Waseda University Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies
Graduation Ceremony Address
Dean and Professor
Congratulations to the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies Class of Spring 2021.
On behalf of everyone at GSAPS, I would like to extend my sincere celebrating remarks to you as you just reach this milestone and embark on your next journey. I would also like to express my congratulations and sincere gratitude to the family members who have supported your graduate studies at GSAPS.
Your final year at GSAPS has undoubtedly been as challenging as it has been unique. Due to the covid crisis, the campus was closed and all classes were moved online in the Spring Semester last year. Though some classes were partially reopened for face-to-face instruction in the Fall Semester, at GSAPS most of our students are international students and many could not even enter Japan. Ultimately, semester classes and the MA and PhD defense interviews were held online. We are lucky to be able to hold our graduation ceremony in person today, but unfortunately nearly half of the graduates are unable to attend in person and are instead watching this by online.
The covid crisis is changing the nature of international society as we know it. From the onset of the pandemic, countries closed their borders to stop the spread of the virus, causing extraordinary restrictions on international mobility which continue today. Further, though the pandemic is the epitome of a global issue, international cooperation and global governance have hardly been effective in coordinating efforts toward vaccine development and distribution and measures to stop the spread of the virus. This situation gives us not only the opportunity but also the responsibility to imagine and create a new system of international cooperation and global governance. It is my hope that, using the knowledge you have gained at GSAPS, you will contribute to the building of this new international society.
As you advance on your life’s path, I hope you will remember that such contribution to society through knowledge is a founding mission of Waseda University. Waseda University was established 139 years ago in 1882 by the Marcius Okuma Shigenobu whose vision was to create a university that would contribute to the world through scholarship. In his 1913 address at the 30-year anniversary ceremony of the founding of Waseda University, Okuma introduced the “Waseda University Mission Statement” which consists of three pillars: “independence of scholarship,” “practical application of scholarship” and “fostering of good citizens.” These three pillars, representing the basic philosophy of the university, continue to guide all activities at Waseda today. Specially about “practical application of scholarship,” we have continued to share the vision of the university that is not an “ivory tower” but one that collaborates with and contributes to society. Thus, it is my sincere hope that each and every one of you, as Waseda graduates, will contribute to building a peaceful and prosperous international society in the post-covid era.
This year happened to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, giving me a chance to reflect on Waseda’s mission of contribution to society in a different light. Even amidst the chaos and confusion immediately following the earthquake, the university drafted a plan to support the recovery and reconstruction of the affected areas. As a result, an extraordinary amount of donation money was collected and nearly 9000 student volunteers traveled to the disaster zone to help remove debris and provide other needed support. The area outside of GSAPS Building 19 was designated as the boarding area for the charter bus to Tohoku for the student volunteers. I can still vividly remember large crowds of Japanese and international students alike lining up to board the bus for what seemed like weeks on end.
Yet Waseda’s contribution did not stop with gathering donations and sending volunteers. A focus on “research-based reconstruction support” was included as part of the support plan for Tohoku, and over the past ten years various initiatives and research projects for the revitalization and future of the affected areas have been carried out. One such project, and a source of immense pride for the GSAPS community, is our GSAPS Professor Shunji Matsuoka’s research on nuclear energy policy and the revitalization of Fukushima Prefecture. Though the aim of Professor Matsuoka’s research was to “present a universal disaster recovery model to the world,” he proceeded his research in close collaboration and cooperation with the Fukushima community, never imposing external ideas. He established spaces for community members to discuss ideas for reconstruction and based his research on these discussions. With the ideas, opinions and visions of the Fukushima community as a foundation, he built new knowledge through his research which he then brought back to Fukushima, contributing to the recovery effort. Professor Matsuoka’s research is the embodiment of Waseda’s mission of “practical application of scholarship.”
For the past two years you have studied hard at GSAPS to earn your degree and now many of you are probably hoping to use your new degree and knowledge to find good jobs and better your lives. There is nothing wrong with that of course, but I also hope that as a graduate of Waseda University you will think seriously about how you can use your knowledge to contribute to society in the spirit of “practical application of scholarship.”
I would like to close my address with a verse from Waseda’s alma mater:
Her students change from year to year,
Meet and part with youth’s delight,
Yet all alike we seek to share
These ideals and their light
Some years ago you gathered at Waseda from across the globe, and now you will embark on your next challenge. It is my sincere wish that you take with you “these ideals and their light,” using what you learned at GSAPS to create a more peaceful and happier world for all.
Again, my heartfelt congratulations. Thank you indeed.