September 17, 2019
President Akira Haseyama
Congratulations to you all on your graduation. I would also like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to the families of the graduating students. Furthermore, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to the dedicated faculty and staff members for guiding and supporting the graduates during their time at Keio University.
You all became students at Keio University through the fall admissions system. However, as is traditional in Japan, the academic year here at Keio University also begins in spring, and most Keio students enroll in April. Our curriculum has therefore been organized with this in mind, and for this reason, I would imagine that everyone here who joined in the fall had to rise above some challenges and inconveniences.
Keio is renowned for the diverse extracurricular activities it offers, one of the key attributes of the university. It may not, however, have been as easy for those of you here today to join these activities and fit in with your peers because of the half-year time lag that exists between you and the students that enrolled in April. I therefore salute you all for your effort and determination to overcome the hurdles you encountered while participating in both your academic and extracurricular activities to arrive at this day, the day of your graduation.
The “lag” may have been a disadvantage, but I also believe that this “lag” created an opportunity for you all to learn to adapt and become more aware of diversity.
In the Japanese education system, children of the same age enter elementary school and consistently learn with their peers, advancing to the next grade and graduating at the same time. When they enter university, the students have more opportunities to socialize with senior club members as well as working members of society, but they still have limited experience with diverse interactions and environments.
Compared to European and American universities where the student body often consists of people of all ages, from all walks of life, and international students from a vast assortment of nations, I must acknowledge that diversity at Japanese universities is lacking.
But, considering that you all faced this “lag” between the spring and fall enrollments, and the fact that you all joined the university in the fall when many of our international students enter Keio, I would say that you would have all had comparatively diverse relationships and cross-cultural experiences.
Yukichi Fukuzawa, the founder of Keio University, cherished jinkan kosai,* relationships and bonds among individuals, saying that interacting with people and building friendships are the most important things in life, and that these too, are a form of learning.
Fukuzawa, who travelled to Europe and the United States in his youth and experienced life in the West for himself, took to heart that the world was full of different cultures. He realized that interacting with these different cultures could lead to meaningful exchanges, but that at times, it could also lead to friction between parties. Furthermore, toward the end of the Edo period in Japan, he witnessed people being assassinated in an attempt to suppress free speech. These experiences led Fukuzawa to champion interactions among people across cultures.
As you all begin living your lives in an increasingly globalizing world, I hope that you will be able to put the diverse education you received and the diverse friendships you have built here at Keio to good use.
Integrated into the words dokuritsu jison, meaning independence and self-respect, this is another Keio philosophy I wish to mention.
While the Meiji government put a political system in place and pursued Japan’s modernization by strengthening the public domain, Fukuzawa aimed to modernize the nation by strengthening the private domain, focusing on the cultivation of its citizens through higher education. “National independence through personal independence.” This is the idea of naturally building a strong nation by developing personal strengths and abilities of individuals through education.
Fukuzawa hoped that Keio University would be a free and independent academic institution without restrictions from the state, formed through the voluntary cooperation of those who share values, or in other words, a private university. In addition, he hoped that the students studying at Keio would make judgements and act as independent individuals, not just be people who follow rules and orders.
Under the feudal system of the Edo period, people were restricted from thinking and acting autonomously. In order to break free from this framework, Fukuzawa focused on cultivating individuals who value independence and self-respect, who pursue academic learning and economic independence, and have the ability to think independently about the direction they and society should take without being swayed by the current trends of the world.
Even though today we live in a world in which a civil society based on the “individual” seems to have been realized, the spirit of independence and self-respect is still pertinent. Not having to think and simply following instructions from others and the trends of the times may be a way to gain momentary ease and comfort in life. However, you will not be prepared to respond when a major change takes place.
*人間交際, read jinkan kosai and meaning “interaction between individuals,” Fukuzawa used this term in his book, Gakumon no Susume (An Encouragement of Learning) to explain that to be part of society and to live in the world, forging relationships is of the utmost importance. He advocated jinkan kosai as a form of learning, and in the book, he goes on to say that what we call learning, industry, politics, and law, are all aimed at promoting social interactions among us, that without these connections, they lose their meaning. Moreover, he explains that as associations broaden, the closer the bonds between people become, discouraging conflicts and disputes among people and nations.
With increasing globalization, the world is more chaotic than ever. Today, when it looks as though we are losing sight of the direction nation states since the nineteenth century ought to be taking, in order to not be misled by vociferous arguments that baselessly stir up anxiety, the spirit of independence and self-respect is highly valued.
In cross-cultural exchange too, mutual understanding and trust can only be achieved when you fully understand the history and culture of your own nation and present grounded and rational arguments while clearly asserting your thoughts and opinions.
From now on, you will all be going down your own path. Whether you join a company, governmental institution, international organization, become a qualified professional, or set up your own business, you will be living your lives in an environment different to that you have known up to now. However, life is unpredictable and seldom plays out according to your expectations. You will most likely experience both failure and success. The adage “good luck and bad luck alternate like the strands of a rope” appear in the Book of Han, a history of China compiled in the first century AD.
Fortune and misfortune alternate repeatedly. What success is, and what happiness is, will not be determined until the very end. If these words from 2,000 years ago still hold true today, it is no exaggeration to say that life is a continuous flow of unexpected developments. While living your lives, there will be situations where you will meet people from different backgrounds and with contrasting viewpoints, and it is quite likely that at times, relationships and cross-cultural friction with these people will dampen your spirits. Moreover, there may be cases where the knowledge you have acquired up to now will be of little use.
Society in Japan has entered an unprecedented era of longevity, and one can now expect to live for a hundred years. In these times, it is inevitable that we must relearn skills and the need for recurrent education is clear.
In a world of constant technological progress, we will not be able to live out our long lives equipped with just a single skill we acquire at school. Learning and relearning will most likely become an inescapable and fundamental component of life. However, reenrolling in school and learning new skills just because technology is advancing is impractical. Just like when going from an abacus, to a calculator, to spreadsheets, it would be unrealistic to go back to school whenever tools change. What is required is the flexibility to cope with the changes by understanding the fundamental principles and perceiving the essence of the technology, even if the technology itself changes.
Yukichi Fukuzawa once emphasized that learning must be practical. However, practical learning, or jitsugaku to use his words, does not mean learning about useful things applicable to everyday life. In Fukuō Hyakuwa (One Hundred Discourses of Fukuzawa), Fukuzawa explains that jitsugaku is nothing more than the illumination of the true principles of things and propagation of their application. Be it in the humanities, social sciences, or natural sciences, the essence of jitsugaku is to draw conclusions not simply based on what you think, but rather on empirical evidence found through the meticulous analysis of facts. Through the application of such academic methods, one can adapt flexibly to change.
A spirit of independence and self-respect, dokuritsu jison.
Interactions among individuals, jinkan kosai.
Practical learning, jitsugaku.
Although it may not particularly be on your mind at the moment, I am certain that the significance of these values and the learning experiences you have had within the free atmosphere of Keio University will forever be engrained in your heart. And what you gained from these experiences are sure to help you in your future life. As more time passes after you graduate, and as the distance between you and Keio becomes greater, I believe the fonder your memories of your time on campus and the greater your appreciation of your experiences at Keio will become.
While leading rich and productive lives, I hope that you will always pride yourselves in having studied at Keio University, and as individuals with a spirit of independence and self-respect, become active members of society.
I wish you all the best as you take the first steps into a new and exciting chapter of your lives.
Thank you very much for listening and congratulations to you all again.