September 22, 2021
Professor Kohei Itoh
President, Keio University
To our new Keio students, who are here and also participating online.
Welcome to Keio University. I would also like to extend my warmest congratulations to all the family members and guardians who have offered their support and helped you arrive at this important milestone. I am delighted and privileged to represent the faculty and staff to speak to you today.
Founded in 1858, Keio Gijuku is Japan’s first modern institution of higher learning and continues to be one of the most influential academic establishments in Japan. In 1896, approximately 40 years since its founding, Fukuzawa Yukichi, made a speech to the Keio community, a part of which has been recognized as the mission of Keio Gijuku. In Japanese it reads,
In English it reads,
Keio University is not merely a place for academic pursuit. Its mission is to be a constant source of honorable character and a paragon of intellect and morals for the entire nation and for each member to apply this spirit to elucidate the essence of family, society, and nation. They will not only articulate this essence in words, but also demonstrate it in their actions, and by so doing make Keio a leader of society.
This speech was delivered by Fukuzawa 125 years ago in the midst of Japanese society’s transformation from the feudal system to a liberal democracy in the Meiji period. His words continue to remind us of our mission to act as responsible citizens. We value the sense of independence and self-respect, 独立自尊, in which we think for ourselves and respect the dignity of others. We study hard and make full use of our imagination and creativity for the betterment of the global society.
Many of you entering our graduate schools, will be digging deep into your fields of expertise. To push the frontiers of academia, you will need to be at the forefront of research, collaborating and sometimes competing with experts from around the world. There is a phrase in Japanese of one being so immersed in something as to "forget to eat and sleep”. Every first-class researcher goes through a process of ultimate concentration and continuous thinking about a single research project. New ideas and results obtained through this process will advance academia and take the world's knowledge to the next level. If I could give you one piece of advice, an important element of what you choose as a research topic, should not only be based on your own abilities and curiosity, but I urge you to work on a topic that will have great impact on the advancement of knowledge.
All of you will focus on your studies to evolve as leaders for the betterment of the global community. Now, try to imagine where you will be 50 years from now. Fifty years may seem far off in the distant future, but if we are able to preserve world peace and protect our environment, most of you will be alive and well. The kind of society you will be living in will depend on how you shape it going forward, a reflection of your day-to-day efforts and actions. I hope that 50 years from now, we can be proud to say that the society we have helped to create, has allowed us, our children and grandchildren to live happy, comfortable lives, and that human dignity and basic human rights will be protected in every corner of the world. Around the world today, many young people of your generation have grown up experiencing economic instability, political disorder, environmental challenges, racial and gender inequalities, as well as this pandemic. In some regions, they have suffered war and hunger. We must strive to preserve human rights and peace. So as you contemplate on what to accomplish in the future, in doing so, I encourage you to take on challenges that must be pursued to promote the well-being of humanity.
Keio University is a place where students will forge lifelong friendships, and begin a "virtuous cycle" that continues for a lifetime. Many Keio alumni say that when they go out into the world, they reaffirm the value of their education at Keio. Many Keio alumni are considered to be among the best and the brightest in the world, continuing to advance the methodology of learning and research that they have established here at Keio, and taking on important positions as leaders of the global society. I am confident that you will follow the same successful path in the future. Here at Keio, you will study and conduct research with some of the best faculty and staff in the world, whom I believe are this institution’s greatest assets. Keio will equip you with the skills to become active contributors who make a positive difference in the world.
The future of the world, the future of our society and our planet, depend on you. Trust me, once you are equipped with these important skills, you will be indispensable, highly sought-after individuals who can carry the future forward to build a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable society. Your next chapter as responsible contributors begins here at Keio University. So, congratulations and good luck!