April 1, 2021
Professor Akira Haseyama
President, Keio University
Congratulations to you all on your admission to Keio University, and welcome to the Keio community. I would also like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to your family members who are joining us today online.
This building, the Hiyoshi Commemorative Hall, was built to commemorate Keio's 150th anniversary and was completed in March last year. Unfortunately, due to the impact of COVID-19, we were forced to cancel last year's in-person entrance ceremony on campus, and thus, all of you here today are the first cohort of new students to hold your entrance ceremony in the new Hiyoshi Commemorative Hall. We are also planning to host a separate event to officially welcome the students who enrolled in the 2020 academic year later in the Spring Semester.
Although there is still no end in sight to the COVID-19 pandemic, in preparation for the start of the new academic year, out faculty and staff members have come together as one to put various measures in place so that you all can devote yourselves to your studies with peace of mind. While thoroughly implementing measures to ensure health and well-being as well as containing the spread of COVID-19 infections, this academic year, we will increase the proportion of in-person classes on campus. However, we learned from our experiences last year that there are certain benefits to holding classes online. Not needing to worry about time and travel constraints, being able to engage in repetitive learning, and being able to take part in simultaneous two-way discussions through online chats are just a few. Moreover, be they members of Athletic Association clubs that have matches on weekdays, students who are active in domestic or international academic, arts, or sports scenes, students in fields that require a lot of fieldwork or research trips, or students who suffer from mental or physical health issues, for those who cannot always attend classes on campus, online classes are a valuable resource that enables them to continue with their studies. Hence, in this new academic year, we have made plans to implement a hybrid teaching format that combines in-person and online classes and lectures.
Of course, interacting with faculty members and forming close bonds with peers are vital elements of character-building. Exposing students to diverse forms of learning both inside and outside the classroom is at the heart of a Keio University education, which emphasizes personal growth and development through both curricular and extracurricular activities. We are therefore in dialog with student clubs and organizations and are exploring ways to safely bring back extracurricular activities so that you can all once again immerse yourselves in and enjoy a variety of experiences spanning the arts, culture, and sports.
What is key to increasing real-life on-campus learning opportunities, however, is for all persons associated with the university to show strong resolve and exercise great caution not to get infected themselves or infect others. Fortunately, at Keio University, there were no outbreaks of cluster infections in the classrooms or while students were carrying out various activities over the past year. And although there are signs of waning vigilance against the virus far and wide as a consequence of people becoming fed up with the many restrictions imposed on their lives, Keio University is determined to patiently persevere and continue implementing measures to prevent infections.
If you look back on our history, you will find that there is a deep connection between Keio and infectious diseases. In his younger days, Yukichi Fukuzawa, the founder of Keio University, studied at Tekijuku (a place of learning) in Osaka. When there was an outbreak of cholera in the city, Fukuzawa witnessed first-hand his mentor, Koan Ogata, a leading academic and a respected physician at the time, move heaven and earth to care for the infected and propagate courses of treatment for the disease. What's more, in 1858, the year Fukuzawa founded Keio, there was a cholera epidemic in Edo. This was also the year in which the Ansei Treaties (part of the so-called "unequal treaties") were signed between Japan and five Western powers (United States, Netherlands, Russia, United Kingdom, and France), which led people to suspect that infectious diseases were introduced to Japan from abroad and became one of the factors that contributed toward the escalation of the joi (literally, "expel the barbarians") movement.
These experiences triggered Fukuzawa's lifelong interest in medicine. This passion was inherited by Shibasaburo Kitasato, the father of Japanese bacteriology and the first dean of the Keio University School of Medicine, which was established in 1917. Among his many achievements was the discovery of Yersinia pestis, the bacteria responsible for the plague. Currently, at the Keio School of Medicine and Keio University Hospital, the "Keio Donner Project," a group of projects aimed at accelerating research on infection, immunity, and inflammation in response to COVID-19, is underway. (From his strict and thunderous demeanor, Kitasato was called "Donner sensei" by his students, "Donner" being the German word for thunder. At that time, medical students studied German.) Many of our researchers and faculty and staff members are striving to make COVID-19-related breakthroughs and bring the disease under control by joining forces and working in close collaboration to conduct multifaceted research and provide medical assistance to those in need.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we all as members of the Keio community must have a hand in maintaining this legacy, sparing no effort to suppress the spread of infections from our respective positions and doing all we can to ensure that the university continues to thrive as a seat of learning. In order to curb the spread of infections, what is required is for each and every one of us to act with awareness and behave in a sensible manner. We must also determine what information is reliable and respond appropriately. This conforms with the learning methodology of searching for solutions by perceiving the essence of the problem.
With this in mind, I would like to share with you two philosophies that have been at the heart of our tradition and handed down ever since the days Fukuzawa first founded Keio. They are dokuritsu jison, independence and self-respect, and jitsugaku, practical learning. Back in his day, Fukuzawa observed that people living under feudalism were being molded to be overly compliant. He was troubled by how quickly and willingly they followed orders and instructions from their elders and superiors without question, and by how they were not in the habit of thinking for themselves and acting on their own. Consequently, he set out to nurture individuals who pursue knowledge, are not swayed by the current trends of the world, and possess a spirit of dokuritsu jison, empowering them to act on their own initiative. Moreover, he argued that all learning should be based on jitsugaku, explaining that jitsugaku simply means the illumination of the true principles of things and propagation of their application. Nurturing individuals capable of seeing the essence of a situation and taking action based on rational judgements underpinned by the power of learning when faced with the unexpected has been the mission of Keio University from the outset.
What I would like all of you to keep in mind as you begin your pursuit of knowledge through your studies at university is to have an inquisitive mindset that questions common knowledge and accepted practices, and develop a habitude of drawing conclusions through critical thinking. Stephen Hawking, who, despite contracting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an incurable progressive neurodegenerative disease, and being confined to a wheelchair for much of his life, made phenomenal breakthroughs in the field of cosmology and is considered to be one of the greatest scientists of our time. After his death in 2018, his ashes were interred in London's Westminster Abbey between the graves of two scientific giants: Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. And during the memorial service, Professor Kip Thorne, a longtime friend of Hawking's, a fellow physicist, and a Nobel laureate, praised Hawking in his tribute, saying,
"We remember Newton for answers. We remember Hawking for questions. And Hawking's questions themselves keep on giving, generating breakthroughs decades later. When ultimately we master the quantum gravity laws, and fully comprehend the birth of our universe, it will be by standing on the shoulders of Hawking."
Keep questioning common knowledge and accepted practices, and always be striving to discover answers. This is the essence of learning. From here on out, you will all study a diverse range of topics through the various courses you will take at your respective undergraduate faculties. To graduate, you will need at least 124 credits, but if all you do with the credits you earn is stack them up, much like a child playing with wooden blocks, stacking one on top of another, then all is lost. The significance of studying at university lies in the process of cultivating a skill set that will prepare you to formulate your own questions and leverage and consolidate the knowledge you have gained such that you discover new or develop more comprehensive "insights," broadening horizons and enhancing expertise. With this competence under your belt, you will be expected in the future to use the power of your insight to make positive contributions to society and help solve social issues and global challenges.
In plain terms, if, for example, you one day find yourself amidst a stampede of people running arbitrarily in one direction, stop and carefully ponder whether or not this is a rational move, and based on your own judgement, start moving in the direction you believe to be correct, even if you are all on your own. If, on the other hand, you are among people cowering in fear due to an unexpected situation, rack your brain to come up with a way out; then stand up and make a move. Both require courage, but this is what the dokuritsu jison spirit and the tradition of jitsugaku are all about and what they command.
Dokuritsu jison does not mean self-centeredness where you yourself are the only one of importance, nor does it mean to be egoistic, that if you yourself are good, then others do not matter. Rather, it implies that only by taking good care of oneself can one begin to develop a will to care for others. While the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of abating, there is a build-up of stress in society, and we are seeing occurrences of unwarranted discrimination and defamation and even several outbreaks of violence. In times like this, we must remember to be kind to ourselves and empathetic toward those around us. And this is what is meant by having a true mettle of dokuritsu jison.
Now, before I finish, let me add one final remark. Since its founding in 1858, Keio has overcome many hurdles as a private institution of learning through the cooperation of benefactors who share in its philosophy, developing and evolving over the years to become one of Japan's leading comprehensive universities. Whenever Keio faces a crisis, the overwhelming support we receive through the power of shachu kyoryoku (the entire Keio community coming together is a spirit of collaboration), fueled by our students, alumni, and faculty and staff members, enables us to prevail.
New students at Keio are not merely seen as individuals we teach and guide. From today, you have all become part of the Keio community, which prizes the dokuritsu jison spirit as well as the spirit of shachu kyoryoku. Even if you have worries or apprehensions, show strength and resilience, courage and compassion, and make the most of your time as Keio student. And know that Keio University will spare no effort to support and protect your academic endeavors as you navigate this new chapter of your lives.
While you all devote yourselves to your studies in the liberal atmosphere of Keio University, be sure to also take part in sports and engage with the arts and culture. Participate in various activities, form diverse friendships, relish new and wonderful adventures, and make great memories. I hope that you will all accumulate a variety of experiences over the coming years and enjoy a rich and fulfilling student life at Keio.
Congratulations to you all again on your admission.