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Autumn Term Commencement Ceremony 2018.9.20

Autumn Term Commencement Ceremony 2018.9.20

On this auspicious occasion of the Autumn Term Commencement Ceremony 2018, on behalf of Hiroshima University, I would like to offer my deepest and heartfelt congratulations to all the 324 students who are graduating today. In particular, I would like to pay tribute to the international students here today, whose academic achievements are all the more significant because of their tremendous efforts to overcome language and culture differences. At the same time, the invaluable contribution and support of family, friends, and other significant people such as fellow students, should never be forgotten.

It has been more than two and a half months since the torrential rain struck Western Japan including Hiroshima Prefecture in early July, leaving much damage and destruction in its wake. Many people fell victim to landslides and the flooding of local rivers. My condolences go to the bereaved families of those who lost their lives. Also, my deepest sympathies go to the survivors of the disaster, whose daily lives have been greatly inconvenienced by having to move into local evacuation shelters.

Due to the torrential rain, the HU campus suffered some property damage: some of the facilities were inundated with muddy water, and some slopes on campus partially collapsed. Following the disaster, HU had to make a series of swift decisions regarding a number of problems. For example, the prompt provision of halal and vegetarian food to some of our international students, and the securing of transportation to and from campus. At the same time, the university had to notify students and faculty members of the cancellation of certain lectures, the dates for make-up classes, and the re-scheduled dates for the end-of-term examinations. Despite the fact that HU students suffered a lot of inconvenience, they coped admirably, adapting to the situation in a calm and positive manner. For that I am very grateful.

Representing the local national universities in the Chugoku-Shikoku area as well as the whole of Japan, the “Inspection team of torrential rainfall disaster 2018” was set up, with me at its head. Following the disaster, the team went into action immediately. The team, comprising disaster prevention experts who specialize in engineering, sediment erosion control, psychology, and medicine, are in the process of conducting specialist investigations and analyses. The team intends to put forward a proposal for the reconstruction/rebuilding of the towns affected by the disaster.

Furthermore, it has been decided that this Disaster Investigation Team will be upgraded to form the core of a new global research center called the “Hiroshima University Resilience Research Center.” The center’s aim will involve conducting cutting-edge inter-disciplinary research in the area of disaster science, focusing on the topic of “synergistic torrential rainfall disaster,” such as landslides and flooding of the inland waterways, all of which result in damage to widespread areas.

With recent global warming, the kind of natural disaster which used to be encountered once in several decades, is now frequently striking the globe. When a disaster of this nature strikes us, we somehow tend to interpret it to our own advantage and say, “Well, it has never happened before, so everything should be all right.” Japan’s disaster management of the rain inundation in early July clearly highlighted the difficulties and risks involved for relying on knowledge from the past few decades when we need to assess the extent of the present damage and take some decisive action.

As we move forward, we cannot afford to look away from global issues such as natural disasters, a worsening global environment, regional conflicts/acts of terrorism, and the ongoing gap between rich and poor; none of which can be solved easily.

When faced with a trying question such as this, I often recall the following words by the English critic Gilbert Keith Chesterton: “One can make the future luxuriant and gigantic, so long as one is thinking about the past.” , which has something in common with Confucius’ famous saying from the Chinese Classic “The Analects:” “Onko-Chisin,” meaning something like “Visiting the old provides insights into the new.” Of course, this also means that anyone who cherishes past knowledge, can also impart it to others. I would like you to examine your forerunners’ footsteps that will give you all the will to blaze a new trail.

In the context of rapid globalization, our society and the world as a whole are becoming highly information-based through the rise of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, resulting in drastic changes. In response to these changes, Hiroshima University opened the School of Informatics and Data Science (the 12th School at HU) and the Department of Integrated Global Studies at the School of Integrated Arts and Sciences in April this year. In addition, the reorganization of the Graduate Schools at Hiroshima University will start next April. Such reorganization is yet another indication of how all of us faculty and administrative members at Hiroshima University are committed to consolidate a strong future for Hiroshima University.

Finally, I sincerely hope that your road ahead will lead to a brilliant future, filled with promise and optimism. Congratulations once again!

20th September 2018
Mitsuo Ochi
President, Hiroshima University