News & Event

September Graduation Ceremony and Conferral of Degree Certificate President’s Address

Congratulations to you all on this occasion of your graduation. Let me also extend my sincere congratulations to parents and caregivers.

The past six months, which was the second half of the final year for you, has been a particularly unusual period. Not just for you, but for all university students and graduate students across Japan and in other parts of the world. Students who have found themselves taking lectures online, conducting experiments and completing practical training in a limited time, having to cope with restricted access to libraries inside and outside the university, or having to compile reports and papers without being able to go out and do fieldwork, research, or overseas study. I am sure you also feel sad that you are having to graduate or complete your studies without being able to interact and exchange ideas with faculty and friends.

Having said that, I believe unusually difficult experiences in life can prove a source of great strength for the future. What new things have you experienced in this restricted environment? What did you think about? When you have some time to spare, I urge you all to reflect on the past six months so that the particular feelings you experienced in this restricted environment are not wasted or forgotten.

Each time I conducted a meeting online, I was struck by the importance of words. There is an expression in Japanese, which translates as “reading the atmosphere,” but that does not really work online. Even if you can see people’s faces and hear their voices, you cannot read the finer facial expressions or tone of voice of multiple people at once. Now, I have to chair most of the meetings using clear words and verbal interaction alone. When I think about it, the phrase “reading the atmosphere” really is the perfect expression. A person on the ground is able to gauge the emotions of a relatively large number of people simultaneously by absorbing a variety of minute signals. Be they in a theater, a concert or a lecture hall, great performers, actors, and orators absorb all of these elements and finetune their performances or speeches accordingly. I have developed an even greater respect for the wonderful human senses that enable us to do this. Reading the atmosphere is certainly not a bad thing. However, it is important not to simply go along with the mood, but to be conscious of it and sharpen your own expressions and arguments within it. Clearly, in this current environment, it is not possible to read the atmosphere, so we have to change the way we communicate. The best way to do that is to sharpen our awareness of words and polish their delivery.

When Hosei University started the new semester with nearly all lectures being conducted online, I launched a page on the University website called “From the President to You All.” I started by talking about how to read books even if you could not get into the library to our first-year undergraduates who were studying in their homes or overseas far away from the university and who had not yet set foot on the campus, to our returning undergraduate and post-graduate students who could not use the library, and to everyone who could not do their part-time jobs, could not meet their friends, and who had no choice but to stay at home. I then moved on to introducing books written by graduates who have gone on to become authors, or by current or former faculty members because they might feel a little more familiar to you right now. When summer vacation came around, I asked everyone to post things on the page, and I will resume my posts as the fall semester gets underway.

When writing messages for From the President to You All articles, one thing that struck me was that neither the University nor I had any desire to force students to focus entirely on their studies to the exclusion of all else. To experience lots of things, meet people from countries and regions who you have not had the opportunity to meet before, interact with interesting faculty members, and take part in entirely new activities—I always took it for granted that students would get to do those sort of things in their university life, but these past few months when we have not been able to do such things reminded me once again of just how important they are.

I ask you now to reflect on your university life. When you first entered the University, you attended the orientation sessions to receive guidance on various issues, didn’t you? As the word guidance suggests, you were literally guided through your course registration process, with teaching staff telling you what the courses were about, what you needed to be aware of, and how to best combine courses. You will have learned then that faculty members were there to help you all at the same time as academic experts. You were also welcomed by many existing students, who wanted to attract new students into their own group and club activities and were eager to explain just how much fun the activities were. You were able to gain even greater experiences through seminar camps, faculty study abroad (SA) programs, overseas volunteer programs, and extended overseas study. You got to experience these things. Imagine what your student life would have been like if you had not had these opportunities and every day had been dedicated entirely to studying. That is the kind of student life our new and current students are facing right now.

If you have to stay at home, one of the ways to gain different experiences is through reading. Watching films and TV programs might be fun, but you cannot read properly by simply gazing at the words. If you come across a word that you do not understand when you are reading, you can always look it up in a dictionary. You can organize the plot in your head. You can peruse encyclopedias and chronological tables if you have any questions about a location, season, or era. You can imagine what the people in the reading material were like. In other words, reading continually and actively engages your logic, research skills, and imagination, and strengthens your brain as a result. If you have a tough brain, you can nurture strong writing skills without hardly noticing. We have an Extensive Reading Gym class in a small private school that I am involved with in order to continue doing just that. You can train reading skills, just as you can train muscles. At the Reading Gym, once you have acquired a certain writing ability, you then read and write at the same time, meaning you write about what you have read over and over again.

On a different note, I heard several people saying it was really hard to complete assignments when lessons were being taught online during the spring semester. Some of you here today may have felt the same way, but, as I have just mentioned, these tough experiences will definitely benefit you and make you stronger. No doubt, your club activities, job-hunting activities, and overseas study experiences were also hard, but given that that struggle was probably fulfilling, it will cease to be a tough memory someday. I myself entered Hosei University exactly 50 years ago. During my days at University, I got to read more books, write more pieces, and study more than I ever had before. I also went regularly to a language school off campus and I had to do a part-time job. If someone had interviewed me back then, I too would probably have sighed and said things were hard! However, what I remember most now is how fulfilling and fun my time at university was. Why? Because no one told me what to do. I chose my own path. My teachers offered me guidance and I got to spend as much time as I liked doing what I wanted to do.

I'm sure there have been times when you have been frustrated because you can no longer do some things face-to-face. At the same time, I wonder if you might also have been able to discover new abilities, learn to do things you could not do before or escape your concerns. I urge you to look back on this experience, express it in words, and exploit it to help develop your own strength and abilities.

Our world and our society are undergoing dramatic change in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Having said that, the practices of lifetime employment and promotion by seniority were already gradually disappearing in Japanese companies before the pandemic hit. Going forward, companies will likely become more flexible, engaging in more mid-career recruitment and year-round hiring, and it will become normal for employees to change the company they work for several times during their career. You will not be restricted to working only in Japan, and more places will enable you to do global work, even from your own home. Workplaces will not be restricted to companies, with non-profit organizations, NGOs, various research organizations, and even outer space being considered as a possible workplace. Quietly advancing internet systems have rapidly permeated every aspect of our daily lives. Today, if anyone in a company, university, or even a household does not have their own laptop or tablet, they cannot work or study. Many companies around the world have been weakened, but this current environment is also bound to generate some new and unexpected jobs.

This is the kind of society you will all be living in from now on. The “normal life” you have known to date will not exist anymore. I hope you will continue to pursue avenues that will enable you to continue to learn by applying your unique qualities and capabilities. Some of you have obtained a general qualification and some of you have obtained a specialist degree. However, in addition to your qualifications and expertise, I urge you to always focus on and learn about any movements in our society and our world because the world will continue to change rapidly.

I think you know the Hosei University Charter “Practical Wisdom for Freedom.” Freedom, or living freely, means being determined to live a full life under any circumstances, having your own values, and choosing to live your one single and precious life in a way that only you can. “Practical Wisdom” means having ideals and goals without ignoring reality, and acting within those parameters as a driving member of society while maintaining a thorough understanding of reality. Now is your time to go out and live freely and to display practical wisdom. If you can steer a positive course through this difficult period of change, you will be able to apply that experience to help forge the next era.

Today, you will all graduate, but, from this moment on, you will be connected to our graduate network as a member of the alumni association. Please use your alumni network to help carve a new future. If you maintain and prize these bonds, the alumni association and the University will be able to support you. As members of the Hosei University community, let’s work together with hope to overcome the rapidly evolving and severe situation that we are facing right now. Finally, let me close by earnestly congratulating you once again on your graduation.