2023 Spring Commencement Ceremony

Under the cherry blossoms, 1,182 undergraduate and 429 graduate students, a total of 1,611 students, are leaving the University of Hyogo today.

I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations and respect to all of you who have made untiring efforts to graduate and complete your studies despite the severe restrictions imposed by the new Corona disaster.

All of you have worked hard in your studies at nine diverse campuses scattered throughout the vast prefecture of Hyogo, acquiring specialized knowledge and skills to meet the changing needs of the times. At the same time, you have sharpened your sensibilities and cultivated your integrity and flexibility as human beings.

You have not been alone in your university life as you have tackled the difficult task of weaving hope in the face of various challenges without being defeated by the new Corona's strong power to tear apart and separate people from each other. Please share these feelings of joy and relief with your proud families and those around you who have looked forward to your growth and development with feelings of gratitude.

Today's commencement ceremony was graced by the Governor of Hyogo Prefecture, Mr Motohiko Saito, the Vice Chairperson of the Hyogo Prefectural Assembly, Ms Junko Tokuyasu, the President of the Professional College of Arts and Tourism, Mr Oriza Hirata, and many other distinguished guests who took time out of their busy schedules to attend the ceremony. We thank all the guests and the local community for supporting our students' lives.

I would like to take a moment to mention a few trends in today's society. We are facing a great crisis in an age of uncertainty and unpredictability.

The human spirit is being eroded by serious threats to the survival of the world, many lives are being lost, and the very foundations of existence for all life are being destroyed.

You are entering a turbulent era of two major waves: the rapid development of information science and technology represented by AI and IoT, globalization and the world's unification.

DX and digital transformation have transformed the social environment around us, and we are now approaching an era in which AI is making inroads everywhere, shaking human dominance and creating disparities and divisions.

The future that awaits us must not be the world George Orwell described in "1984" or the world ruled by Skynet, the AI from the movie "The Terminator". To this end, please continue to hone your critical thinking, the ability to think and judge for yourself, and your creative thinking, the ability to present counterproposals based on multiple perspectives.

Wars and terrorism, which have been waged repeatedly in various parts of the world by belligerent authoritarian regimes, not to mention Ukraine, Gaza, and Darfur, have resulted in vast numbers of victims and refugees and have accelerated poverty.

Climate change and crustal deformation also significantly threaten our way of life and biodiversity. Despite progress toward GX/Green Transformation based on carbon neutrality, we are far from realizing the 1.5°C promise to halt temperature rise, and the planet is boiling over.

Unfortunately, these crises, which are putting a damper on the achievement of the SDGs, the united goals of the international community, are caused by us humans. That is why we must mobilize the wisdom of global citizens to overcome the manifold challenges we face. Only by uniting people across borders in a spirit of fraternity and joining forces can we overcome the challenges of our watershed present age and the age to come.

Our freedom, peace, and prosperity are not a given. Now, let us be courageous! Never ring the closing bell. Never leave the future to chance. We must not allow the modern world to usurp the riches and wealth of the future.

With your soft sensitivity and clear eyes, you who can share the pain of others and reach out to them, please break down the walls surrounding us and pave the way for a global, diverse, and borderless society of the future.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of the University of Hyogo. We have gained ground as a leading public university in Japan thanks to the warm support of many predecessors and stakeholders and the energy of its energetic students.

We will work together with Hyogo Prefecture under the leadership of Governor Saito, which has implemented various measures to support the youth and Generation Z, such as free tuition for prefectural universities, to make the university a unique, outstanding, and world-class academic and intellectual space. We will continue promoting creative reforms to become an alma mater you can be proud of.

The bond between you and the university will not be severed once you graduate or complete your studies. We will continue to support you as you continue to learn throughout your lives in this era of 100 years of life, and provide you with opportunities to relearn and reskill.

The University of Hyogo is an important alma mater and a home to which you can return. If you have time, please drop by the campus anytime. The faculty, staff, and younger students look forward to hearing about your successes and failures.

Walter Benjamin, the German-born Jewish philosopher of history, once said, "It is neither bridges nor wings that will help you through the night, but the footsteps of friends".

It is said that the friends you make during your college years will become your friends for life. I hope you will cherish the friends you have made as students and continue to work hard and compete, seeking the light of hope together.

Before I end my address, I have a sad announcement to make. As you may have already heard in the media, Dr Makoto Iokibe, our university's Chancellor for five years until last March and who enthusiastically led university reforms, suddenly passed away on March 6 this year. On behalf of the university, I offer my heartfelt condolences.

In his famous book, "The Age of Catastrophe: Reflections on the Three Great Disasters," which was based on his unshakable faith in human beings, Dr Iokibe wrote that 'everyone can be a victim of the disaster on this archipelago threatened by crustal and climatic changes. The inhabitants of this archipelago cannot overcome the catastrophe except by supporting each other through "solidarity and sharing". We have no choice but to extend a helping hand to each other for the sake of our existence', referring to his own heartbreaking experience.

We must act with mutual trust and support to achieve a free and fair society where people can escape fear and live in peace. This is the way to carry on Dr. Iokibe's vision, and it is also the way to realize the SDGs' principle of "leave no one behind".

As young people responsible for the future of our richly diverse planet, in a global civil society that includes local communities, and in the global public space, please believe in your power and take a new step forward. Your experience of perseverance in the difficult times of the new Corona disaster will continue to inspire you in the future.

When the word embraces the world, the world is embraced by love. When we pray for others, their names become our names.

I believe you will grow like a flexible tree with roots and spreading branches and leaves, weaving a beautiful life story. Thank you all for sharing this rich time with me.


22 March, 2024 
President, University of Hyogo