Tohoku University
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  • The President's Address, Tohoku University Graduation Ceremony September 2013
    The President's Address, Tohoku University Graduation Ceremony September 2013

    Today, we honor the recipients of 31 bachelor?s degrees, 109 master?s degrees, 5 professional degrees, and 152 doctoral degrees. On behalf of Tohoku University, I extend my heartfelt congratulations to you and to your parents, families, and all who have supported you, making possible this memorable and special event.

    As you may well know, the graduation ceremony is known as ?Commencement,? meaning beginning, in the United States. This auspicious occasion marks an important milestone and the beginning of a new life. Some of you will take the first steps into professional careers and struggle with many challenges from society. Others pursuing further studies will advance onwards with greater efforts and endeavors. Those leaving Japan and heading home will work to develop and enhance their respective nations. Regardless of what you may do, my prayers are with you on your success of your continued efforts.

    Two and a half years has passed since the occurrence of the Great East Japan Earthquake, a disaster said to be a once in a thousand year event. All of you, through your thoughts and experiences, have arrived to this date. With the joy of Tokyo being appointed as host of the 2020 Olympics, the reconstruction of the Tohoku Region and Japan?s Regeneration continues to pose various challenges that need to be addressed. ?Despair, like hope, is but vanity.? To those of us who experienced the disaster, we must take these words by Lu Xun to our hearts to carry out our duty to overcome to present challenges to build a better future. To those of you who have been entrusted to carve the path to the future, you will be challenged to use your hard earned abilities as a foundation to subjectively pursue your calling.

    Modern society is built upon scientific technology. Societies that are technologically advanced are often called ?modern?, ?advanced societies?, or ?developed nations.? However, in the current state of human affairs, whether the pursuit of modernity will achieve a greater happiness in human society is still an open question.

    Physicist Vannevar Bush during World War II in 1945 wrote a report to President Roosevelt to answer his question on how science will evolve in the postwar world. Entitled Science the Endless Frontier, Bush reported that scientific development is limitless and through this foundation, the development of human abilities will continue indefinitely, leading to a prosperous society. Looking at the progress of science thus far, his prediction has been mostly correct. Following World War II, Japan has been able to overcome the various challenges through scientific development and achieved a high level of economic growth, greatly reduced pollution, increased energy efficiency, and reduced mortality and increased the average lifespan in a short period of time.

    On the other hand, Dennis Meadows and his international research team in The Limits to Growth published in 1972 commissioned by the Club of Rome warned of the impending impermissible limits of growth within 100 years due to activity caused by population growth, the depletion of resources, and the deterioration of the global environment.

    Science and advanced technology continues to provide improvements and benefits to daily life and the global society and at the same time, the world faces the challenges posed by the increase and expansion of the global population from science and technology, causing the depletion of natural resource and environmental destruction on a worldwide scale. The natural and artificial disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear power plant accidents and even terrorism casts a threatening shadow over the existence of human society on Earth. In other words, we are standing between Bush?s prediction of the unlimited evolution of science and Meadow?s prediction of a limit to growth.

    Now, how do we and society work to toward the coexistence with the unlimited development of science and technology? I believe that the basis to answer this question is the ability to look at the big picture (overall view or the general perception). Please let me expound on this ability to look at the big picture.

    The development of science and technology must be understood as a part of the flow of history. There was period during the 15th century and into first half of the 17th century called the ?Age of Discovery?. This was a time in the infancy of physics and what was beyond the horizon was unknown. The fact that the Earth was round was demonstrated in this path of exploring the unknown, and in this sense, this period can be described as an ?Age of Exploration.?

    This "spirit to explore the truth? from the ?spirit of exploration? was spread and led to the development and promotion of science worldwide. For example, as an extension of the exploration of Earth, astronomy exists as a means of exploring outer space. Astronomical telescopes also evolved with the times, and with astronomical observation by space telescopes, it is now possible to observe toward the ends known universe and progressed to a point of near perfection. On the other hand, microscopes to observe the small details of terrestrial substances has progressed to the point to where it now possible to observe the three dimensional structure of atoms. Here again, one finds the underlying ?spirit of exploration.?

    The ?spirit of exploration? tends to become more ?specialized? as it is further pursued. In order to pursue research, narrowing the focus becomes a necessity.

    During the evolution of research, the ?specialization? will be the source of major problems. Nature in its original form is seamless and fluid. Human life can be also be described in similar terms to nature. With the advancement of science and technology, various artificial substances and machines has been produced on the basis of this "spirit of exploration,? but due to this narrow specialization of learning, the viewpoint from the big picture was lost. Although each of these artificial objects are useful of its own, there are times when they are contradictory and threatens the global environment.

    The scientific community in the name of progress performed fragmented research in each of the fields without looking at the big picture, causing a dichotomy between the various sciences and between science and society, leading to population explosion and environmental destruction. Now humanity must find an answer to the challenge of achieving happiness of human society while balancing the progress of science and technology with the larger natural environment.

    The response to the present situation, modern society is looking for the ?spirit of sustainability?. In the environmental destruction caused by ?spirit of exploration? in these past, this coming age will have to be centered on the ?spirit of sustainability? where humanity can coexist as much as possible with the earth.

    In order to build a sustainable world, it is required for science and technology with society to create a cycle where scientists must not only provide knowledge to society, but also to base their actions upon the big picture. For those of you destined to walk onwards to a new stage of life, it is important to not only focus on deepening specialized and cutting-edge knowledge but also to broaden your perspectives and be responsive to the spirit of sustainability and ponder and act upon your hard earned knowledge. Once again, the world where you will perform on stage is not a place where the clear-cut and simple pursuit of progress is acceptable but where a new global perspective on building a sustainable human society is actively being sought. You all face difficult times in implementing these ideals in a complex global society. But as with every single era, opening the way to the future in face of challenge has been the power of the youth. Those of you that have attended this university, through mentors and colleagues, have acquired knowledge on the depth and diversity of learning and the importance of accepting diverse values and cultures, both important to understand the big picture. Please do not hesitate to display the knowledge acquired at this university to steadfastly confront the various challenges you will face in your life. This is my hope and wholehearted wish for all of you.

    To those of you at commencement here today, this is my congratulatory message.

    You are members of the Tohoku University community even after your graduation and are members of the alumni association, Tohoku University Shuyukai. In order to continue building upon the bonds and relationships, Tohoku University hosts the Homecoming Day held every October. We hope you will visit the alma mater and will continue deepen the friendship with your mentors and other students on this lush green campus.

    Tohoku University is an academic institution with students from all around the world. Today, l54 students from 26 countries have earned their diplomas. I would like to express my congratulations to those from aboard for their efforts and studies. To the international students, please think of Japan and Tohoku University as your second home and contribute to the development of your homeland, world society, and Japan.
    To all the international students in attendance at this commencement ceremony, I would like to say a few words in English.

    Now, I would like to switch from Japanese to English, because many of you are international students. I would like to talk directly to you in English.

    It is my great pleasure to hold the 2013 Autumn Commencement Ceremony of Tohoku University together with the Academic and Executive Staff Members. And I am delighted to express my sincere congratulations on your successful completion of your courses in the Undergraduate and Graduate schools.

    Many intractable problems including the global environment, energy, low birthrates, and financial and employment issues challenge the world today. In an effort to negotiate a solution to such problems, the world is struggling to attain new growth through innovation in all areas.

    Against this background, you are expected to make use of your skills globally. I also ask you to aim to become global-leaders of a new era.

    In this age of progressive globalization, it is imperative that you all acquire not only the basic skills and knowledge necessary to survive as global citizens, but also the ability to understand various cultures and the diversity of societies.

    The diplomas conferred on you today certify that you have acquired both a degree of expertise and a broad perspective. They also certify your ability to address the important issues that confront our society.

    I sincerely hope that your experiences and achievements at Tohoku University shall help you contribute to the development of your countries and to world peace through your forthcoming activities.

    Therefore, let us walk together, even when you are away from Tohoku, through alumni networks and your continuing ties to this university. By doing so, we can maintain what is referred to as a ?KIZUNA? in Japanese, meaning personal or emotional ties.

    Finally, I wish to reiterate my hearty congratulations to all of you, and wish you all the best in the future.

    Congratulations to you on this special occasion

    September 25, 2013

    Susumu Satomi
    President of Tohoku University

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