It is my privilege to offer my sincere congratulations to all of the students graduating today, as well as to your families and other well-wishers. I would also like to thank the Administrative Councilors of the University, the Chairperson of the Ouinkai alumni association, Trustees, and professors emeriti for attending today. The diplomas that were awarded today are proof of what you students have learned at Ochanomizu University, and of the foundation for capabilities that will be of use to you in society.
Japan today holds high expectations of an active role by women in society. In particular, you have acquired specialized knowledge at this University and will not take roles simply in acting as members of society, but rather in displaying the leadership to support society. The Japanese government has set a goal of increasing the involvement of women in decision-making processes to 30% by 2020. However, that does not mean that it is simply enough for women to make up that percentage.
In my understanding, what is sought is people who can add novel perspectives and who can propose constructive solutions from an expert standpoint in the consideration of visions and the determination of directions for society. The year 2020 is six years away. I believe that by then, you will each be in a position to play some sort of leadership role. Envisioning this future, Ochanomizu University has launched the Multiple Program Elective Course System, an expert educational system unique to our University. This system allows each and every student to select her own way of proactively learning a specialty and gaining knowledge. This specialized education, together with the Ochanomizu model of Liberal Arts Education Integrating Humanities and Sciences, is aimed at heightening the awareness of issues, broadening the outlook, and deepening the expertise of every student.
It is an educational system that characterizes this University. Although you may not have realized it, you have likely had opportunities for involvement in not only your field of expertise but also in other fields, an experience that should prove an advantage. This is because through the process, it is certain that your perspectives have become diversified, and you have come to understand that there are multitudes of ways to both pose and resolve problems.
This is also found in the meanings of the "intelligence" and "flexibility" espoused in the University's principles for leadership education. You no doubt have all acquired both expert knowledge and the foundations of the capability to use this knowledge to exercise flexible and appropriate judgment. I am confident that you will exert that power to the fullest and will hone it even further.
Along with "intelligence" and "flexibility" is one more principle for leadership education: "thoughtfulness," or respect for others. I keenly felt the importance of this in March 2011, after the Great East Japan Earthquake.
On that day, several hundred people spent the night at our campuses, including the campuses of attached schools. Students, academics, and administrative staff of the University took refuge in this auditorium. Even now I recall how everyone listened attentively to me, followed directions, responded appropriately to a situation that changed minute by minute, and acted with composure. At the time I also realized how the constituent members of this University are people who show consideration to others and who embody generosity, a fact that renewed my pride in the University. When I stand here I always recall that experience, including the tension we felt at the time.
Following the earthquake, we launched multiple projects within the University to support the affected areas, and are continuing educational support through agreements concluded with eight local governments in the region. I believe that among the graduating students today are many who participated in those activities. Reports on the activities record the impressions of participating students, including those who wrote how they realized that the problems of the affected areas are problems that surround ourselves, and students who heard elementary school children in the region talk about their future goals and in turn were spurred to consider what actions they, too, should be pursuing. I can picture those students who, despite feeling powerless, felt they had to make some sort of effort. This includes those who said they felt they learned much through the experience, above and beyond the support that they gave.
Visiting the affected area made me think about what a trifling presence humans have in this world―or how, in the words of Pascal in Pensées, “Man is only a reed, the weakest in nature."
Without question, there are times when mankind gives way before the power of nature.
However, it is also mankind that has investigated nature, shed light on its mysteries, created new environments, and built up civilization. People studying at the institutes of higher learning called universities, along with those of us within universities, have a mission to acquire expert knowledge and leverage it in order to deepen scholarship and become a driving force for the advancement of society. At this time, we face the question of what advancement of society actually means. Scientific investigation and technological progress are necessities for the advancement of society. However, the Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent nuclear power plant incident showed us that these alone are not enough.
It is obvious that scientific investigation must not be hindered by anyone. Inquiring minds, not bound by rigid thinking or social convention, have enabled the past progress of science and have advanced scholarship. Furthermore, it is an indisputable fact that technology has been developed atop the platform of science, and our living space has expanded while our daily lives have become more convenient and affluent. Yet technology is, in the end, only a means. The question is how we should make use of this means―that is, what we should set as our objectives, and how we should make use of those. What mankind sets as its goals and how it uses the means of achieving those are vital matters. The key lies in our ability to exercise judgment.
As Karl Jaspers wrote in The Origin and Goal of History:
"Technology is merely a means, and is itself neither good nor evil. What is important is what humans create from technology, and toward what ends humans use technology. The question is one of what sort of humans are those who are not ruled by technology but who instead rule technology."
It is my hope that all of you will use the knowledge learned at this University as a strength to hone your humanity and, in whatever circumstances you find yourselves, further train your ability to exercise flexible and appropriate judgment. The age we live in today is on the side of women. As our University greets the 140th anniversary of its founding in 2015, I think the conditions we see around us today are a first in that long history. In every era, graduates of the University have played leading roles in a variety of worlds. Japan's first female Ph.D. students studied at this University, and there are alumnae who have gone on to found institutions of learning. Furthermore, Ouinkai, the alumni association of the University, established Ouin Gakuen in the year following the Great Kanto Earthquake, an achievement that amazes me even now. Society now holds great expectations for active involvement by women. Without question, a wealth of opportunities awaits you all.
What differs greatly between the past and today is that global perspectives have become necessary. I am proud to note that our University was selected for school-wide implementation of the Project for Promotion of Global Human Resource Development of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. We launched a number of initiatives beginning last year, and I believe a number of you have even gained overseas experience through the program. Each of you should seize opportunities and exert your abilities to the fullest. Take pride in having learned at this University and exert your capabilities while improving yourself, not only as a woman but also as an individual person with a broad outlook, sound expert knowledge, and excellent judgment. Even when you feel your ability is not enough, have the courage to take on challenges. You have acquired sufficient knowledge to do so, a fact attested to by your degree certificate. I have expectations that you will support the society of tomorrow, will become leaders of the era, and will build an affluent future.
It is my fervent wish that the future of each one of the 480 students graduating today will be a brilliant one.
Today, as I look forward to seeing you gather again at this campus next year when we celebrate our 140th anniversary, I once again congratulate you on your graduation.
March 24, 2014
President, Ochanomizu University
Ochanomizu University Homepage Steering Committee
2-1-1 Otsuka, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-8610, Japan
Copyright © OCHANOMIZU UNIVERSITY. All rights reserved.