Commencement Ceremony 2020.3.23

Commencement Ceremony 2020.3.23

Congratulations to the 3,671 students who are graduating from Hiroshima University today. On this auspicious occasion of the 2019 Degree 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.

Although I fully understand that today’s commencement ceremony is once-in-a-lifetime event for all of you, prioritizing the prevention of the spread of new coronavirus infections is of utmost importance. This, I regret to say, has resulted in the unfortunate format of today’s commencement ceremony.

On this commemorative day, I would like all of those graduating today to once again reflect upon the invaluable contribution and support you have had so far from your family, teachers, and other significant people.

In my view, in the future we will reflect on the latter half of 2010s, which marked the change of era from Heisei to Reiwa, as being the beginning of a new age, when the world inevitably started to face the risks involved in the process of globalization.

The following are good examples of a string of problems of global scale: the torrential rain disaster that struck Hiroshima prefecture in 2018 caused by global warming, as well as the current coronavirus pandemic.

When it comes to the history of humankind and infectious diseases, one should not forget about the contributions made by John Snow, a British physician, known as the father of modern epidemiology. In mid-19th century London, there was a cholera pandemic. By visiting each household of cholera cases, Snow was able to identify the source of the disease, as he realized that all the households were using the same public water supply. Snow was able to prevent further spread of the disease by having the water source sealed off. That was more than 30 years before the discovery of the cholera bacillus.

Later on, Snow left the following words in “On the Mode of Communication of Cholera”: “The measures which are intended to prevent disease should be founded on correct knowledge of its causes.” This is a prime example of evidence-based medicine (EBM).

The question here is how we should cope with a crisis-ridden era such as that of the 21st century. I think that tips for answering such a question may lie in the knowledge acquired at university.

Etymologically speaking, the word “academy”, which now means “universities or academic institutions”, can be traced back to the ancient Greek word Akadēm(e)íā. The first Akadēm(e)íā was founded by Plato, a Greek philosopher, on the outskirts of Athens. What is striking here is the fact that it was established not only for the pursuit of pure knowledge such as philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy, but also for the fulfilment of a practical goal to cultivate ideal politicians.

When we discuss roles that universities should play, some people tend to address the issue from a dichotomic point of view, such as ‘basic research vs. application research,’ or ‘quest for truth vs. social contributions.’ However, I think that universities should be united as one now and moving towards the direction taken by Plato’s Academy, which successfully managed to unify such dichotomic views.

In addition, Plato’s Akadēm(e)íā is known as a place which practised a session of dialogues in the form of questions and answers―rather than following lecture-based sessions―so that the students were made to think constantly during each dialogue. As I have repeatedly emphasized on many occasions, what HU students are expected to learn is to acquire not only “how” (the methods), but to keep on training the mind to think “why” (the reasons).

All of you are about to set sail onto an unknown ocean. In your journey across the seas, there may be times when you are hit by a storm or lose your sense of direction. At such times, I am certain that you will be able to overcome the difficulties as long as you set yourself up proper questions and never stop thinking about solutions to them.

HU has been evolving as one of the leading research universities in Japan. For example, in 2013 HU was chosen to be part of the ‘Program to Promote the Enhancement of Research Universities’, and in 2014 it was selected as one of the 13 Type A (Top Type) universities under the ‘Top Global University Project.’ Also, in 2018, the university’s program: ‘The Frontier Development Program for Genome Editing’ was included in the ‘WISE’ Program (doctoral program for ‘World-leading Innovative & Smart Education’). HU was the only university among all of the universities in the Chugoku-Shikoku District to be included in the ‘WISE’ program. Furthermore, in the previous academic year HU was included by the Cabinet Office of Japan in ‘Projects to Create Local Universities and Industries.’ Upon its inclusion, HU established the ‘Hiroshima University Digital Monozukuri (Manufacturing) Education and Research Center’, which is a new addition to its Joint Education and Research Facilities on Campus.

Last year, HU ranked in 1st place for ‘interpersonal communication skills’ and in 3rd place for the ‘ability to take action’ in the ‘Brand image ranking survey of universities in Japan,’ organized by Nihon Keizai Shimbun Incorporation and Nikkei Human Resources Incorporation. I am convinced that we owe such good survey results to a long-standing tradition of education as well as to tireless efforts made by the alumni of HU, who have played or are still playing important roles in society. So, please fly into the future with your head held high as a graduate of HU.

On 6th August 1945, the atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, and four years after the bombing, HU was established on the once-scorched land of Hiroshima as ‘a university of peace.’ This year marks the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing. Without peace, there would be no public order for humankind. I would like all of you to contemplate what you can do to realize peace, as peace-loving, cultured individuals with an international mindset, and to challenge yourselves to find the answers to your questions.

You are encouraged to come and visit your home campus of Hiroshima University from time to time, and it would be nice if you could offer your junior students some advice. I am looking forward to seeing you grow into confident individuals in the future. All faculty and administrative members of HU are united as one and are determined to implement university reforms. Upon your first university ‘homecoming,’ I am quite sure that you will bear witness to a new HU.

I would like to conclude my ceremonial speech today, by wishing each and every one of you a fruitful and enjoyable future.

23rd March 2020 (Reiwa 2)
Mitsuo Ochi, President of Hiroshima University