Commencement Ceremony 2021.3.23
Congratulations to the 3,750 students who are graduating from Hiroshima University today. On this auspicious occasion of the AY2020 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. I would also like to pay tribute to everyone who has overcome the adversity of the COVID-19 pandemic. May today mark the auspicious beginning of a new chapter in your life.
I imagine that today’s landmark event is triggering many emotional memories of your time spent here at Hiroshima University. There is also one other aspect to be included in these thoughts: Indeed, you would not be here today without the invaluable contribution and support from your family, teachers, and other people in your immediate vicinity. It is unfortunate that HU was unable to welcome your family members to today’s once-in-a-lifetime ceremony. However, as I am sure you can appreciate, preventing the spread of COVID-19 must be the top priority.
More than a year has passed since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in December 2019. The so-called COVID-19 pandemic has spread all over the world in no time. These circumstances have caused great inconvenience to HU students, such as the long-term restrictions on campus access and on extracurricular activities. However, I am grateful that the awareness and actions of each and every one of you have minimized the spread of infection on campus.
Regarding classes, we started an online timetable for all classes from the beginning of the first term in response to the Declaration of the State of Emergency by the Japanese government. From the second term onwards, HU has offered so-called hybrid lessons, where you can take advantage of both online and in-person classes by gradually increasing the number of in-person lessons.
This pandemic has caused many students to experience challenging financial difficulties due to the loss of part-time jobs and the reduction in family allowance. HU was the first in Japan to start providing emergency student financial support called ‘Emergency Aid for HU Students’. The total number of benefits is 880, with international students accounting for a quarter of that number. Those who generously contributed money to HU for this campaign include many alumni of HU, parents and other family members of HU students, faculty and administrative members of HU, and citizens of Hiroshima. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone once again.
In his book “A Study of History,” Dr. Arnold Toynbee, a leading British historian of the 20th century, left the following words:
“Human civilizations are born, not as the result of good biological qualities of the tribes concerned or of the geographical environment. Rather, they embody a powerful response by the people concerned to a particular challenge or difficulty that had inspired them, requiring unmatched endeavours in the process.” (Somervell’s abridgement edition)
Dr. Toynbee concluded that a new civilization emerges when a cycle of ‘Challenge and Response’---responding to challenges from the natural and human environments---has been successfully completed. In other words, adversity is the driving force behind civilization.
Right now, our society is facing a challenge/difficulty in the form of the COVID-19 infection. This pandemic is posing a big question to our society: that of whether or not we are equipped with a calibre of ‘responsiveness’ which is able to cope flexibly with the changes to our lifestyles and the core nature of the country.
With a perspective or mindset such as this, HU has been moving forward by tackling the issues of the reforms which are due. Regarding HU Graduate Schools, the integration of 11 Graduate Schools into four Graduate Schools was completed last year, and the four Graduate Schools of Humanities and Social Sciences; Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering; Graduate School of Integrated Sciences for Life; and Graduate School of Biomedical and Health Sciences have been established, with research and education being conducted beyond the conventional framework of specialized fields.
Regarding internationalization of HU, the Arizona State University/Thunderbird Graduate School of Global Management-Hiroshima University Global Initiative at HU was established on the Higashi-Hiroshima Campus in October last year. Furthermore, in December it was decided to establish the Morito Institute of Global Higher Education on the premises of Capital Normal University in Beijing in China. Both are the first cases for a Japanese national university, and the recruitment and enrolment of students will begin in earnest this year. HU’s International Exchange Centre, which accepts international students and researchers, is also scheduled to open this autumn.
This COVID-19 pandemic has given me a good opportunity to reflect on and appreciate normal everyday life that I have taken for granted. All of you are about to set sail onto an unknown ocean called life. In your journey across the seas, there may be times when you are hit by a storm or you lose your sense of direction. In the Chinese classics, there is an idiom which states; ‘彰往察来’ or 「しょう おう さつ らい」, which means ‘To know the past and prepare for the future.’ At such times, I am convinced that if you keep thinking with your own minds while using history as a guide, you will surely find a way through.
From today onwards, I would like you to be very proud of being a graduate of HU. If you believe in yourself and make a habit of doing your utmost in your life, I am fully convinced that some of you here will be playing a leading role in Japan or in the world. Finally, I would like to express my heartfelt wish that what lies ahead in your future lives will satisfy all of your hopes and dreams. Congratulations once again!
23rd March 2021 (Reiwa 3)
Mitsuo Ochi, President of Hiroshima University