Address of the President of the University of Tokyo
At 2013 Autumn Semester Diploma Presentation/Graduation Ceremony
On behalf of all the staff of the University of Tokyo, I would like to extend our sincere congratulations to all of you who have been awarded a doctor’s, master’s, professional, or bachelor’s degree by the University. I would also like to congratulate your families, who supported you in practical and emotional terms while you studied diligently, and are present here today to witness your academic achievements.
The total number of students completing their postgraduate courses by the autumn of this year is 568. Of which there are 317 doctor’s degree graduates, 210 master’s degree graduates, and 41 professional degree graduates. There are 311 international students, who account for more than half of the total. 45 undergraduate students have also graduated. The Autumn Semester Diploma Presentation/Graduation Ceremony is normally held at the Yasuda Auditorium. However, as it is under renovation to provide a seismically resistant building, we are holding the ceremony at the Ito Hall, where we are today. I am excited by the ambience of this hall, which is both innovative and dignified, and also allows me to be physically closer to you, which is a little different from the usual setting.
Many of you will soon go out into society, while others will continue their studies. The current environment surrounding us, both in Japan and around the world, is burdened with many challenges. Japan confronts a declining birthrate and an aging population, national reconstruction after the great earthquake, energy issues, and the severity of the country’s finances. Many societies and countries that are now enjoying growth also face numerous challenges, not only economic but also in relation to the environment, social equality, safety, and individual freedom. It is my wish that all of you receiving a degree today will continue to develop and seek to excel intellectually, so that you can contribute to overcoming these challenges, and play leadership roles in creating a new era. I make this wish not only because there is much knowledge yet to be learned, but also because responding to the dramatic changes brought by the new era requires you to continue exploring knowledge and wisdom. During your time at the University, I am sure you have accumulated extensive knowledge. And I am sure you have also acquired the internal resources and strengths needed to intellectually sustain your progress based on that rich foundation of knowledge. That is to say, you have embraced academic behaviors and approaches that are symbolized by the freedom to study through an intellectual process of trial and error, driven by a powerful curiosity, or symbolized by spirituality that is emotionally satisfied by the discovery of new things and aspects of logic. When thinking about this kind of intellectual strength, I use the expression a dynamic intellect.
Today, complex interacting factors shape issues, and those factors themselves are undergoing intensive change. Furthermore, the ways in which the factors interact are also being subjected sequentially to change. In this unstable era of ours, what can possibly be achieved by just drawing on knowledge accumulated to the present? There are threads of issues that cannot be dealt with simply by using existing knowledge. What are required then is not the static knowledge that has already been imprinted, but intellects that have both depth and breadth, intellects that fuse fundamental knowledge and its application, and intellects that are constantly generating, developing, and changing. In recent years, I have felt that society might be losing trust in and appreciation of intellect. This happens, I think, because society is locked only in a perception of intellect being static, and because we have not fully conveyed the potential and fascination of a dynamic intellect that can be applied creatively to a state of flux.
To develop a dynamic intellect further, whether you go out into society or continue your studies, I hope you will continue making progress with your specialty, while at the same time consciously expanding your intellectual vision. Sustaining a broad intellectual vision requires you to be aware of the connections between the specialized knowledge you now have and other areas of specialized knowledge. By doing so, you will be able to enhance your potential to apply the knowledge you already have. And, by doing so, you will be able to re-discover the unexpected ability to apply your specialized knowledge. And further, it will surely be possible for you to improve the quality of your knowledge.
Let me talk about myself. I studied law at graduate school. You might associate the study of law with a field of extremely formal and specialized techniques that require a good command of concepts and logic; that is, to interpret the letters and language of the law. However, forming a backdrop to the law, there exist the ideologies and sets of values of an era. Social and political structures, and the requirements of society in a specific era also underpin the law. The law is interpreted well only if, among others, such contexts are fully understood and considered. The law concerns various aspects of our lives. In our lives, a wealth of specialized knowledge has been developed in relation to economy, technologies, cultures and other fields. Unless such an extensive knowledge base is taken fully into account, it is not possible to propose, interpret, and execute the law well. By applying concepts and insights that are developed from research in other fields relating to our lives to legal research, juristic concepts and logic are further refined and invigorated. This is a little of what I have drawn from my experience.
Broadening our intellectual vision and making connections with a diverse range of specialized knowledge in the way I have explained will, of course, largely depend on an individual’s effort to think independently. At the same time, however, I would like to propose that you take opportunities to communicate and network with a wide range of people. Communicating with people who are specialists in different fields from yours will give you intellectual inspirations that may surprise you. Stereotypes that you have taken for granted may be overturned by such encounters. I sincerely hope all of you, who have explored specialized fields of study in depth at graduate school, will come to experience such unimagined intellectual surprises.
In fact, as regards the meaning and value of encountering and communicating things that are foreign to yourselves, I can imagine that you, particularly our international students, must have had common experiences. I have often said that the essential meaning of globalization lies not simply in the ability to communicate in English or other foreign languages, nor in being active internationally. Rather, globalization is about receiving inspiration by confronting sets of values and ways of thinking that differ from our own, and enhancing our strengths by accepting such a sense of otherness. International students must have such conscious and unconscious experiences. The same applies in the intellectual and academic spheres. In any specialized field outside your field of study, different concepts and logic are used, with logic being developed in different way under unexpected assumptions and divergent values. You might not feel comfortable encountering different specialized fields and meeting people immersed in them. In fact, you might even be bewildered. However, by taking the initiative to consciously seek such opportunities to communicate with them, you will be able to bring out the full potential of your intellectual strengths.
Dynamic intellects will be created only through the process of routinely taking advantage of such opportunities. In that context, having a dynamic intellect is no more than embodying this process or this behavior arising out of intellect. Having been awarded a degree at graduate school, you are now qualified to sustain your progress in the world of such process or behavior. I would like all of you to consciously take advantage of the qualifications you have earned. In doing so, you will be able to better contribute to solving the various complex problems the world faces and constructing a new era.
I wish you all good luck in the future.
The University of Tokyo