慶應義塾長 伊藤 公平
Congratulations to everyone here today who has earned their doctoral or master's degree. Every day you persevered in your studies and research, compiling your findings into theses and dissertations befitting your new academic degrees, and you have, at last, arrived at this auspicious day. I also want to acknowledge and celebrate the family and friends who have supported you along your journeys.
I hope that Keio University becomes the catalyst in your lives that starts a "virtuous cycle." You have studied with the best faculty members Keio has to offer, each of whom has encouraged you as you work on your research. I believe that you will fully realize the standard of excellence here at Keio once you have left the university, get involved with research and other projects, and surround yourselves with the best and brightest minds in the world. At that time, you may be surprised and gain confidence when you see that your abilities are on par with those of your new peers. You will be given responsibilities and roles on the global stage like it is the most natural thing in the world. Just as stated in the "Mission of Keio University," every single one of you will make progress as leaders of all society. Leaders refine each other through synergy. The reason that Keio University's alumni network is so strong is for precisely this reason: synergy. As you move forward, make sure to reach out to the Mita-kai to make full use of our alumni association. Use the connections you build among them, those with degrees from other universities, and other individuals around the globe to make our world a better, brighter, and more peaceful place. I would also encourage you to stay in contact with us here at your alma mater and to support the university by keeping up to date with the latest news, social media offerings, and research updates.
Now then, I have two requests for all of you graduating at this ceremony today: first, to "become people who will shape the common sense of the future" and second, to do that, to "tell stories that can inspire and touch the hearts of others."
Let me start with two examples of those who "created" a future version of common sense.
A few decades ago, there was a historian here at Keio University named Professor Akira Hayami. He helped establish the field of historical demography, an academic specialty that attempts to understand historical events through changes in human populations. He spent time on a thorough analysis of the death tolls from the Spanish Flu, creating "common sense" practices to be used when facing pandemics. However, this "common sense" faded from public memory once the Spanish Flu pandemic ended. Professor Hayami passed away in 2019, just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. During his life, though, he would sound the alarm every time a new strain of influenza appeared, warning others that a future pandemic was inevitable and saying "the fact that we have learned nothing from the Spanish Flu outbreak is itself a lesson. We must start by understanding our history." One person who inherited this type of common sense was Dr. Michifumi Isoda, a historian who often appears on NHK television programs. Dr. Isoda was one of the students who participated in Professor Hayami's research on the Spanish Flu. Using this experience, at the very cusp of the COVID-19 outbreak, he rejected the optimistic outlook many people held at the time, saying that "This situation is likely to continue far longer than most of the world thinks. The historical pattern shows that the virus will mutate and attack in waves." At the time, Japan still had not experienced the first wave of the pandemic, so a phrase like "mutate and attack in waves" was difficult to fully comprehend, but something we can all relate to now. Because pandemics are a once-in-a-century event, there are pieces of "common sense" that can't be gained without the broad perspective and attention devoted by historians or public health experts. Their role is to show and preserve for future generations the lessons that the public has lost to the past.
My second example is international. In 1998, an American company called "Google" was born. This company was centered on creating websites and letting people use their search engine for free, a model that had most people scratching their heads wondering how in the world that type of business could be profitable. The answer: collecting data when people used the search engine or when people uploaded videos to YouTube for free. These platforms could then earn huge amounts of ad revenue, expanding into "big data" companies, and creating an altogether new business model. Today, this has become yet another piece of "common sense."
Up until now, I have discussed examples of research studies and businesses that reshaped "common sense" for the future. However, there is one thing that is essential when pushing forward research, business, social innovations, and yes, even "common sense": that is the ability to tell a compelling story. To illustrate this point, let's consider the automobile industry where people are shifting over to electric vehicles to bring about net-zero carbon emissions. Toyota, for example, is promoting plug-in hybrid vehicles—those using small batteries that run on electricity, but that will switch to gasoline after the battery runs out—as an effective alternative to gasoline vehicles, especially for drivers who do not travel long distances throughout a day. Their reasoning is that there is no way of recovering the time, resources, or environmental costs needed to create a larger battery that can last for over 200 kilometers if it is only used for 10-kilometer distances at a time. However, in Europe, there is an ongoing debate surrounding comprehensive emission reduction proposals, including policies that would ban selling new gasoline/diesel vehicles after 2035. The question is, in 2035, will all the vehicles run exclusively on electricity or hydrogen, or will plug-in hybrids be included as an intermediary step？ While Toyota's solution to the narrative of "electric vehicles for the global environment" wins on logical principle, the actual competition is fought in the court of public opinion. We no longer live in an age when making a quality car, or, more broadly speaking, a "quality product" is enough to ensure good sales. First, you must have a good story, something worth talking about, and then provide the products that are necessary to fulfill that narrative. We have entered an era in which businesses tell stories, elevate their ideas into public consciousness so that they become "common sense," and provide the infrastructure or products that coincide with these ideas. Research is the same. In other words, we must value what Fukuzawa discussed: "public speaking."
This means that, moving forward, those who have expertise in literature, theater, or the other humanities, or those who can create better social systems through their backgrounds in the social sciences, will become increasingly important. It also means that it is vital to promote cooperation and to communicate our stories with other people, not only in Japanese, but in lingua francas such as English.
Therefore, on this special day, my expectations and hopes for you are as follows: "become people who will shape the common sense of the future" and "tell stories that can inspire and touch the hearts of others." It is my sincere wish to see you all persevere on the world stage, contributing to the progress of your communities and society at large.
You have earned these degrees. Congratulations.