2021 Summer Commencement Ceremony

Update: July 1, 2021

132 undergraduate students and 50 graduate students graduated from ICU at its summer commencement ceremony held at the University Chapel on Wednesday, 30 June.

At the ceremony, each student's name was read out in keeping with tradition that has continued since the first commencement ceremony. To prevent coronavirus infection, only graduates attended the ceremony.

Also during the ceremony, the title of Professor Emeritus was conferred to Professor John C. MAHER, with effect from April 1, 2021.



Commencement Address by Shoichiro Iwakiri, President

Mark 1: 9-15

Congratulations to all who have completed your Bachelor of Arts program in our Division of Arts and Sciences as well as to those who have finished the MA or PhD programs in our Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and who are graduating today. I also offer my sincere congratulations to all family members, relatives and friends of our graduates. It is a great pleasure to meet you all and to be able to share in this celebration.
It may seem like a long time ago, but only four years ago, in 2017, the year many of you entered ICU, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America, and officially announced the withdrawal of his country from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Four years later, in 2021, with an executive order issued by the new president Joe Biden, the USA rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement.

The activist-ecologist Greta Thunberg began the school strikes and public speeches in 2018 at the age of 15, calling for action on climate change. At first, it might have seemed like a reckless act like those performed by Don Quixote. But we know that her actions and words have had a strong impact on world political decision-makers.

In 2019, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made the Opening remarks at the high-level meeting on Climate and Sustainable Development. He said: « Climate change is happening now and to all of us.〔...〕No country or community is immune. And, as is always the case, the poor and vulnerable are the first to suffer and the worst hit. »

There are two attitudes we can adopt in the face of the global crisis: a unilateral response or cooperation. And it is the latter that ICU requires students, academic and office staff to search for under the name of "global citizenship." To be a global citizen means that, with regard to global issues, one does not pursue one's own interests. This means that, as manifested in the issue of climate change, the idea of cooperating and coping is ingrained in oneself. It also means being aware of the global structure of economic, social and other inequalities, and showing a willingness to fight against them and to act to resolve them. In this sense, ICU wants you to be someone with a sense of the common good.

In his speech, Mr. Guterres described climate change as a global emergency; but since last year we have been hit by another emergency. The novel coronavirus has suddenly changed the way we live and completely changed our educational environment. In such circumstances, the will and efforts of all of you who have overcome difficulties and completed your research are marvelous. I would like to commend and congratulate you all from the bottom of my heart.

I think that, by learning the liberal arts, you have acquired, so to speak, an immunity that will prevent self-righteous thinking, prejudices, discrimination and false beliefs from spreading within you. This is a 'mental immunity' whose effect may last for a lifetime. On the other hand, thanks to the development of biochemical technology, we can now obtain vaccine immunity against a material foreign substance which is the coronavirus.

Immunity is the function of eliminating foreign substances which have entered our living body and proliferated there. Even if there is a foreign body coming inside us, there would be no problem if it only goes in and out.

This is the case with the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which represent an important and lively festival where temporary guests are welcomed for a short period of time, as shown by the word "hospitality" (omotenashi) used in the bid speech. And in fact, people are generous to travelers who come, stay, tell funny stories, and then leave. They will be even better received if they spend a lot of money and enrich the country's economy.

But if it is a poor and vulnerable person who comes with no place to return, and seeks refuge within Japan and wants to settle there, what happens? Sadly, Japan suddenly becomes cold, hostile and at times inhumane to such people.

It is true that the immune system of society is embedded in every culture. However, this system of community decision-making, which decides whether to include or exclude people of different cultures, operates very strictly in Japan with exclusive standards.

Of course, this is not a problem exclusive to Japan. Across the world, if it sets out to protect its identity and its image with some biased awareness, society will soon become divided, inflexible, and a wall will be erected to eliminate others, that are, so to speak, foreign substances.

Let us distinguish two things. Foreign substances such as the coronavirus must be removed from the body in order to save our lives. But when a person comes from a different culture and tries to put him/herself in a new social and cultural sphere, it is not a foreign body to be eliminated, but the interlocutor in a dialogue. We are dealing here with a person, one who creates diversity and gives us an opportunity to recognize our own selves vis à vis this person.

I believe that, through the study of the liberal arts, you have acquired the power of dialogue, the spirit of respect for diversity, the ability to embrace individual things in a universal order. I hope all of this will help to establish good order in your future life. And I would like you to create a space where human beings can live with deep joy even though difficulties await you. I believe that this will take place in an environment in which man-made artifacts and nature will be in harmony.

On this occasion of the Commencement Ceremony, I would like to quote, in order to celebrate the new stage of your life, the words of a novelist. This is a sentence written by the French writer Marcel Proust at the start of the 20th century. The narrator and hero of the novel, "I", reflects as he watches a plane, still rare at the time, fly above his head.

Between the two large steel wings glistening in the sunlight, I discerned a being that was transported by those wings. ... It looked as if the pilot was unsure of the direction in which he was to proceed - as though all the pathways of space, of life, were laid out before him. He pressed on for a while, flying over the ocean, before seeming to make a sudden decision and flying straight up into the sky as though in response to a force propelling him to defy gravity.

In Search of Lost Time (À la recherche du temps perdu)

May your life be guided by God and filled with blessings.

Professor Emeritus

Professor John C. Maher joined ICU as Visiting Associate Professor in 1988 and devoted himself to the advancement of research and education at ICU until his retirement as a professor in March 2021.

He has served as the Director of the Institute of Educational Research and Service, Chair of the Division of International Studies, Director of the Graduate School Program of Public Policy and Social Research and Chair of the Faculty Council.

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