Bearing a torch for our generation

Student Life

Alan X. Chen, a recent financial economics graduate from Exeter, bore the Olympic torch through Oxford only a few weeks ago. I caught up with him to discuss the games’ significance, and how his trailblazing opportunity came about.

"The sheer diversity of torch bearers is itself astounding"
“The sheer diversity of torch bearers is itself astounding”

So what do the Olympics mean to Alan? As a graduate in Economics, and a witness of adversity first-hand, he recognises both their social and commercial importance. Epitomizing the concept of a global community, and valuing friendship and fairness as well as excellence and perseverance, the Olympic sprit transcends national borders. Now more than ever, when countries like Spain and Greece suffer youth unemployment of over 50%, the Olympics bring people together and project a positive and hopeful message to citizens around the globe.

Parents can intrinsically help shape our principles and values in life and be inspiring role models. And it seems like Alan is no exception. When he grew up, he witnessed the hard work of his parents as they worked their way out of poverty amongst the first Chinese generation with access to post-secondary education. But despite working long hours, his parents never stopped making time to help others in the community. They told him that at some point everyone needs and receives help from someone else, whether a stranger or a friend, and that it is thus everyone’s responsibility to do what they can to help others. Now, with his parents living comfortably in Canada and approaching retirement, Alan still remembers this lesson.

Alan lighting up Morrell Avenue
Alan lighting up Morrell Avenue

As a child, Alan was inspired by many Olympic athletes. He still has vivid memories of cheering for his favourite athlete Bjoern Dahlie (winner of eight Olympic gold medals) as far back as the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994. As a kid, he looked up to such athletes and he couldn’t help but try to emulate them, their dedication to excellence became ingrained in him, propelling him to always aim high.

Throughout his youth, Alan was involved in a wide spectrum of community work. Whether teaching Chinese to school children and biology to high school students, volunteering in a hospital emergency room or engaging with prospective students as an alumnus, he has always endeavoured to help others and give back to the community. He believes that it is important to contribute in proportion to one’s abilities and socioeconomic position. From those who can make a small difference in their local community, to those who are in a much privileged position to impact the broader global community. This is why Alan carried the Olympic torch. As graduates from one of the finest educational establishments in the world, we have a duty to inspire others, and to give back to our communities.

Running alongside Alan along Morrel Avenue, as he carried the Olympic torch, were twenty other unique individuals, each with their own inspiring stories. Among them were Michelle Kwan, a world champion figure skater and Christine Carter, an 85 years old avid community fundraiser. Indeed, the sheer diversity of torch bearers is itself astounding. As the Olympic Torch reaches its final destination, having been carried 8,000 miles by 8,000 bearers in a 70-day relay, let’s hope that Alan’s sense of community will be continually passed from the old to the young in generations to come. On this shrunken globe, men, women and children should not and will not live as strangers.


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