Degree Conferment Ceremony 2017.3.23

Degree Conferment Ceremony 2017.3.23

On this momentous occasion of the Degree Award Ceremony for the Academic Year of Heisei 28 (2016), on behalf of Hiroshima University, I would like to offer my deepest and heartfelt congratulations to 3,693 students who are graduating from Hiroshima University today. All of you, as well as your families and friends, deserve to be proud and overjoyed at this accomplishment. I would also like to express my gratitude for everybody’s support in the form of their attendance here today.

The year 2016 saw the name of Hiroshima being marked in the history books: On 27th May 2016, President Obama, as the first incumbent American president in history, visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, placing a floral tribute at the cenotaph for A-bomb victims. This visit symbolizes a new first step towards realizing world peace.
Another event to be remembered in 2016 is Hiroshima Tôyô Carp’s victory in the Central League Championship for the first time in 25 years. As the team doctor for the Carp, I was invited to the winning parade on 5th November, sharing the joy and excitement of the victory with the team members on the parade bus.
Hence, the year 2016 will be reflected on and talked about as a memorable year for many years to come.

Meanwhile, if we turn our attention to the current affairs of the world, recent events have brought dark clouds with them, resulting in the world becoming more chaotic. For example, last June the UK decided to leave the European Union as a result of a referendum, which was a big surprise to many of us. Then, the new President of the United States of America, Mr. Donald Trump, signed an executive order temporarily banning refugees and citizens of six countries from Africa and Middle East from entering the United States. Our anxieties are further stirred up by our neighboring country repeating nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, as well as by IS (Islamic State) acts of terrorism.
What follows is a direct quote from the 2016 Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm which Dr. Yoshinori Ôsumi also attended. The speech was made by the Chairman of the Nobel Foundation, Professor Carl-Henrik Heldin:

“... today there are dark clouds in the sky around the world. Terrorist acts are a part of many people's daily lives, and wars are under way in many places. International cooperation, cross-border movements and openness are being criticised. Science and knowledge are being questioned, the climate issue being one recent example.
Leading politicians − both in Europe and the United States − are winning votes by denying knowledge and scientific truths. Populism is widespread and is reaping major political successes.
The grim truth is that we can no longer take it for granted that people believe in science, facts and knowledge.”

In the present world, where acts of terrorism and wars have almost become everyday occurrences and populism is sweeping through, people’s trust of science, facts, and knowledge seems to be quite shaky. I cannot help but feel quite concerned about shouting abuse at scientific truths, which are the ultimate outcomes of years of incessant efforts... As we are living in an age of such trends, universities all over the world are now facing challenges about their roles and where they stand as the best knowledge hubs that mankind has ever created.

With the founding principle of “a single unified university, free and pursuing peace,” Hiroshima University was established in 1949 on the land of Hiroshima which had been scorched by a single atomic-bomb. Mr. Tatsuo Morito, the first President of Hiroshima University, once said “...what a university should indicate as a path to follow is not a path for violence and bloodshedding, but a path for peace and cooperation as well as education, science, and culture.” This is because “a university is an academic institution which is firmly convinced of the ultimate victory of the truth.”

I strongly feel that right now universities have to go back to where they started, challenging the afore-mentioned social trends. From an individual’s perspective, what kind of mindset does each individual need to have? Possible answers can be found from the following book entitled “Science and Society (Iwanami Shoten, Publishers),” which was written and published soon after the Second World War, by Dr. Ukichirô Nakaya who is known for his studies on snow crystals:

“To start with, one needs to be clear about and make a habit of the following: to directly observe everything by yourself and to think everything by yourself in any way, however simple it may seem. That is the first step to be taken for Science.”

In this modern world, while confidence towards the three pillars of the 20th Century---democracy, the free market, and science--- is being fundamentally shaken, new research fields including AI (Artificial Intelligence) are rapidly taking the world by storm. As a result, some of you may become uncertain about where you stand in the world, and may not be confident enough to identify your actual position there. We are constantly inundated with information of various kinds from the media as well as from “fake news” spread through Internet sites or SNS. When faced with a difficult and unprecedented challenge that does not seem to have immediate “solutions or answers,” it is the ability to think by yourself, and your knowledge of Liberal Arts to open a new avenue, which are required. Such knowledge is also essential for you to enhance your attractiveness as a person. I sincerely hope that all of you will devote your lives to cultivating your knowledge of the Liberal Arts.

Last summer, a book entitled “Can Hiroshima University be in the Top 100 Universities in the World?” was launched from a bookseller PHP. Many of you here may already know or be aware of it. For Hiroshima University to have been selected as one of the 13 universities with “Type A (Top Type) universities under the FY2014 Top Global University Project” by MEXT, to be ranked within the Top 100 Universities in the world, means guaranteeing an excellent research & education hub to the present and future students of HU. I believe that this is a mission for the present faculties and administrative members of the university. My hope is that this book will appeal to a wide readership, to show them what HU is capable of and to send out an encouraging message to faculty members and administrative members as well as to the present, the past, and the future students of Hiroshima University. 

We held the following special lecture events at HU and had three Nobel laureates to Hiroshima University: Dr. Shinya Yamanaka and Sir John Gurdon last March, and Dr. Takaaki Kajita last November. I would like you to become proud of having studied under many excellent researchers from HU. Indeed, HU cherishes its very cordial relationships with and a network of world-famous, top-class researchers. Even when you are out in the real world, please do not lose sight of your dreams and enthusiasm, be confident with yourself with the catch phrase “Ēne Hirodai! (it means “Nice Hirodai!”), and move through your life.

I would like you to become a person who can look after Japan while leading the world into the future. Should you lead a life without much wealth or status, when you look back on your life, it is my sincere wish that you will be able to say “I have lived a happy life” by living your life to the full. By giving every one of you my blessing who is about to take off into the future, I would like to conclude my farewell speech today.

23rd March 2017
Mitsuo Ochi, President of Hiroshima University