2015 Summer Commencement Address by Junko Hibiya, President


Matthew Chapter 25, verse 40
"Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."

I would like to extend my congratulations to all those graduates of the College of Liberal Arts who have received their bachelor's degrees, and to those Graduate School students who went on to further study and received their master's and doctoral degrees. Permit me to offer my heartfelt greetings to the friends and families of today's graduates.

The majority of the graduates today entered ICU in September 2011, approximately six months after the Tōhoku earthquake. Everyone who lived in the region was seriously affected by the disaster. In such an emergency situation, the lives of these people depended on the efficiency of the distribution of accurate information.

On March 22, eleven days after the earthquake, Ayako Imamura, a deaf documentary film director from Nagoya, went to Miyagi Prefecture and started shooting. Based on forty-six hours of a visual record that was made during her seven visits to the area, the movie entitled "3.11 without Sound: there were Deaf People in the Disaster Area Too" was created.

This movie is about a deaf person whose name is Nobuko. She barely survived the tsunami thanks to her hearing neighbor who, using gestures, urged her to escape. But for this thoughtful person, Nobuko would have been washed away in her home on the Pacific coast. In fact, the filmmaker found out that some deaf people lost their lives because they could not hear the tsunami and evacuation warnings. In any emergency situation, the percentage of victims and casualties among people who lack information is higher than an information-rich population.

The movie followed Nobuko to the evacuation shelter where she encountered further problems. Not being able to catch any verbal announcements herself, she always had to watch those around her carefully and follow them to receive minimum living supplies such as food and relief materials. While asleep, deaf people like her were completely cut off.

What Director Imamura wants to state in her twenty-three minute movie is evident; people are equally entitled to access information that affects their lives. Although she focuses on the deaf in this particular film, accurate information sources in an emergency is crucial for people with any kind of disability as well as for those who need multilingual support.

Not only does Director Imamura try to convey this message through her film production, but also she is engaged in creating educational materials based on the content of her movies. Various study guides that she has made available from her website are widely used in training sessions organized by schools, public institutions and NPOs.

In October 2011, half a year after the Tohoku earthquake, the 22nd Language and Literature Committee of the Science Council of Japan was established. This committee designated the method of information distribution to those lacking sufficient information, especially in times of disaster, to be one of its three most prior tasks. In 2013, the Committee invited director Imamura and a sign language specialist to their biannual session as guest speakers, and showed her movie "3.11 without Sound."

This task has been handed over to the 23rd Committee that started last autumn and of which I am a member. The Science Council of Japan's primary goal is to establish a researchers' network to support society and advise the government. Together with my colleagues from different institutions, I hope to play a role in realizing a community where everybody has equal access to information that makes a difference between life and death. This is the goal that Director Imamura so eloquently shows us through her film. I am very grateful to be given this opportunity that my specialty in linguistics can help facilitate communication during disaster.

In today's address, I introduced the work of director Imamura, and tried to share with you how one's field may serve society using my own as an example. Today you are graduating from ICU. As you know, our mission is to nurture promising individuals to serve God and humankind. I sincerely hope that what you have acquired here, and what you will learn further after graduation, will serve you well in this endeavor.

In May 2014, Father Tetsuro Honda, a Franciscan priest based in Kamagasaki, Osaka, delivered a sermon in this chapel during our Christianity week. He is engaged in reading the original text of the Bible. The passage from Matthew Chapter 25, verse 40, read out at the beginning today says, "Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me." Let me introduce Father Honda's wording of the same passage. "Whatever you did for the member of my family of whom is made to be the smallest, you did to me". Here, "the member of my family of whom is made to be the smallest" refers to someone who you are connected with, the one who knows the pain. Nobuko, who barely escaped the tsunami, who watched and followed everybody else to receive supplies in the shelter, is certainly the one that "is made to be the smallest".

I pray that all of you who are leaving ICU today will follow a path in which you find a connection with God through "the smallest one". May God bless you all.