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Autumn Term Commencement Ceremony 2019.9.20

Autumn Term Commencement Ceremony 2019.9.20

On this auspicious occasion of the Autumn Term Commencement Ceremony 2019, 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 differences in language, culture and lifestyle. At the same time, the invaluable contribution and support of family, friends, and other significant people such as fellow students, should never be forgotten.

As you are probably aware, “Reiwa” has been chosen as Japan’s new era name. Interestingly, such a naming system is unique to Japan. It is sometimes said that the name change from one era to the next serves to close one chapter and open the next to a fresh start. Dr. Susumu Nakanishi, who is said to have come up with the new era name, is well-known as a leading expert on the Manyoshu, the oldest anthology of Japanese poems. Regarding the era name Reiwa or 令和, Dr. Nakanishi said: “These two Kanji characters include the desire for an era in which people live graciously and peacefully.”

Between 1943 and 1945, Dr. Nakanishi was at the junior high school attached to Hiroshima Higher Normal School, which was one of the forerunner schools of Hiroshima University. He was already living in Tokyo when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Consequently, many of the people he knew, including his former teachers and classmates, fell victim to the bomb. His personal attachment to peace seemed to stem from his boyhood experiences.

Hiroshima University was established in 1949 with the founding principle of “a single university, free and pursuing peace”, as a symbol of this world city of peace, Hiroshima, which recovered from the calamities caused by the atomic bomb. “The mindset of pursuing peace” has always been the core principle of Hiroshima University, and I have also been committed to “the cultivation of peace-pursuing, cultural individuals with an international mindset and a challenging spirit” since being appointed as Hiroshima University President four years ago.

As members of Hiroshima University located in Hiroshima, I think that now is the time for each and every one of us to think seriously about what we can do to help realize world peace. As you are about to make a new start in your life, I also would like you to use your head to think about what you can do.

In the coming age, we will be seeing the arrival of a highly informatized society through the application of big data and AI (Artificial Intelligence) as well as the rapid globalization of people, things/information. However, some unforeseen technological challenges, such as Singularity, may also be waiting for you. If such future arrives, I believe that humanity we possess will play an important role.

In his advice to young people, Dr. Albert Einstein contributed the following words to Life magazine in 1955 (the final year of his life): “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.” Be it in your studies or your life, I am also convinced that it is important to keep on asking yourself “Why?”

In July 1955, the world was witnessing an escalation of the Cold War. This prompted Dr. Einstein and Sir Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher, to draw up the “Russell-Einstein Manifesto.” Numerous scientists of the day added their signatures to this manifesto, thus highlighting the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. Sixty-four years after the declaration of the manifesto, we now see national particularism being a popular trend around the world. In addition, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which in some way served as a deterrent to the nuclear arms race in the past, has been nullified now. Thus, I cannot help but to say that the next crisis is underway in the world.

Furthermore, the world is now facing a wide range of challenging issues including poverty, starvation, environmental problems and so on. In your life, you may come across many challenges. At such times, I sincerely hope that you will never give up and be able to cope with them by making use of what you have attained---be it knowledge or skills---at Hiroshima University.

Finally, you are about to embark on a new chapter in your life in the new era of Reiwa today. I would like to express my heartfelt wishes that what lies ahead in your future life will fulfil all of your hopes and dreams. Congratulations once again!

20th September 2019 (Reiwa 1)
Mitsuo Ochi
President, Hiroshima University