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AY 2021 Graduate Commencement Ceremony Address

March 28, 2022

Professor Kohei Itoh
President, Keio University

Congratulations to all of you who will receive your doctoral or master's degrees today. You have all worked tirelessly at your studies and research in order to craft academic theses worthy of graduating on this day. I would also like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to the families and communities who supported you throughout your journeys.

I hope that, for all of you, Keio University will represent the "starting point for a virtuous circle" in your life. You have studied with some of the best scholars in the world, who have encouraged you in your research endeavors. I think that you will especially value the academic excellence of research at Keio as you go out into the world. You will be involved in work opportunities and research initiatives while surrounded by researchers and thinkers who are at the top of their fields. I believe that when this happens, you may be surprised and emboldened to see that you can stand proud with the best of your peers, finding yourselves in world-class roles like it is the most natural thing in the world. As set out in "The Mission of Keio University," I anticipate and believe that each and every one of you will develop as leaders of society as a whole. Leaders push each other to greater heights by working together in synergy. It is precisely this synergy which makes the Keio University network of alumni so strong. I will relish seeing how your future accomplishments take shape to make our world a more abundant, peaceful, and meaningful place.

Over the last two years, your lives and research plans have been constrained in a wide variety of ways by the COVID-19 pandemic. I expect that many of you were unable to work in or access the research environments you had envisioned and have earned your degrees only after experiencing a series of hardships. For international students, I can imagine no situation more difficult than this pandemic. Some were unable to come to Japan as new students because of strengthened border restrictions; while those who entered the country before the pandemic found themselves unable to leave for fear that they would be unable to come back again. There are those today who, as a result of the pandemic, are joining this commencement ceremony online from abroad. I truly respect those of you who, despite this adversity, have successfully completed your programs and are receiving your degrees today. It is the wish of Keio University that you will connect with other alumni working around the world in the future and deepen these constructive relationships. You can also support your alma mater by subscribing to Keio email lists, following our social media accounts, and keeping up to date with things happening in our community.

Now, to all of you earning your Ph.D. Degrees, beginning today, you will make your way in society as "doctors."

For those of you choosing to follow a career in research, this will mean digging deep to uncover every minute facet of your specialization. In order to carve out the academic frontiers of your field, you will need to place yourselves on the front lines, unveiling the proverbial landscape by collaborating and competing with other experts from around the world. If I were to choose to give you one piece of advice, this would be it. When deciding your research direction, while it is obvious that you should choose something that piques your curiosity, apply yourself to identifying a topic which is imperative for "somebody" to tackle for the progress of academia. Research topics that are imperative, but no one has taken on yet are either 1) creative and extend beyond current norms, or 2) incredibly difficult. Your job is to engage with these challenges. My major area of research when I completed my doctorate was semiconductor physics. Approximately 30 years have passed since then. In the immediate aftermath of graduation, I looked at a variety of fields, trying to decide how I wanted to contribute to academia as a scholar. The result of this exploration led me to quantum computing. I started my research by trying to create semiconductors that could make quantum computers into a reality. However, to accomplish this, I also needed to make suggestions about the potential computers' configuration, overall organization, and design. To do this, I needed to know more than just the physics of quantum mechanics. I had to study a variety of specialties ranging from quantum information science, a subset of computer science, to electrical engineering, so that I could understand all the quantum components that were involved in my research. At the time, the field was in its infancy, making theorization and experimentation comparatively rudimentary and easy to learn. Since then, anything that I may have accomplished to advance quantum computing, from those first ideas to the eventual creation of the world-renowned quantum computing center here at Keio University, was dependent on me addressing a topic that was imperative "someone" take on. I also think that experiencing the excitement and enjoyment of challenging myself to create something new by integrating multiple academic specialties was a big part of it. For those of you who will continue your journeys as researchers, I ask that you also take on the "big" challenges.

For many of those who have completed their master's degree and some of you receiving your doctorate here today, I know that you will go on to enter the professional world, dedicating yourselves to the development of global society. To you, I ask that you imagine yourselves 50 years from now. While some of you may think of 50 years as an eternity away, assuming that world peace and the environment is preserved until then, you will still be in the prime of your lives. But what type of world will you be living in? It will be one that you yourselves create from here, a society built by your daily determination; a future determined by your actions.

Right now, there is no disputing that the Ukraine crisis is a turning point in history. I anticipate that the next 50 years will be defined by your endeavors, studies, ingenuity, and teamwork culminating in a generous, peaceful, and meaningful world. While I may not be here in 50 years to see the fruits of your labors, I can feel your dedication and drive today and cannot wait to see the wonderful things you will accomplish.

The future of our world depends on you. I ask that you make it a good one. Go out and follow the Keio spirit. Devote your lives to becoming ideal leaders in society. Hold on to the bonds that you have made here.

This day is your commencement. Congratulations.

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