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AY 2020 September Graduate Commencement Ceremony Address

September 18, 2020

Professor Akira Haseyama
President, Keio University

Congratulations to you all on completing your graduate degrees. 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 graduate students during their time at Keio University.

Due to the spread of COVID-19, Keio University was forced to cancel the spring 2020 commencement ceremonies.

Six months ago, it was my hope that this virus would be brought under control by now and that we would all be able to come together and hold the fall commencement ceremonies on campus. This pandemic, however, still continues unabated, and the road back to normality will be a long and winding one strewn with bumps and uncertainties. So, in the interest of preventing the spread of infections and keeping everyone safe and healthy, we had no choice but to cancel the in-person ceremonies again and celebrate your bright new beginnings through this online broadcast. I have no doubt that the you all are very disappointed with this development, but please understand that this was also a very difficult decision for us at Keio.

This summer, Tokyo was scheduled to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, welcoming athletes from all over the world. However, these too had to be postponed. The ancient Olympic Games were a special celebration—so much so that even raging wars would be suspended while youths from all over Greece would gather to participate. Yet, not even an event with such deep roots and honorable traditions could negotiate the rapid escalation and adverse impact of COVID-19. It just goes to show how much of a threat infectious diseases are to humanity.

Globally, over 27 million cases of COVID-19 infections have been reported as of early September, and the virus has infested all five continents represented by the five interlocking Olympic rings.

Keio University too was compelled to close all university campuses and facilities for the Spring Semester and held all courses and lectures online. It is truly unfortunate that such a situation arose during your final semester at Keio, but even in the midst of all these constraints and inconveniences, you all made great efforts to continue with your studies and I commend you all for your hard work and dedication.

One of the reasons why COVID-19 spread around the world in such a short period of time is the expansion of globalization. This complex and diverse phenomenon, which gained more and more momentum in the 21st century, has facilitated the flow of people, goods, and money across national borders and regions and is hailed as a progressive step toward a borderless world.

One of the primary factors that is driving this move toward a borderless world is the advancement of information and communication technology, ICT, as well as other technologies such as AI and IoT.

Globalization and the evolution of technology have unfolded at an accelerating pace with the intention of connecting every corner of the globe and bringing the world together as one. It has also had a profound effect on universities.

The Erasmus Programme, which aims to promote student mobility in the EU, has evolved into Erasmus Mundus, extending this idea to the world, and furthermore, the Bologna Process aims to raise the standard of education and research by having a single global standard. Through initiatives such as these, the flow of students, researchers, and funds have become easier than ever before. In recent years, universities worldwide have been focusing on attracting outstanding students and researchers, and at the same time, collaboration in education and research among universities has progressed and new integrated fields that transcend the established branches of learning have sprung up.

However, these activities to further promote globalization have come to an abrupt halt with the proliferation of the virus. The world is trapped in a state of isolation—nations are disconnecting, and people are being kept apart and cut off from society.

Yet, even in the midst of this crisis, people who have been forced apart have been making numerous efforts to reconnect. Artists and athletes from around the globe are posting videos to give solace and hope to people. Many ordinary citizens too are sharing musical and dance performances as well as a variety of cooking and handicraft demonstrations and ideas on social media.

Despite the lifeless and lackluster landscape of the real physical world, in cyberspace, we are seeing the formation and flourishing of many new close-knit communities that transcend national borders.

Universities are also making efforts to continue educational and research activities online, and now, academic institutions around the world are developing more advanced virtual and in-person hybrid educational and research models to keep pace with the age of COVID-19 as well as in anticipation of the post-COVID-19 world. We are all working to enhance international exchange and make this more prevalent and predominant than ever before.

I am speaking to you all today from the Enzetsu-kan, or the Mita Public Speaking Hall, on Mita Campus. Built in 1875, the Enzetsu-kan is the oldest building on Mita Campus and the first facility in Japan built for the purpose of public speaking. In the middle of the 19th century, Yukichi Fukuzawa travelled twice to the United States, and realizing that free speech is the foundation of democracy, had the Enzetsu-kan built to establish a place where people in Japan could freely express their views.

Fukuzawa encouraged Japanese people who at the time were not inclined to express their opinions in public settings to give speeches, and as part of the education at Keio, he introduced the art of delivering speeches along with debating. This stemmed from his belief that if everyone could voice their own opinions and build on the arguments they present, we would all get closer to discovering truths and the path forward would become clearer.

Fukuzawa was also concerned with the lingering feudal residue in society that dictated people to wait for instructions from those in power and subserviently follow orders and directions. He thus set out to nurture individuals who pursue knowledge, are not influenced by the current passing trends of the world, and possess a spirit of independence and self-respect, motivating them to proactively think about their own lives and determine the direction we as a society should take.

Consequently, he argued that all learning should be based on practical learning, jitsugaku. In his book Fukuō Hyakuwa, Fukuzawa explains that jitsugaku simply means the illumination of the true principles of things and propagation of their application. We can take the essence of jitsugaku to mean the drawing of conclusions not based on mere speculation, but on empirical evidence found through the meticulous analysis of facts.

In these times of rapid change, we will likely face many unexpected situations during our lifetime. To get past these, we cannot be misled by fallacies. We must be able to see the true nature of the situation through the power of learning and choose the right course of action.

While we ceaselessly combat the incessant spread of this virus, among the contents circulating online, we are seeing and reading about incidents of discrimination and violence as well as violations of human rights perpetrated by individuals who have been psychologically driven to the edge. There have also been cases of misinformation leading to panic. When society is in such a state of turmoil, it is necessary more than ever that we be able to perceive the true nature of the situation without being misguided by false or inaccurate information and take appropriate action using our own discretion.

Society's expectations are particularly high for those who have studied at graduate school and acquired advanced expertise and research skills. Although the disciplines you studied are diverse, the method of learning you all applied is the same. You first used insight to determine the nature of the issue, then formed a hypothesis, and finally drew evidence-based empirical conclusions.

In addition to issues that directly relate to medical treatment such as those concerning medical care, nursing, and drug discovery, when fighting the spread of infectious diseases, other matters will arise, including increased labor burden, rise in unemployment, impact on economic activities, maintenance of a legislative system, caring for the physical and mental well-being of the public and calming their anxieties, and effects on education, and there is a need to tackle and solve these extensive issues through an approach that traverses multiple specialized fields. Even though the challenges may be diverse, what is needed in the search for solutions is a common methodology that is applicable across all disciplines.

Keio's tradition that all learning should be based on jitsugaku, practical learning, is well suited for this requirement.

Throughout your lives ahead, I am sure that you all will encounter many unexpected twists and turns. In these times, do not be swayed by transient shifts in society or statements made by others. Determine the essence of things, make you own judgements, and act, while taking responsibility for these actions. This is what Fukuzawa meant by jitsugaku, and this is what you all have learned at graduate school. With this spirit of jitsugaku, I ask you all to do your utmost to solve new issues that will arise, not only at universities and research institutions, but in the various constituents of society.

We at Keio University want nothing more than our students to pursue learning, become fully-fledged members of society through learning, and make positive contributions to the world through learning. We hope that you all will make full use of what you have learned here and work toward the betterment of society. At the same time, please do not forget about the diverse experiences you had while you engaged in your studies within the liberal and tranquil atmosphere of Keio University. I am certain that these memories will enrich your lives in the years ahead.

In your various endeavors from here on out, I hope you will all continue to develop your learning and become active and productive members of society.

Congratulations to you all again.

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