News & Event

President’s Farewell Address September 2022 Commencement Ceremony

News & Event

To all our graduates gathered here today, congratulations! And congratulations too to those families who are participating online. 

The final two and a half years of your student lives were spent in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ‘normal’ student life that you enjoyed on entering Hosei was turned upside-down in the spring of 2020, when central Tokyo briefly became a ghost town and our campuses too emptied out as everyone confined themselves nervously at home. Since then, we have experienced a series of pandemic waves, with societal responses too changing over time. Hosei shut down almost all activities other than remote classes for a while, but face-to-face classes subsequently resumed, and the Hosei Festival too was held on campus. At the same time, activities have yet to return completely to their pre-COVID state. 

Only current fourth-year students and recent graduates, your year included, have undergone the full experience of both university student life pre-COVID and student life during the pandemic. That dual experience is something unique to your generation and could, I believe, become a real strength for you as you continue your journeys. How you chose to spend your university life amidst constraint when what was normal before COVID suddenly ceased to be normal reveals the essence of what each of you learned at university. You made choices under pandemic conditions, and you took responsibility for the results—and, slowly, over the two and a half years of the pandemic, you made adjustments as best you could in alignment with your values and aimed for self-realization as best you could, given pandemic constraints.

Ahead of their post-graduation job search, I think a lot of students prepared to explain the focus of their efforts during their university years. Students were doing the same thing long before COVID, of course. What’s different for the generation graduating now is that, rather than just being a means of securing a job, it’s something that you have achieved as a result of suddenly being placed under massive constraints in the midst of your student life and making the choice to act despite a very difficult situation. You decided that while you might not have the freedom to do as you pleased, you weren’t going to waste your student years, and you made choices. Those choices reflect who you are as a person—and choices made in the context of the comparatively high degree of freedom of student life reveal far more about you than you might imagine. I suggest that you take the opportunity of graduation to check back on this for yourself. You will find there your values, aptitudes, and the direction you want to take in life. I am convinced that the chance to affirm these things about yourself out of a difficult experience will prove to be a real personal asset. 

Of course, you are not the only ones to experience the pandemic. It’s a danger that everyone in society has felt first-hand, with no one immune from its impact. It is also a danger that, despite continuing for more than two and a half years already, offers no clear forecast of abating. Social life has been greatly affected, with daily life looking very different now for each of us compared to the pre-COVID era. Moreover, even once the danger has eased, society is unlikely to return completely to what it was before. 

While we were dealing with the pandemic, there was a lot that we wanted to achieve that was taken out of our reach. Conversely, however, there were also more than a few things that we found it surprisingly easy to abandon and now can’t even imagine wanting to do in the old way. Perhaps we only did those things because that’s what we accepted as the norm. What we can and can’t leave behind differs according to the individual, but certainly, some sort of distinction has also developed across society as a whole. Those activities which many people value and feel unable to abandon will at some stage be revived and sustained in some form. A lot of the activities that most people are happy to abandon, on the other hand, will not be revived and will simply vanish post-COVID. In other words, the pandemic experience has given society as a whole the chance to choose what to discard and what to carry on, something that will change the face of society in the years to come. I don’t know if all the judgments which are currently becoming social realities are in fact the right ones. But we have currently been given the opportunity to make distinctions that would not have been possible without the pandemic.

Each of you will also be part of choosing what our society looks like post-pandemic. Please reflect on the choices you made as a university student, and then use your reflections as the basis for bringing your voice and your actions to shaping the choices of society as a whole. Let’s make the world a better place than it was pre-COVID. We’ve lost a lot due to the circumstances of the last two and a half years—which is exactly why we need to use that experience as a springboard for changing society for the better. If it’s possible, don’t you want to seize something greater than what you lost? I pray that each of you will go forward to lead a full life as a driver of social transformation. In so doing, your cornerstone should be those things that are too important to you to give up. With such a foundation, you will be able to choose what, given this chance, you really want to achieve to improve society as a whole. Please take the opportunity of your graduation to reaffirm this and continue to hold it to your hearts as you march on the life. That’s my petition to you today, at this marker point of your departure from university out into the world. 

As you are all well aware, the Hosei University Charter calls for “practical wisdom for freedom.” The last two and a half years have taught us that the freedom to live as we please can on occasion be easily constrained with apparently no way to resist. If you just sit there and accept the situation, constraints can whisk away your freedom in the blink of an eye. The message contained in this is that you must have the wisdom to seize freedom somehow amidst constraint. You are the generation that experienced the shift from pre-COVID university life to university life in a pandemic and found your own ways of adapting to that abrupt change to successfully complete your student life. As such, you have already cultivated the foundations of practical wisdom. It has taken root inside you more than you yourselves are aware. Grow that wisdom and use it someday to attain something precious to you. I wish you all good fortune in your future endeavors.