March 23, 2020
Professor Akira Haseyama
President, Keio University
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.
As previously announced, Keio University cancelled the undergraduate commencement ceremony and other related events such as the 25th anniversary alumni reception in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic. This difficult decision was made with the belief that the health and safety of all those involved and expected to participate as well as the prevention of the spread of infection are of prime importance.
I have no doubt that the graduating students and their families were very much looking forward to getting together and celebrating this joyous occasion. In addition, the members of the 1995 Mita-kai (class of 1995 alumni association) spent the last year working on commemorative projects to mark this special day on which the graduating students embark on a new chapter in their lives.
Moreover, the reconstruction of the Hiyoshi Commemorative Hall was completed this year and a lavish commencement ceremony for the 2019 academic year was scheduled as the first official event to be held at the new Commemorative Hall. Consequently, we are deeply disappointed.
So, in place of the commencement ceremony, we hope to uplift spirits and celebrate the bright new beginnings of our graduates through this online broadcast.
Although there are no graduating students here at this brand-new hall today, I am joined by representatives of the faculty and staff members including the dean of each undergraduate faculty, the alumni representative who will give a congratulatory address, a representative of the Keio Rengo Mita-kai (Keio Alumni Association) which comprise 380,000 alumni, and a representative of the 1995 Mita-kai whose members are marking 25 years since graduation.
Since its establishment in 1858, Keio University has overcome many difficulties as a private institution of learning through the cooperation and support of interested members of the public, and developed into one of Japan's leading comprehensive universities. Additionally, throughout its long history, Keio University has received much assistance from Keio alumni, who embody the spirit of "shachu kyoryoku" (the entire Keio community coming together and collaborating), and I believe that their participation sends a good message of encouragement to the graduating students who from today will also become Keio alumni.
"Globalization" was a keyword commonly circulated throughout the world at the beginning of the 21st century. It was described as a phenomenon in which people, goods, and money travel across national borders and regions, and was sometimes referred to as the movement toward a borderless world.
As it promoted economic advancement through free and fair competition based on common rules as well as there being expectations of hunger and poverty vanishing from the world, globalization rapidly progressed. In recent years, however, with developments such as the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union, the rise to power of leaders who maintain that their own national interests are of the highest priority, and the breaking down of international cooperation to address climate change, movements contrary to those championing globalization seem to be on the rise.
What's more, with COVID-19 now being declared a pandemic, humanity is being reminded that for infectious diseases, there are no borders. It's ironic that the spread of this coronavirus is revealing the negative aspects of globalization, which accommodates the flow of everything across borders.
Incidentally, 2016, the year in which most of you entered university, was the year Brazil hosted the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. At the closing ceremony, Tokyo was vibrantly introduced as the next host city, and the Olympic flag being passed on to Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, is still fresh in our memories.
Around that time, Brazil was suffering from an outbreak of the Zika virus. In February 2016, following the Zika virus epidemic in Central and South America, the World Health Organization declared a state of emergency, which resulted with about 1.5 million people in Brazil and 20,000 people in Columbia contracting the disease. Although the outbreak was a terrible thing to have occurred, at that time, the spread of infection was limited to Central and South America.
Now, four years later when Tokyo is to host the Olympic Games, Japan is taking measures to fight another infectious disease. Infection of COVID-19 has spread globally, and many countries have made the decision to restrict entry and close their national borders. Today, it even appears that everywhere on the globe except Antarctica is moving toward national isolation.
What is important to note here is that the infectious disease becoming pandemic was not unexpected. Throughout history, humanity has experienced several pandemics, including the Black Death that devastated medieval Europe, the outbreak of smallpox in North and South America in the 16th century, and the Spanish flu in the early 20th century. There had already been warnings of globalization increasing the risk of pandemics due to people travelling more than ever before, and in addition to issues surrounding infections, the existence of other downsides to globalization had been identified since the early days.
For example, while it can be viewed that the effects of the global economy have reduced the number or people living in poverty around the world, there is also criticism that excessive competition has widened economic disparity, creating new regions in poverty. Attention is also being called on other global-scale issues such as climate change, water depletion, and the expansion of inequality in its various forms.
In recent years, there is a growing opinion that the world must come together and cooperate to tackle and overcome these negative aspects of globalization. This campaign is symbolized by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are a set of 17 interconnected global goals underpinned by 169 targets adopted by the United Nations to confront issues such as climate change, hunger, poverty, inequality, access to clean water, energy, and gender equality.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which preceded the SDGs, emphasized the provision of assistance by developed nations to help solve issues faced by developing countries. The SDGs, however, address issues that also impact developed countries and apply uniformly to all nations.
The SDGs are a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all," and to ensure that humanity can lead peaceful and prosperous lives while leaving no one behind, governments, institutions, and corporations from around the world must work together. There are also expectations on the role of universities. In reality, through educational and research activities, universities have been addressing issues highlighted by the SDGs from an early stage.
Keio University was placed 91st worldwide in the overall ranking of the Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings announced in April 2019. Only two other universities from Japan made it into the top 100 of this ranking, which assesses how much universities have contributed toward 11 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.
Keio received high marks in four individual rankings, namely "Good Health and Well-being," "Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure," "Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions," and "Partnerships for the Goals." This achievement is a testament to the activities in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences Keio carries out as a comprehensive university.
Measures to control infectious disease is one of the targets associated with Goal 3 — Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages — which covers issues such as the eradication of infectious diseases, support for research and development of vaccines, and provision of medical supplies.
At present, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, people and organizations all over the world are working together to share information, develop effective treatments for the disease such as vaccines, and improve medical care systems. As research institutions, there are growing expectations on universities in fields other than medical care. For a wide-range of issues including mental and physical care of anxious citizens, increased labor burden and rise in unemployment, reduction in economic activities, and maintaining a legislative system, there is a requirement to establish appropriate measures based on accurate information.
The process of collecting and analyzing information and finding solutions is in fact a methodology that is common in all academic fields. Identify issues, make hypotheses, and unravel the truth through evidence-based verification. Learning by discovering and solving problems is nothing more than what you all learned here at university. This approach will also be necessary henceforth as you go out into the world and actively engage in society.
As measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are being determined at this moment, what is becoming clear is that in addition to medical care efforts, a push toward the discovery of treatment methods, and systematic measures taken by governments, corporations, and schools, the best countermeasure is awareness and the sensible and proactive actions taken by each citizen.
When the Black Death struck in the 14th century, it is estimated that almost 100 million people died around the world, but even at that time, in Poland, where people had a habit of using distilled liquor with high alcohol concentration to sterilize tableware and furniture as well as deodorizing their hands and feet, there were relatively few cases of infection.
To date, no effective vaccine for the plague has been developed, but no major outbreaks have occurred since the 19th century due to the establishment of communicable disease control measures by nations, advancements in medical care, and the promotion of hygiene practices.
No effective treatment has yet been found for COVID-19 either, so to protect yourself and prevent the spread of infection, it is of the utmost importance that each and every citizen keep practices such as hand washing, wearing a mask, and cough etiquette in mind. The bottom line is simple: "don't get infected and don't infect others." It can be said that by following this principle and taking the appropriate courses of action, each citizen will be part of the foundation supporting the measures being implemented at the national level.
Furthermore, we must not be misled by unreliable information and panic, and strictly refrain from improper practices, which under the current state of affairs include purchasing items in bulk. Determine which information is accurate and act appropriately. This draws a parallel with the learning methodology of identifying the true nature of things and generating solutions.
In the past, Yukichi Fukuzawa saw that people living under feudalism were unduly compliant, obediently following the instructions and orders that came from above and not accustomed to acting independently. Realizing that this would hinder modernization, he aimed to foster citizens who pursue knowledge, are not swayed by the current trends of the world, and possess a spirit of independence and self-respect, empowering them to act independently. And since the day Keio University was founded, the words "independence and self-respect" have been at the heart of our educational philosophy.
The existence of citizens who can think on their own and act independently while taking responsibility for their actions rather than waiting to blindly follow instructions and orders of others is also a measure that evaluates the level of maturity of a nation.
As graduates of Keio University, please keep this in mind.
From here on out too, I am sure that you will encounter many more unexpected twists and turns throughout your long lives. During these times in particular, I hope that you will overcome difficulties with the spirit of independence and self-respect, play an active role in society, and lead a rich and fulfilling life filled with happiness and meaning.
Congratulations to you all again on your graduation.