Congratulations, graduates! It is my great pleasure to offer sincere congratulations to you, your families and all those who have supported you in reaching this important milestone.
Thank you to everyone who has come out to join us here today, from the administrative councilors of the university, external trustees and auditors to the chairperson of the Ouinkai Alumni Association, our board members and honored friends of the university.
All of you that are graduating today may remember back to your university entrance ceremony, held in March 2011 just after the Great East Japan Earthquake. Many university entrance ceremonies were canceled that year. Still, amidst predictions of aftershocks we decided to hold a simple entrance ceremony for internal university members only while taking every precaution possible. Remembering that time makes me all the more grateful that so many family members and others are with us here today to share the excitement of this graduation ceremony.
Since the quake, the university has continued to provide support to the disaster-stricken region. We learned a lot from the experience of that massive disaster. Exposed to the fury of the power of nature, we came to realize how fragile our everyday lives really are. We also came to realize that today will give way to tomorrow, just as tomorrow will give way to the next day, and we were reminded how precious and vital it is to just go on living, one day at a time. While we saw the bright and promising aspects of scientific development and technological progress that make our lives so rich and full of convenience, we also felt the pain of their dark sides.
In modern science, human beings confront and attempt to control nature, or achieve remarkable growth by developing methods of supplanting nature using human means. Our mission is not to halt that growth, but to help amplify and drive it forward. At the same time, it is essential for us to be aware that while progress has a bright side, it has a dark side as well.
It can be described like this:
"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."
(K. Jaspers, The Origin and Goal of History)
We should neither unconditionally believe nor reject the notion that science and technology can solve every problem. We should ask how we advance scientific and technological progress while using these tools to improve people’s lives. The key to this is a question of our humanity. We need to equip students with a particular type of specialized knowledge as well as to foster their ability to gain a broader overview of nature, society and the world.
Descartes, known as the founder of modern Western philosophy, metaphorically compared philosophy to a tree His idea of philosophy consists of practical science, basic science and metaphysics.
Medicine and technology are compared to the seeds of the tree. The trunk of the tree is science, which is the discipline that deals with the principles of nature.
Practical science conducted to obtain the seed of a beautiful tree may be useful for achieving a near-term goal. The seed of a tree is, naturally, created from the process of flowering, bearing fruit and ripening. Flowers emerge out of buds that appear on branches, branches grow from the trunk, and the roots in the soil support the trunk. We tend to focus our attention on the beautiful flower or the magnificent tree, but it takes a long time for those things to take the form in which we see them. The roots in the ground that support the tree and absorb nutrients enable the tree to bear fruit. It is vital for us to remember that there is an entire system in place to support the tree’s growth.
The ability to see the foundations of a thing—that is, the ability to see the whole picture, including the roots and the trunk—depends on the quality of the knowledge each individual possesses.
Four years ago, Ochanomizu University launched a new educational program known as the multiple program elective course system. This program is designed to allow students with the ability to study independently to pursue an expansive breadth and depth of knowledge in their chosen discipline. The program hopes to equip students with a broad general education and a deep knowledge in their field of specialization as well as with a certain depth of general education and breadth of specialized knowledge.
You students graduating today are the first graduates who studied under this program. The results of your learning will surely become more evident over the coming years.
Three years ago, we planted two apple trees at the main gate of the university. These trees haven’t borne fruit yet, but they are showing robust growth. By the time these apple trees bear fruit, you all will be out playing unique roles in the world. I look forward to seeing how you put the knowledge you gained here at this university to use out in the wider community.
Right now there is a particular need for women to play a greater role in society. There is a numerical goal of having 30 percent of women contributing to decision-making processes by 2020. I believe this is meaningful beyond the fact that it will indicate increasing the number of women participating in the workforce. It’s also significant because it will indicate that people have access to unheard new perspectives. New ways of thinking will be expressed in different settings, and as a result, we will strive to create new forms of social development.
Toward that end, Ochanomizu University, as a national women’s university, is committed to educating women who can demonstrate leadership in society. The leadership education we envision is a process less about cultivating individuals who will exercise strong authority and lead large masses of people and more about cultivating people who will take ownership of their roles and responsibility for moving an organization forward.
We therefore focus on three principles of education: knowledge, insight and tolerance. Building on the base of genuine knowledge, we express the ability to make appropriate judgments as insight. Issues can be viewed from a variety of angles depending on one’s perspective, and it is important to have the ability to take that into account when making judgments. At the same time, one of our educational principles is tolerance, meaning respect for other people and other ways of doing things. We can say “knowledge is power” by combining these three elements.
We have created several spaces on campus that serve as places to gather and be together. Four years ago we established a new student dorm, Ochanomizu University Students Community Commons. This student commons was designed on the concepts of living together, learning together and growing together, and serves as an educational dorm. The first class of students that spent two years living in that new dorm is now graduating.
The university library’s Learning Commons is a prior example of a commons based on the concepts of learning together and growing together. This became a model for other national universities, and has been nurtured by students, staff and faculty. Today we have four spaces built on the “living together” concept.
Under global conditions where diverse influences are coming into conflict with one another, you all need to become active participants in the conversation, whether in Japan or elsewhere in the world. We can expect to experience great difficulty in finding our perspective when diverse values intersect and sometimes oppose each other. At those times, I hope you will feel proud to have acquired knowledge and developed the foundations for increasing insight at a university that adheres to a principle of living together. The diploma you received today proves that you have acquired the ability to overcome challenges even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Over the course of the 140-year history of this university, many graduates have gone on to play roles in many different positions in society, and I hope this will encourage you on your journey.
All of you graduating today will seek the new world, and I’m confident it is just waiting to see what you bring to it. I sincerely hope you will use the knowledge you gained here to conduct further study and make good use of your skills and talents. I will be pleased to see you meet the expectations society has of you.
I will also graduate from here in March. I was a student at this university, spent time with students as a faculty member, conducted research, and spent the last six years as university president. I am delighted to have the chance to graduate with all of you, and I will be glad to make even a small contribution to society as a graduate.
More than anything, I sincerely look forward to seeing you lead the next generation and carry this world forward into the future.
Once again, I congratulate you on your graduation, and wish you all the brightest of futures.
March 23, 2015