First and foremost, congratulations to all of you on graduating.
Please also allow me to extend my warmest congratulations to the family, friends, and others that have supported our graduates throughout their lives.
I would also like to thank the Ochanomizu University representatives, Administrative Councilors, and the leaders of the Oinkai Alumni Association in attendance for being here with us today.
Last year, with aftershocks from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami still rattling the country, Ochanomizu University held a simplified, restrained graduation ceremony for graduates and faculty members only.
I am so happy and grateful that today, just over one year removed from the horrific events of that fateful day, we have the priceless opportunity to join together and celebrate the graduation of so many wonderful students.
When I think of how the disaster has claimed the lives of over 15,000 people, left more than 3,000 unaccounted for, and created an unprecedented crisis that offers few rays of hope, I find myself discovering new meaning in my role as an educator. To me, one of the most important missions that national universities in Japan need to fulfill is to do whatever possible to aid in the recovery effort and put the country back on its feet.
In the immediate aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, Ochanomizu University sent supplies to the disaster areas. Shortly thereafter, we began providing support to students directly affected by the disaster and created a Disaster Area Support Project Team that serves to collect information on stricken regions and offer educational support where needed. We also launched several on-campus research projects aimed at driving recovery efforts and disaster prevention work. These initiatives, which I hope to sustain for many years to come, will help lay the groundwork for better educational environments in disaster areas.
Support for recovery efforts in disaster areas is, however, just one of the many ways Ochanomizu University has demonstrated its commitment to being an active part of the broader social fabric.
Although seeking universal truths is the fundamental principle of academic research, those involved in academic pursuits must also be ever aware of and sensitive to the constantly transforming social conditions and challenges the world faces.
That perspective is what forms the core of our 21st-century liberal arts education program, which began in 2008 your first year on campus. Our vision of liberal arts education centers on learning how to approach specific problems from a variety of specialized standpoints and applying that breadth of knowledge toward new, effective solutions. Different academic disciplines have widely different ways of tackling problems; we have thus structured our liberal arts program to help students come to an understanding of the idea that thorough expertise is an integral part of problem solving. Over the course of your time here, each and every one of you has cultivated your very own specialized knowledge a resource that will prove valuable in your future endeavors.
Problems and issues are always evolving into new, increasingly complex forms. We need to confront these dynamic forces with flexible, diverse viewpoints, outlooks, and strategies that escape the boundaries of conventional academic fields. Solutions that worked in the past almost never have the same desired effects on contemporary issues. There is no problem-solving manual for today's world. But far-reaching, accurate knowledge gives you an enormous advantage in devising answers. Solving complicated problems requires an ability to operate in every direction, reaching across a broad range of perspectives and digging down into stores of well-honed expertise. Your college career has given you that ability the diploma you just received is proof. Now, it is your turn to make those skills shine.
As we work to develop rich, sustainable societies to battle the onslaught of the complicated problems we now face, we have to grapple with a wide variety of questions: What is the role of higher education in forging solutions? What does society demand from college graduates?
In my view, universities need to discern what lies at the heart of the matter, constantly generate new ideas for society, and deliver new value to the world.
"The future of humanity," as Karl Jaspers said, "is not simply a natural event, borne of itself as a matter of course. What we do, think, and expect now and at every moment shapes the origin of our future."
(Karl Jaspers, The Origin and Goal of History, 1949)
Rather than passively accepting whatever changes impact the world, we have a duty to use our unique knowledge and skills to give life to a new future. At Ochanomizu University, this precept represents the ultimate goal of our leadership education efforts.
We put a great deal of energy into developing leaders, but the leaders we want to create are not just the people who will one day preside over different organizations we envision leaders who embrace a diversity of concepts and perspectives in forming a stronger social infrastructure. These are the people who will stand at the forefront of society. In hopes of forming these types of individuals, we have built our leadership education around the concepts of intelligence, respect for others, and supple, flexible strength.
I was recently amazed to find that almost one third of the members of a national advisory board that I serve on five of 16, with women accounting for 12 of the total seats graduated from Ochanomizu University. This may be just one isolated example, but it nonetheless helps testify to the fact that, over the 137 years since its establishment, our university has been home to pioneers in new fields and the people now responsible for Japan's social infrastructure.
As you make your way into the world, you will undoubtedly come face to face with difficulties you never experienced during your time as a student, challenges that can be confusing and distressing. Whenever you hit a wall, I urge you to remember the valuable lessons you learned here, believe in yourself, trust your judgments, and meet the challenge head-on. Your time at Ochanomizu University has prepared you for these hardships just look at what your predecessors have been able to accomplish. Stride always forward, staying confident and poised at every juncture. We at Ochanomizu University are behind you.
Today marks the start of an exciting journey for our 507 graduates and an extraordinarily proud moment for me as an educator. I know that the future will be a bright one for all of you.
Again, please accept my heartfelt congratulations on this momentous day.
March 23, 2011
President, Ochanomizu University
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