Commencement Ceremony 2019.3.23
Congratulations to the 3,803 students who are graduating from Hiroshima University today.
On this auspicious occasion of the 2018 Commencement Ceremony, on behalf of the Executive, faculty and administrative members of Hiroshima University, I would like to offer my deepest and heartfelt congratulations to all of you gathered here today.
In addition, I would like all of those graduating today to remember once again the invaluable contribution and support from your family and other significant people.
I should imagine that many of you gathered here today are recalling your past memories of your time spent at HU. Following the torrential rain disaster that struck West Japan in July last year, HU was forced to cancel many lectures and to reschedule the dates of the examinations, greatly inconveniencing students’ daily lives. In spite of such inconveniences, more than 1,000 students at HU acted in a positive manner by, for example, taking part in voluntary work.
The era of Heisei will come to an end on 30th April 2019, when the Emperor of Japan abdicates the throne, and a new era is about to begin. I wonder how the era of Heisei has been for all of you. It is quite significant to be able to witness the end of one era when you are making a new departure in your own life.
The era of Heisei has been a really turbulent time for Hiroshima University. It has taken a quarter of a century for Hiroshima University to complete its relocation to Higashi-Hiroshima campus, which was completed in 1995. In the same year, the Five Guiding Principles of Hiroshima University were established, with “The Pursuit of Peace” as its first principle. In 2004, HU became a National University Corporation. In the first half of Heisei, the university underwent a rebuilding of its base.
In the latter half of Heisei, HU was chosen to be part of the Program for Promoting the Enhancement of Research Universities in 2013, and in 2014 it was selected as one of the 13 Type A (Top Type) universities under the Top Global University Project. In 2018, the university’s program of “The Frontier Development Program for Genome Editing” was adopted for the WISE (Doctoral Program for World-leading Innovative & Smart Education) Program. Both in name and in substance, HU is now recognized as the university aspiring to be on an equal footing with overseas’ world class universities, by committing itself to pursuing superlative research and education as well as social implementation on the global stage. Upon such recognition, HU is now moving forward steadily as one of the leading comprehensive research universities in Japan.
Turning our focus to Japan, in hindsight, at the start of Heisei, Japan was right in the middle of a bubble boom. Then came the bursting of the bubble, followed by the period of so-called “Lost 20 years.” It is said that contemporary Japan is in the middle of what they call an “Abenomics boom.” Meanwhile, the era of Heisei has seen unprecedented and frequent natural disasters bear down on Japan. These include the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995, the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, and Fukushima Nuclear Accident and so on. However, people in Japan never seem to succumb to these disasters; instead they unite as one, to cope with the recovery and reconstruction process after each disaster. Such attitude is highly praised world-wide.
Turning our eyes to the world, it was in 1989 (Heisei 1) when the world saw the fall of the Berlin Wall that had symbolized the Cold War. However, after the horrific 9.11 terror attacks in 2001, unfortunately our hope for peace and reconciliation has been waning as the world has seen an escalation of regional conflicts. With the rise of “National Particularism” and the nuclear arms race between the Superpowers in the world, I cannot help but feel very concerned and wonder whether the world is now going back to the days when countries were divided and mutually confrontational.
Edward Hallett Carr, a British historian, once said, “History is an unending dialogue between the present and the past.” I think that his saying indicates that it is important to possess a diverse and flexible way of thinking, which is obtained by illuminating the past in the light of the present, and vice versa, when deciding our future direction.
From today, you are about to set sail onto an unknown ocean. When you lose your sense of direction during your long voyage, I am certain that you should be able to find a solution or support regarding the issue at hand by meticulously examining your predecessors’ footsteps.
In “Man’s Search for Meaning,” a world-famous classic written by Jewish psychiatrist, Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, witnessed many of his fellow Jewish men being subjected to torture and subsequently passing away one after another during his imprisonment in Auschwitz. However, he was able to maintain his dignity as a human, his will to live, and a glimmer of hope during his imprisonment.
I think that the door to the future will only open to those who think into the future without despairing of their life and discipline the present self accordingly. Therefore, I am convinced that you should not lose sight of who you are when everything looks bleak, but rather to think about each task and continue to deal with it as much as you can. To do that, I think it is important for us to think about not only “how” (i.e. dealing with practical issues), but also “why” (i.e. the meaning of our lives).
So, I would like you to be confident and proud of having studied at Hiroshima University. By taking the goal of the founding principle, “The Pursuit of Peace” to your heart, please think with your head and lead your life with an active challenging spirit.
You are most welcome to come and visit your home campus of Hiroshima University from time to time, and it would be nice if you could give any kind of advice to your juniors. I look forward to seeing you grow into confident individuals in the future.
I would like to conclude my ceremonial speech today, by wishing every one of you a fruitful and enjoyable future.
23rd March 2019 (H31)
Mitsuo Ochi, President of Hiroshima University