Message to All New Students September 2020
Autumn Matriculation Address by Shoichiro Iwakiri, President
Update: September 1, 2020
I would like to extend my congratulations to all of you who will be matriculating into our Liberal Arts undergraduate program and into our MA and PhD graduate school. We are delighted for you, your family and your friends.
International Christian University, as its name shows, has three principle missions: Academics, Christianity, and Internationalism.
Since its founding in 1953, ICU has maintained an academic tradition of freedom and reverence based on Christian ideals, and it has continuously cultivated internationally minded citizens. ICU is here to perform service to God and humankind. Everyone at ICU, including students, alumni, faculty and the office staff, are all expected to contribute to humanity and to lasting peace in the world
From the beginning, ICU has chosen Liberal Arts as the basis of its educational system. The reason for this is because a Liberal Arts education can provide you with an ability to understand things in a general, historical and global context, and at the same time it will provide you with specialized training that will help you understand individuals, society and nature in a specific way
General and specific. These terms may appear contradictory, and in fact when you start your education at ICU you will be confronted with many contradictions.
You will be told that evidence is the most important part of an argument. At the same time, you will also be told to 'use your imagination!'
You no doubt already understand that faith, including Christianity, does not always tolerate reasonable explanations. And yet, no matter what your faith may be, in your education at ICU you will be continually asked to practice critical thinking based on reason.
In fact, if you begin to think that these contradictions are not necessary for your studies and for your life, and if you begin to feel like simplifying the complexity of human existence and focusing your interest only on a specific field, it may be precisely at that point that a crisis will begin. For example, before World War II higher education in Japan put too much emphasis on narrow specialization without providing a wide perspective for understanding knowledge. The results were disastrous. Indeed, ICU was founded as a college of Liberal Arts precisely to prevent the recurrence of such a disaster.
I hope you will be tough enough to integrate these contradictions in yourself, and through evidence-based critical thinking, imagination, faith, reason, and sensitivity, you will develop yourself in order to find solutions to contemporary global problems that are so complex and multidimensional that they require an intercultural and multidisciplinary approach.
In our current circumstances, as we face the threat of COVID-19, in a sense we are forced to think. In his play Caligula, the French novelist Albert Camus makes one of the characters say, 'there's nothing like insecurity for stimulating the brain.'
Today the novel coronavirus is causing insecurity in society. However, even before the coronavirus pandemic we faced many insecurities in our world: poverty, pollution, inequality, exploitation, climate change, environmental destruction... As Mr. Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, has pointed out, even behind the supposedly normal life before COVID-19, there were a lot of abnormalities in human behavior that caused global insecurity. In this sense, we have always been forced to think. And it is also true that even during times of insecurity there are those who do not want to think but who will instead be satisfied simply with believing their own illusions.
I hope that you will all become good thinkers by incorporating the different scientific approaches that are found in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences, and that you will create for yourselves an intellectual and aesthetic structure that will help you to act rightly, to communicate well with others, to be open to diversity, to create new norms that will bring our civilization into harmony with nature, and to find good solutions when you are faced with difficulties. All of the faculty and staff here at ICU are committed to assisting you in that endeavor.
On September 4th, Autumn Term classes will begin. Due to the coronavirus, about 35 students among you will attend your courses online from overseas. The number of exchange students, who we call One Year Regular students, is less than ordinary. We are very sorry that so many international and domestic students have lost their opportunity to study abroad in Autumn and Winter Terms.
In this difficult situation, ICU is unwavering in its commitment to offering courses that will stimulate your intellectual interest through dialogue and critical thinking. I hope your activities will be productive and creative, and your experience rich in diversity. In regard to diversity, I would like to cite a passage from the book Essays written by Michel de Montaigne. In chapter 37 of the second book, he wrote:
I do not hate opinions contrary to my own [...] I find it much more rare to see our humours and designs jump and agree. And there never were, in the world, two opinions alike, no more than two hairs, or two grains: their most universal quality is diversity.
Against a homogeneous uniformity that requires obedience, against pressure to conform, our university invites you to be dynamic and to adapt in response to diversity, and to appreciate diversity not only in opinions but also in the broader horizon of culture and nature.
We all hope that you will enjoy life at ICU!
Shoichiro Iwakiri, President