Degree Conferment Ceremony 2016.3.23
On behalf of Hiroshima University, I would like to offer my deepest and heartfelt congratulations to the 3,684 of you gathered here today on this auspicious occasion. I would also like to congratulate all parents and relatives, whose continued support of our university and of our students is invaluable. Furthermore, I would like to thank all of our honored guests for taking the time to be here with us today.
Exactly 5 years ago, when the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster occurred on March 11th, 2011, Hiroshima University sent more than 1,300 people to Fukushima Prefecture as “Radiation Emergency Medical Assistance Teams” the very next day. At that time, as Director of the Hiroshima University Hospital, I went to Fukushima immediately and promised the Fukushima prefectural governor to provide those living there with continuous contribution and support from Hiroshima University during this time of crisis. Seeing the earnest and intense gazes of the local people of Fukushima, I became keenly aware of the soul of Hiroshima University’s mission, which came into being as a result of the first atomic bombing.
Hiroshima University has now become one of the country’s leading comprehensive research universities. In 2014, our university was the only university in the Chugoku-Shikoku region to be selected by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) for the “Top Global University Project” as one of Japan’s top 13 universities, providing a world-class research and education environment (Type A). Hiroshima University was ranked 12th of all universities in Japan by the latest World University Rankings report of the British ‘Times Higher Education’ (THE) and ‘Quacquarelli Symonds’ (QS). In terms of citations (number of quotations used per research paper), Hiroshima University has been cited to the same extent as Former Imperial Universities.
Unfortunately, though, Hiroshima University has an image of being one of the more “humble” universities in Japan, and along these lines we are not evaluated accordingly to our true ability. However, this image is just a domestic one. My visits to some universities in the Middle East and Southeast Asia made clear to me that Hiroshima University is held in great esteem, both for its contributions to recovery from the atomic bombing disaster and for its position as a world-leading university. As a university that has the ability to be ranked among the Top 100 in the World University Rankings index, I would like to devote myself wholeheartedly to disseminating news of our accomplishments.
I imagine that all of you must be feeling excited, with high expectations for a bright future, but that this optimism is also tinged with anxiety.
One year ago, when I assumed my duties as the 12th President of Hiroshima University, I emphasized the importance for us to foster “peace-pursuing cultured individuals with international experience”. In order to achieve this goal, the improvement of communication skills in English and other foreign languages, as well as the acquisition of advanced academic knowledge and expertise, are required.
However, in a time of “no known solutions”, imagination, innovation and the power to make informed decisions are also a must. In order to become a highly regarded individual, one needs not only academic knowledge and skills, but also a broad-ranging liberal arts education that requires a lifetime of commitment and dedication.
Shuichi Kato, a Japanese critic and author, is a good example of a “peace-pursuing cultured individual with international experience”. Although viewed as a controversial figure by some, he was, unequivocally, a great intellect and was active not only in Japan but also in Europe and America in the postwar period. Indeed, Kato gained a reputation for examining Japan through both domestic and foreign perspectives. His initial training and work during World War II was as a doctor of haematology, and he visited Hiroshima immediately after the atomic bombing as a member of a Japanese-American medical research team.
In his draft to the magazine “Bungei Shunju” in February, 1956, Kato wrote the following passage:
“No matter how insecure you may feel about your future, you must keep close at hand a greater vision than those who have come before you. For if you have lost sight of what has happened in the past, upon what will you base your future?
Regarding the definition of a future vision, Shuichi Kato stated the following:
“To have a vision of the future is to discover a new path out of the many that have already been followed. However, this process cannot be accomplished simply by collecting information on those previous paths. It is a spiritual journey consisting of trial and error, as one attempts to understand the accumulated truths of what has already been done.”
Although it is impossible to easily compare the situation now with that of 70 years ago when Japan was defeated in the war and underwent a major paradigm shift, I think it can be said that our values are now, just as they were then, in a constant state of flux due to the “chaos and unrest” underpinning today’s world and society.
In the ancient Chinese book "I Ching", there is a proverb "Zhang Wang Cha Lai (Shou Ou Satsu Rai)”, which means “to gain insight into the future by clarifying matters of the past.” I believe that the essence of this proverb and of Shuichi Kato’s words is the same: Instead of letting yourself be mindlessly swept up by the flow of time, pay heed to the lessons left behind by those who came before you. By considering such great thinkers, I hope that each of you find the will to follow, in your own way, the path that is right for you.
Looking back over the past year, we have had many visitors and events on campus. On April 17th last year, immediately after my inauguration as the 12th President, the United States Ambassador to Japan, Ms. Caroline Kennedy, selected Hiroshima University for a visit, discussing the importance of study abroad and global human resources with our students at the Kasumi campus.
Moreover, on March 7th, we invited two Nobel Prize winners: Professor Sir John B. Gurdon from the University of Cambridge and Professor Shinya Yamanaka from the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) at Kyoto University. I am sure that many of you here participated in this event. I hope that you feel proud to have studied at this university – a world famous university with many competent researchers who have connections with the world’s top experts.
I hope that you will forever stand tall, proudly imparting information about our great Hirodai with those who you encounter along your journey. Among the fellow graduates gathered here today, many of you will move on to do great things for Japan and the world. Please take your next steps forward with confidence.
As you embark on a new chapter in your lives, I pray that the various roads ahead lead to bright futures, filled with promise and hope. Congratulations.
March 23, 2016
President, Hiroshima University