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Degree Conferment Ceremony 2015.3.23

Degree Conferment Ceremony 2015.3.23

Today I would like to extend my deepest congratulations to all of the graduating students of Hiroshima University. I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations on the celebration of this year’s ceremony on behalf of Hiroshima University. I also would like to congratulate the parents and relatives, and express to you my deepest gratitude for your continual support for our university. Furthermore, I would like to thank all of our honored guests for taking the time to be here with us at the degree conferment ceremony today.

The rapid development of academic research leads to radical changes in human society. Research and development activities of iPS Cells are gradually becoming transferred into clinical application. I think that the progress of artificial intelligence and the evolution of Big Data are altering fundamentally the forms of our society. The French economist Thomas Piketty’s book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” identifies the problems confronting the capitalistic society of the 21st century and is a subject of great controversy. But on the other hand there are many new issues human society as a whole has to overcome: The savage acts of terrorism carried out by the Islamic State, erratic democratization movements, frequent regional conflicts, economic instability and the widening gap between rich and poor etc. As far as Japan is concerned, the northern part of Hiroshima City was afflicted by a sediment disaster in August of last year. Not only the recovery of this region, but also the reconstruction of the areas hit by the 4 years ago Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear accident, remains considerably behind schedule and is going to be a continuous issue for our country’s society as a whole. Also in future we have to give more than a passing thought to the affected areas and to direct our attention to them. Furthermore, we are confronted with natural disasters, an ongoing aging of society and a rapidly falling birth rate, issues which are specific to our country and difficult and time-consuming to solve.

Human society is rapidly changing, and diversity and complexity are going to increase. The advanced nations including Japan have reached a high level of societal maturity by repeatedly meeting and overcoming the challenges of the 20th century. But we should realize that this progress itself had its price. The society of the 20th century was a product of continuous development ruled by economic criteria. Profit orientation and excessive reliance on money gradually permeated society and noble spirit is fading away. Even in such a situation, we should not lose high aspiration and inner pride. I think that it is important to think deeply about new values for the 21st century, acknowledging the existence of non-monetary values and reevaluating things that require time and effort. To achieve a sustainable society where we can live in security and peace, we should not just insist on effectiveness and functionality, but also place emphasis on leisure and environmental comfort, respect each other and aim for “a spiritually affluent and flexible society of the 21st century”.

Young people, who are going to shape our future society, need “power to make their own judgments and to survive”, which are basic skills of a proper member of society. Therefore they have to cultivate intellectual abilities, physical capacity, emotional strength, and tolerance to accept others. Human society is increasingly exchanging across national boundaries and we are going to exhibit our activities on a global scale. All of you, who graduate from this university today and go out into the world, should continue to develop yourselves for your entire lifetime and maintain a spirit of lifelong learning. Take advantages of the knowledge and wisdom of your predecessors, cultivate sensitivity by experiencing our extraordinary art and culture, look ahead into the future, uphold the high ideals of “contribution to humanity” and take a giant step forward! I wish that each of you will grow into a strong personality, through experiences in different societies you may encounter in the future.

As you embark on a new chapter in your lives, I pray that the roads ahead lead to bright futures, filled with promise and hope. Congratulations.

March 23, 2015

Toshimasa Asahara
President, Hiroshima University