Congratulatory Speech by Guest of Honor at 2018 Entrance Ceremony

October 11, 2018

Yasuyoshi Komizo, Chairperson, Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation

The entrance ceremony for Academic Year 2018 featured a congratulatory speech by Mr. Yasuyoshi Komizo, who graduated from Hosei University’s Faculty of Law in 1970.

After completing his studies at Hosei, Mr. Komizo joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and, following a career involving assignments at numerous international institutes, he continues to play an active role on the international stage, striving to bring about a world without nuclear weapons as the Chairperson of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation and as Secretary General of Mayors for Peace.

My sincerest congratulations to you, Hosei University’s newest students, as well as to your families and friends, President Tanaka, and all faculty and staff members.

In everything we do, our foundations---our starting points---are of great importance. President Tanaka just now spoke about the young attorneys in their twenties who very ambitiously launched the Tokyo School of Law, Hosei University’s ultimate predecessor. She also mentioned Dr. Boissonade, who helped put in place Hosei University’s academic foundations and their characteristic “free academic atmosphere and pioneering spirit.” People tend to be forgetful of the debts of gratitude they owe to those who have helped them, but this is not the case in Hosei University. This university highlights its origins and the debts of gratitude owed to those who founded and nurtured the school in its earliest days. I take pride in this. Under President Tanaka, a graduate and a career-long member of Hosei University’s faculty and staff, a “Hosei University Charter” that promotes “Practical Wisdom for Freedom” has been established to manifest the university’s commitment to taking on new challenges from a global perspective.

I began by offering my congratulations to you because of this exciting set of challenges you can take up in this university. We are now in an age of big change, where old systems are becoming increasingly irrelevant and new difficulties continually emerge. In such an age, what role Hosei University can play, with its advocacy of “Practical Wisdom for Freedom,” depends primarily on you, our fellow students, in your own aspirations and actions. In this context, higher education will certainly provide you with great opportunity to build a solid foundation that will allow you to live your life to the utmost in your own choice, but we must not forget the high expectations of the public that you will put the expertise and insight you acquire to good use for the people and the society at large.

As an alumnus, I would like to speak to you today from three perspectives. The first two relate to world peace, starting with the message of Hibakusha, survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Following that, I will talk about a theme of “respecting diversity and searching for common ground”. This theme, I hope, is relevant to the Hosei’s “Statement on Diversity”. Finally, I would like to talk about “expertise in an age of change” through my own experiences and thoughts.

To begin with, let me discuss the invaluable messages of Hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some may ask, “Is there really a need to keep talking about a cruel tragedy of 70 long years ago?” I say “yes” because such cruelty actually happened in our history, during the armed conflicts among countries. When we forget the past, grave mistakes may be repeated. And even now, nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons still exist, and as long as they exist, there are risks of them being used by accident or miscalculation, if not by intention.

The atomic bombs were dropped right in the middle of cities filled with ordinary citizens. Most of the victims were non-combatants. Predominantly, women, children and elderly persons. The cities were reduced to rubble in an instant and, through unbearable sufferings, by the end of 1945, around 140,000 precious lives were lost in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki. Even for those who barely survived, lives were dramatically altered. Countless tears were shed as they struggled with radiation sickness and social discrimination.

Through their unbearable sufferings, Hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have developed an unshakable conviction that “no one else shall ever again suffer as we have.” And with this conviction, they have continued to tell the world their indescribably painful experiences and have warned the world—in particular, future generations—of the dangers and inhumanity of nuclear weapons in order to avoid repetition of their unspeakable misery. Their appeal is not a message of revenge but a profound unifying call to all the people in the world. They are saying that everyone without distinction has a right to live a good life. With great admiration, I have taken their words to heart. And I would be very happy if you, leaders of the next generations, would also take to heart Hibakusha’s message for peace. For I know that a person who has a capacity to understand, with compassion, the deep struggle, misery and genuine aspirations of others can be trusted. We can have a high expectation of a bright future that such young people—with their broad minds, courage and wisdom—can jointly create.

Now let me move on to my second topic. On January 25 of this year, an American scientific journal announced that the Doomsday Clock had been moved forward to two minutes before midnight. This signifies that the world is now closer to destruction than at any time since both the US and the Soviet Union conducted successful hydrogen bomb tests in 1953. Prompting this move in the clock’s setting was an assessment that the world’s leaders have not taken effective measures to address the dangers of nuclear weapons and climate change. Global cooperation transcending differences will be essential for resolving both of these problems. We must also strive to turn mutual distrust into mutual understanding and cooperation if we are to fundamentally resolve the problems of terrorism and refugees.

More than a quarter-century since the Cold War ended, global tension and uncertainty still plague today’s world. Despite the accelerating pace of globalization, a shared sense of belonging to one human family remains to be developed, and socioeconomic disparities are growing. Thus, mutual distrust, division, and conflicts among people remain the unfortunate reality. In recent years, we are further witnessing a worrying trend of intolerance, and rising risk of conflicts turning into violence. In this unstable world, nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons pose danger of catastrophe and their existence is justified by the concept of “nuclear deterrence.”

The concept of “nuclear deterrence” tries to counter mutual distrust by threats of mass killings. To move beyond such an unstable notion, we must strive together to overcome mutual distrust and to transform it into mutual understanding. Difficult issues surrounding Ukraine and North Korea can be made concrete examples of turning confrontational security into cooperative security by conscientious efforts among the states concerned. Only when people engage in dialogue, try to understand differences, respect diversity, seek out common ground, and jointly create common values and goals, will they be able to awaken to a far more significant commonality as members of the same human family. A shared sense of belonging to one human family starts with our humble efforts to understand each other, because we are all different. We have different personalities, cultures, histories, and religions. Each one of us is unique and therefore indispensable. Academic research and education play a significant role in this regard. I am not talking about unsubstantial fancy. What I am describing is a workable pragmatism based on historical evidences and what I have learned and practiced through my own diplomatic experiences. Of course, it is not easy, rather it is destined to be difficult but not impossible. This difficulty gives us all the more reason to start right away because it is the right thing to do.

While I am on this topic, let me share with you an episode involving Professor Kaoru Yasui, my invaluable mentor who taught me international law here in Hosei University. In 1954 soon after the fishing boat “Lucky Dragon” was contaminated by radioactive fallout from a US hydrogen bomb test, an inclusive civil society movement started. Professor Kaoru Yasui was then director of community center and civic library in Suginami Ward in Tokyo. As the chief librarian, he played a key role, together with housewives in a book reading circle at the library, to launch a petition campaign in opposition to atomic and hydrogen bomb testing. The fervent desire of mothers to protect their children’s and grandchildren’s futures developed into an inclusive nationwide campaign overcoming differences and collecting as many as 32 million signatures within a year and a half, prompting parallel efforts worldwide that produced a total of 600 million signatures. These petitions led the United States and the Soviet Union to suspend their nuclear testing and, at the very height of the Cold War following the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, Soviet Premier Khrushchev responded to a political initiative by President Kennedy that overcame their ideological differences, bringing about the conclusion of the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963. This series of events offers an important precedent showing that broad-based grassroots campaigns that transcend differences can have an impact even in the area of security, generally regarded as being entirely within the purview of the state. It is also a historical case of political leadership that achieved nuclear disarmament at the time of heightening international tension, through joint initiative of leaders to reach out and transcend differences.

Finally, let me talk about the topic of “expertise in an age of change” through my own perspective. These are only my personal opinions, of course, but I do hope they will be of some use to you. It is up to each individual to choose his or her area of specialty, which will likely reflect that person’s interests and personality as well as the needs of the times. In order for you to become an expert who can contribute in your own way to society, the following three things may give you some useful clues.

The first is that you need to explore your own quest. You will learn from others but you need to stick with your own basic quest throughout your life. Never forget your starting point. What I like to get at is something similar to the proverb “Never forget what got you there in the first place.” This will require persistence on your part. Keeping in mind your own basic quest, you need to learn a lot from others, think hard and educate yourself. You should build solid foundations for what kind of person you would like to become, in other words, what kind of life you want to lead. This is far more important than what profession you would like to take. You will soon realize that at a time of change, the life span of professional expertise is very short. From a long-term perspective, such an approach to life sticking with your own quest will serve as a sort of magnet that help integrate your variety of experiences into consistent whole.

Second, it is quite rare for people joining the workforce to be able to do always just the kind of work they want to do. Especially in your youth, no matter what tasks you are assigned, it is essential that you give your full effort to the task at hand. If you dig deep, you can find “diamonds” in even a seemingly trifle work assignment. You will know what I am saying as you progress, because partly whatever profession you chose, work is multifaceted.

Third, we live in an era in which great changes are taking place worldwide, so you should perhaps not become too rigid or narrow-minded when you consider choosing areas of expertise.

In light of these three points, I feel that, through making your own best efforts, you will be surprised to find yourself sooner or later with a life in which you have clear ownership—truly a life worth living. I for one, find myself even at 70, as a person with unique expertise, doing rewarding work aimed at the achievement of a peaceful world without nuclear weapons. In the past, I have been involved in various works – including development cooperation, cultural exchange, legal affairs, international organization, human resources, and bilateral diplomatic relations – and I also served as a special assistant to Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA Director General. There were times when I worried that I might finish out my professional career as just a convenient helping hand with no particular expertise. Although I may not be exceedingly capable, I have faithfully and sincerely committed myself to deliver tasks that I am assigned by trying out various approaches innovatively to produce good outcomes. And I do feel some comfort that all of my decades-long efforts are being put to good use in my current work. From such efforts, I do not know when but somehow, I have acquired a unique set of expertise with a multifaceted utility that fits in well with the demands of the time and hopefully in a changing context in the future as well.

I hope you have found something useful from what I spoke to you today.

Please stay healthy, treasure your friendships, be yourself, and learn and try as much as you can and want to. I wish you all the very best!

Yasuyoshi Komizo

Born in 1948. After graduating from the Department of Politics, Faculty of Law, he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in 1970. He subsequently served as Special Assistant to the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA, Vienna) (receiving the IAEA Distinguished Service Award upon vacating that post); Deputy Director, International Agreements Division, Treaties Bureau; Director, International Nuclear Energy Cooperation Division, Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Science Department; Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Japan to the International Organizations in Vienna; and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, to the State of Kuwait. He retired from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November 2012. He has been Chairperson of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation since April 2013, and Secretary General of the Mayors for Peace since August of that year.

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