Spring Semester Entrance Ceremony 2020.4.3
Today, I would like to warmly welcome and congratulate all 3,847 new students enrolled at Hiroshima University.
As the President of this university and one of its alumni, I am delighted and honored to be able to celebrate this memorable day with you. Since the era of Reiwa started, you are the first students to have enrolled to HU for the Spring Semester Entrance Ceremony. This commemorative day is also a good opportunity for you to express your gratitude to your families, relatives and friends, who have given you support and encouragement on numerous occasions.
As you are no doubt aware, infections caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID19) are rapidly spreading all over the world. Under such circumstances, HU naturally puts your health and safety first; that is why I have decided to deliver my ceremonial message in this format. Thank you for your understanding.
It has been 75 years since the first atomic bomb in human history was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, claiming many lives in a fraction of a second. In 1949, only four years after the destruction of HU by the bomb, a new HU was established with the founding principle of ‘a single unified university, free and pursuing peace’, aiming to equip students with the unflagging will to pursue peace, to provide a free and creative learning environment for students, and to implement education that cultivates students with a rich sense of humanity, as well as to contribute to both local and international communities.
One of the origins of HU schools, Hakushima School, was established early in the Meiji period. Throughout the pre-1945 period, all of the nine forerunner schools of HU, including Hiroshima University of Literature and Science, contributed towards establishing a leading tradition of education in Japan. Overcoming the calamities of the atomic bomb, these forerunner schools were amalgamated and reborn as HU after the Second World War. Since the beginning of this restoration of the city of Hiroshima, HU has witnessed steady organizational growth. Today, with a total of about 15,000 home students, the university boasts more than 2,100 international students from 71 countries/regions in the world.
In the past, the university was one of the 22 universities in Japan chosen for the ‘Program to Promote the Enhancement of Research Universities’. What is more, it was one of the 13 Type A (Top Type) universities under the ‘Top Global University Project’ as well as one of the 13 universities that was included in the WISE (Doctoral Program for World-leading Innovative & Smart Education) Program, with HU being the only one in the Chugoku-Shikoku District to have been included in these projects. These examples go to show that the research quality at HU is highly regarded by MEXT.
Universities are often referred to as ‘center of learning’. I believe that many of you are now highly motivated as you have secured a place at HU, with a strong desire to make the most of this opportunity to study your specialist subject. Of course, it is important for you to delve into advanced research related to your specialized area of study. However, the university is not just limited to acquiring advanced knowledge.
Many of you may perhaps assume that there is only one single ‘right answer’ to a given question. However, it is not unusual in the real world to come across a situation where, for example, there are many correct answers to one question, or where one has to deal with unexpected problems to which no right solutions seem to exist.
As a matter of fact, the same applies to each academic discipline, as you are bound to hit the wall in your course of study or research. Take, for example, the recent pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, or climate change brought about by global warming. These are good examples of the real world, where unexpected issues of global crises await us. I think that you are expected to cultivate capabilities through your studies and campus life, which enable you to cope with difficult situations in life. In other words, the essence of learning at university does not lie very much in coming up with a set of pre-existing correct answers to set questions; instead, you are expected to tackle ongoing issues, to proactively set yourself up precise ‘questions’, and then to make good use of your creative and free mind, as you set out and progress along your journey in search of possible solutions.
A liberal arts education can foster a creative mind with an unyielding and challenging spirit. It enables you to attain a multilateral perspective, by familiarizing yourself with a broad range of academic disciplines, including natural science, social science/humanities, and art.
HU has a long-standing tradition in liberal arts education that transcends conventional boundaries between arts and science disciplines. Furthermore, HU will hold a special lecture series entitled ‘Liberal Arts Education for Spreading your Wings around the World’, intended for new undergraduate students. For these lectures, HU invites leaders who play an active role in a variety of fields, such as sports, arts, science and business, as well as in the world of academia. I am convinced that their special lectures will provide you with some useful tips, which will prove useful and encouraging in your life.
Michael Faraday, known to have changed the history of chemistry and physics, is said to have developed his inquisitive mind by reading many science-related books, while he was working at a local bookseller. The following passage is an excerpt from one of his classics ‘The Chemical History of a Candle’:
‘I hope you will always remember that whenever a result happens, especially if it be new, you should say, “What is the cause? Why does it occur?” and you will in the course of time find out the reason.’
In the course of your studies at university, it is important not only to learn ‘how’ (i.e. the methods), but to keep on training the mind to think ‘why’ (i.e. the reasons).
Unfortunately, the end of this novel coronavirus pandemic is nowhere in sight, so it is understandable that many of you may have mixed feelings of hope and anxiety. We, the faculty and administrative members, are keen to create a learning environment that is very safe and hygienic, so that all students at HU are able to concentrate on their studies with peace of mind. We will do our very best to support each and every one of you in your campus life, with the result that you will proudly say how pleased you are to have studied at Hiroshima University. Please feel free to discuss anything that is troubling you, however trivial it may seem, during your life on campus.
Without flinching, HU is keen to move forward hand-in-hand with you all, to bring about a university of world-wide repute and splendor for many years to come.
I would like to conclude my ceremonial speech today by wishing all of you a fruitful and enjoyable student life ahead.
3rd April 2020 (Reiwa 2)
Mitsuo Ochi, President of Hiroshima University