President Kamata’s 2015 commencement speech

Congratulations to all graduates.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank family and friends who have tirelessly supported today’s graduates both physically and mentally.

Among today’s 12,245 graduates are 9,147 Bachelor’s Degree students, 49 students from the Art and Architecture School, 2,171 Master’s Degree students, 680 Professional Degree students, and 198 Ph.D. students.

Among the 757 international graduates of 2015 are 270 Bachelor’s Degree students, 393 Master’s Degree students, 40 Professional Degree Students, and 54 Ph.D. students.

Most of today’s graduates were admitted in 2011, a year Waseda University did not hold entrance ceremonies. In consideration of those affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear disaster, and to avoid the dangers of assembling everyone amid ensuing aftershocks, entrance ceremonies were suspended and classes were postponed by one month. It was necessary for us to consider the burden placed on transportation systems hindered by the nuclear disaster and the schedules of international students coming to Japan. For those admitted in 2011, today is your first ceremony at Waseda. The Memorial Hall which hosts this ceremony will undergo reconstruction in August and reopen at homecoming five years from now.

The Great East Japan Earthquake taught us several lessons.

One regarded the weakening of trust towards scientists and researchers during the Fukushima nuclear disaster and inconsistent information communicated thereafter. The Science Council conducted many honest discussions regarding the state of science and academics, and Waseda University published a voluminous compilation of essays entitled “Reflecting on 3/11: 92 Analyses and Proposals” which details its education, research, and other reconstruction efforts.

The earthquake also taught us about the strength of individuals and the bonds that bring us together.

As you well know, the resilience and calm manner of victims despite the unprecedented scale of the disaster, as well as the support of individuals nationally and abroad, received international praise. One example is Dr. Mikihito Ishiki, Chairman of the Iwate Prefectural Health Service Bureau and graduate of Waseda University’s School of Science and Engineering, who protected patients in coma as the tsunami rose to the roof of the Iwate Prefectural Takata Hospital. Over 100 residents evacuated to the roof of the hospital where they were rescued by helicopter the next day. With his home and work place lost, and uncertain of his wife’s whereabouts, Dr. Ishiki immediately began performing medical examinations at an evacuation center. Not only had Dr. Ishiki lost his home and work place, he did not know of his wife’s whereabouts. The remains of Dr. Ishiki’s wife were found three weeks after the earthquake. Despite these tragic circumstances, Dr. Ishiki bolstered his spirit and committed himself to rebuilding the medical examination system lost in the disaster. Remarkably, he revitalized the Iwate Prefectural Takata Hospital in its entirety. “Many people lost their homes and families. However, everyone has to continue living,” said Dr. Ishiki. This comment resonated with me greatly.

In Onagawa of Miyagi prefecture, executive managing director of seafood company Sato-suisan and School of Law graduate, Mitsuru Sato, led 20 research students from Dalian, China to high ground before attempting to return to his home to look for his family. Before their eyes, the Chinese research students witnessed the tsunami swallow Sato. China’s Xinhua News Agency was moved by Sato’s bravery and spread his story across the nation. Former Premier of China, Wen Jiabao, visited the location where the incident took place and expressed his thanks to Sato. Upon returning to China, he established a foundation in Dailan to support Sato’s family and company. Sato’s will has become a bridge for a flourishing China-Japan relationship.

Our students along with our faculty proactively participate in communal, volunteer efforts to revitalize afflicted areas. These activities include fund-raising, rubble removal, and mentorship in sports, music, and academics activities for the youth. I wish for all of those who experienced this revitalization process to communicate their experiences to the next generation.

As you all well know, Waseda University is supported by three principles: academic freedom, practical innovation, and model citizenship. Because “model citizenship” can sound nationalistic, this has also been interpreted as being a “citizen of the world.”

Concerning the meaning of this principle, Okuma Shigenobu said the following:

“Developing good character is the foundation of education. However, one will become selfish  if they forget this and only concern themselves with acquiring expertise. The ethos of sacrifice for one’s own country and the world is fading. Civilization should fear this direction. Model citizens are the only ones who can promote truth and divert this trend. This is the most important principle of Waseda University. We must commit ourselves throughout our lives to realize this ideal.”

I believe Sato, Dr. Ishiki, and all of our students who commit themselves to revitalizing affected areas from the disaster are realizing this ideal.

Waseda University’s first graduation ceremony in July of 1884 welcomed prominent statesmen such as Fukuzawa Yukichi, Hozumi Nobushige, Yukio Ozaki, and Maejima Hisoka. However, among the graduates were only four students from the School of Political Science and Economics and seven from the School of Law.

130 years after the first graduation ceremony, we are a large-scale university of 12,245 graduates. Our prestigious 60,000 alumni around the world involved in all fields have contributed to the development of our university. The seven alumni who became prime ministers, those involved in the top ranks of politics and business, Dr. Mikihito, Sato, and national treasure, Nakamura Kichiemon II, who graciously spoke at the second ceremony on March 25 did not excel by simply repeating what they learned at Waseda University. I believe that their devotion to education before entering and after graduating university enabled them to develop their character and abilities.

Today’s knowledge-based society not only concerns itself with quality and quantity, but demands expertise, skills, and information processing abilities, requiring one to continually acquire new perspectives and go beyond their limitations. Within the government’s Education Rebuilding Council, as well as in the third proposal of the university reform introduced two years ago, extending to this year and to the sixth proposal, the importance of “continuing education after graduation” is evident.

During Shigenobu Okuma’s commencement speeches, he told students that even if they fail, and continue failing, they must be courageous and accumulate experience. He also explained the importance of refining knowledge obtained through their studies. I would like to share a segment of a speech delivered by Okuma to graduates in 1909. This speech is over 100 years old, but retains its significance to this day.

“Physical strength is limited, wisdom is nearly limitless. One must study to develop wisdom. Investigate everything and this wisdom gradually develops. Even an aging person like me has adopted a studious demeanor. Every time I investigate something and research it to my fullest extent, I come closer to the truth. You can overcome any tribulation as long as you are diligent and have the will to do so……One cannot reach their full potential as a human being if they do not challenge themselves. The world around us is different from school. Even Japan no longer feels like an island country, requiring us to work globally. Many problems will occur that we will not be able to predict so we must  be studious and strive for knowledge until the end of our days. Attending and graduating from university has left a deep impression on all of you which you will never forget. I sincerely believe Waseda University has provided a foundation for hope and is a place of enlightened citizenry with profound ideals, giving back to past generations.”

I implore you to continue learning from here on out and bring about endless prospects for yourself. While you set off to reach those prospects, I promise that Waseda University will continue reforming itself and strive to become a university that “you can return to any time, you will want to return to, and a university worth returning to.”

Congratulations and I wish you all the best.

  Kaoru Kamata, President
Waseda University

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