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Autumn Term Commencement Ceremony 2020.9.18

Autumn Term Commencement Ceremony 2020.9.18

On this auspicious occasion of the Autumn Term Commencement Ceremony 2020, on behalf of Hiroshima University, I would like to offer my deepest and heartfelt congratulations to all the 337 students who are graduating today.

As we are all aware, the novel coronavirus has spread like wildfire across the world. Japan is no exception to this. Since this April, HU has been forced to transition most of its in-person classes to online delivery, and at certain times, it has had to implement a no-entry-to-campus policy. This is something that is unparalleled in HU’s history, but it has been unavoidable, in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus on campus.

I understand that the outbreak of the novel coronavirus has badly affected the lives of many HU international students. For example, their monthly income from work has seen a sharp drop, and many international students have had no choice but to stay in Japan, unable to travel back to their home countries, which has left them feeling uneasy and worried. With a view to supporting students who find themselves in great financial difficulty, HU was amongst the quickest of the universities in Japan to provide monetary support, started on 21 April 2020, from the funds raised by ‘Emergency Aid for HU Students’. Once again, I would like to express my deep gratitude to those who generously contributed money to HU on that occasion. These donors include many alumni of HU, parents and other family members of HU students, citizens of Hiroshima, and faculty and administrative members of HU.

In particular, I would like to express my appreciation and to pay tribute to all the students here today who have managed to overcome these difficulties. 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 is thought that the novel coronavirus in question was originally transferred to humans from wild animals carrying the virus. Global warming coupled with the ongoing destruction of the natural environment such as rain forests, have resulted in the displacement of more and more wild animals. Hence, they are more likely to come into contact with people and farm animals. In addition, we now see globally an increase in the trade volume of wild animals for human consumption. In my view, these are the contributing factors to the increase in outbreaks of a new series of infectious diseases (including COVID-19).

It seems to me that the pandemic state of the novel coronavirus across the world is a warning from nature to modern society, which has long advocated supremacy of the economy and scientism. They both put efficiency above anything else. In this unprecedented era of corona and post-corona, I feel that it is our duty to revisit the issue of how humans should co-exist with nature.

This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima. With the founding principle of ‘a single unified university, free and pursuing peace’, HU was established on the scorched land of Hiroshima in 1949. Since my inauguration as President of HU, I have been committed to cultivating ‘peace-pursuing, cultured individuals with an international mindset and a challenging spirit’, especially because ‘pursuing peace’ is one of the missions of HU. This year saw the delivery of the “2020 student HIROSHIMA Declaration” by 12 HU students from six countries/regions, which is part of the ongoing peace project at HU. The aim of this is to disseminate the message of peace to the world. As you are about to make a new start in your life from today, I would like you think about what you can do to realize peace in the world, and then to act upon your thoughts.

Almost all of the scheduled reforms have been carried out on time at the HU Graduate Schools in April this year. These reforms have entailed reorganizing eleven Graduate Schools into four. Through the reform process, I think that we have successfully organized a system of developing human resources where students are not only equipped with specialized knowledge, but are also able to collaborate with those from different research fields.

Malcom Gladwell, a famous American columnist, talks about the ‘10,000-hour rule’ in his book entitled ‘Outliers’. The rule says ‘10,000 hours of deliberate practice are needed for anyone to become a super-high achiever in any field.’ In other words, it takes countless hours of hard practice before your talents and skills blossom.

Apart from the pandemic of the novel coronavirus, the world is now facing many difficult issues, including global environmental problems, nuclear-related problems, poverty, and various kinds of abuse. I implore you to make the most of your knowledge and skills attained at HU by making every attempt to address these issues without holding back.

Finally, I would like to express my heartfelt wish that what lies ahead in your future life will fulfil all of your hopes and dreams. Congratulations once again!

18th September 2020 (Reiwa 2)
Mitsuo Ochi
President, Hiroshima University