News & Event

President’s Address to the September 2021 Hosei University Commencement Ceremony

News & Event

Congratulations to you all on this occasion of your graduation. I would also like to extend my sincere congratulations to parents and caregivers who are taking part online.

The first half of your student lives was spent here prior to the advent of Covid-19 and the second half was spent after the pandemic hit. No doubt, your student life over the past 18 months has been considerably different to what you imagined it might be when you entered the University. I think all of you who experienced the changes in student life, as students, from pre-Covid to with-Covid will come to be known as the Corona Generation.

In actual fact, there are not many people who experienced student life prior to and during Covid as students. Those who had graduated by last spring didn’t experience student life under Covid restrictions and our current first and second-year students have not experienced student life pre-Covid. Looking at information on current infections and new strains of the virus, it could take some time before we can properly return to the kind of student life we enjoyed before the onset of Covid-19. We can also assume that some of the online means of communication and other elements that were hurriedly expanded across society in the wake of Covid-19 will continue to be used to some extent. The same can be said of universities, as the student life that students from this year’s second-year cohort onwards will experience in future will no doubt be different to student life before Covid. In short, you will be the last generation of students to actually experience pre-Covid student life. Your generation will always be unique for having experienced both realities, and that experience is more valuable than you yourself might think. It is difficult to ask you to be conscious of things you haven’t noticed yourself, but I would urge you to please keep asking yourself what special qualities your unique experience affords you when communicating with people older or younger than you. I think you will be able to embark on your destined path when you learn to view that valuable experience not as an excuse, but as a weapon.

I expect all of you, who were suddenly confronted with the Covid-19 pandemic in the middle of your university years, feel there are many things that you didn’t get to do in your student life. I am sure there are things that you wanted to do and things you expected to achieve while you were a student and there were a fair number of those things that you weren’t able to achieve. There are a number of students who, for instance, were aiming to study overseas and had been successfully assigned a student-exchange post and were forced to abandon those plans. In terms of leisure, you probably wanted to go to a certain country for your graduation trip and see certain things, but your student days have probably ended without you having been able to do most of those things.

My request to you as we celebrate your graduation from this University is to truly prize the things that you never got to do.

Some of you might consider it unfair of me to send you off with a request to keep the things you haven’t yet done close to your heart rather than leave you with a parting encouragement to draw confidence for your future path from what you did actually achieve in your student years. It might sound like I’m trying to console you as the generation of students that was unfortunately confronted with Covid-19 during your student years, and to be truthful, I am to a certain extent. However, what I don’t want you to forget is that you were not the only ones to be unfortunately confronted with Covid-19.

Those who graduated just before you were confronted with the Covid-19 pandemic just as they were starting out in the world. Some didn’t get to enjoy a company entrance ceremony. They did their training online without ever having have the chance to actually meet their colleagues face to face and they are now working remotely in their designated departments. Some graduates were assigned to overseas offices, only to find themselves in charge of a rapid withdrawal. Some graduates have been extremely busy working in the public sector to help prevent the spread of infection and arrange vaccinations. Satta Masakuni was a founder of Hosei University and the namesake of this hall. His great-grandchild, who is also a great supporter of the University and was working in a public health center in Tokyo, said that he strove tirelessly to prevent the spread of Covid-19 for the final year of his working career until his retirement in March this year. People of all ages and in all locations have seen Covid-19 significantly impact their lives. I think that, over the past year and a half, many people will have wanted to complain in some way or another about the inconvenient timing and impact of Covid-19. Remember that you, who experienced the pandemic just as you were meant to be enjoying the latter part of your university years, are one among many with unfortunate experiences.

If you look at it from a slightly different perspective, you could say that the things you didn’t get to do in your student life were not necessarily all in the year that you faced Covid-19. There is not a single student on earth who has managed to do everything he/she had imagined in their student life and achieved everything he/she had wanted to achieve. There are probably various reasons why you didn’t achieve a certain goal. Maybe you didn’t make enough effort or maybe you were prevented from doing it by circumstances beyond your control. Whatever the reason, if you consign the things you didn’t get to do to your student memories after graduation, you will probably never do them. Conversely, if you remain determined to find a way to do them someday, somehow, then you might be able to achieve a few at some point in the future. In reality, you might end up achieving some goals more randomly or even by chance as a result of some haphazard or unplanned development. The fact of the matter is that you probably won’t realize everything you missed out on at university in your future life. However, I believe there is a difference between the life of a person who accomplishes more things and achieves what they wanted to do, at least in part, and the life of someone who doesn’t.

We have an associate professor at Hosei University who is scheduled to leave for Antarctica this fall as head of the winter mission. His name is Dr. Sawagaki Takanobu of the Faculty of Social Sciences and I had the opportunity to speak with him recently. This winter party trip will mark Dr. Sawagaki’s fourth trip to Antarctica. It is apparently rare for someone to get the opportunity to go to Antarctica that many times. Dr. Sawagaki says that he was lucky to have always been in the right place at the right time for so many years, but from what I understood when I spoke to him, he always held onto his desire to get to Antarctica somehow right from when he greatly admired Antarctic exploration in high school through to when he entered university, chose his extracurricular activities, went on to graduate school and chose his special topic, and then chose his profession. His determination throughout his life to consistently and consciously choose the path that would ensure he fulfilled the conditions is what has enabled him to go to Antarctica over many years. I was struck by the essential nature of these accumulated choices for realizing difficult goals that many people wouldn’t be able to achieve.

As such, I would ask all of you to pick the most important things, or maybe even just the most important thing, that you were not able to do in your student life. Don’t forget them but keep them alive as part of your future goals. You don’t need to think about them all the time. Indeed, that is not possible. However, if you include them as part of your judgement criteria when making choices in life and take repeated and determined action based on those criteria, then I believe you will be able to realize those goals in some shape or form in the future.

As you all know, the Hosei University charter is entitled Practical Wisdom for Freedom. Achieving the things you want to achieve is an important part of that freedom. However, you can’t achieve things by simply nurturing a vague longing for a certain goal. Instead you have to have the wisdom to keep at it and make it a reality. That’s the message here. Make your experience of the shift from pre-Covid to with-Covid student life your own, along with your ability to respond to these rapid changes in your own way and somehow complete your student life. Value the practical wisdom that you gained through those experiences. As you come to the end of your student life, please use that wisdom to someday achieve the things that were important to you but that you didn’t get to achieve during your time as a student. I once again offer you my congratulations on your graduation and wish you all the very best of luck for your future.