传递给那些急需的人是多么重要。因为我们利用已有的科学知识,或许能帮助我的家乡,还有千千万万类似的村庄,让他们生活的世界变成你我每天理所当然的世界。而这样的影响力是我们中的任何一个人都可以制造的。

But the question is, will we make the effort or not?

但问题是,我们是否愿意为之努力?

More than ever before, our society emphasizes science and innovation. But an equally important emphasis should be on distributing the knowledge we have to where it's needed. 

我们的社会比以往任何年代都更强调科学和创新。但同样需要被强调的一个重点是,把知识传授到那些真正需要的地方。

Changing the world doesn't mean that everyone has to find the next big thing. It can be as simple as becoming better communicators, and finding more creative ways to pass on the knowledge we have to people like my mom and the farmers in their local community. Our society also needs to recognize that the equal distribution of knowledge is a pivotal step of human development, and work to bring this into reality.

改变世界并不意味着每个人都要做出一个大突破。改变世界可以简单如做一个沟通者,寻找更多创造性的方法将知识传递给像我妈妈和村里的农民这样的群体。我们的社会也需要认识到知识资源的平均分配,是人类社会发展的一个关键环节,需共同努力将其实现。

And if we do that, then perhaps a teenager in rural China who is bitten by a poisonous spider will not have to burn his hand, but will know to seek a doctor instead.

如果我们能够做到这些,或许,一个在农村被毒蜘蛛咬伤的少年将不用烧伤自己的手,而会懂得去看医生。

Thank you!

谢谢!

2016-06-22

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