Osaka Prefecture University

President’s Commencement Address

LastUpDate: March 25, 2021

Congratulations on your graduation and successful completion of your degree program. Let me express my sincerest congratulations on your achievement.

I am delighted to be able to hold this degree conferment ceremony for the spring of 2021 today both in-person and online.

To reach this special day, I believe that each of you has persevered in one way or another to attain your degree, with a frame of mind different from that of ordinary years. I would like to applaud you, who have made strenuous efforts to see this day come, facing changes in your daily lives and feeling anxiety due to the coronavirus catastrophe.

Life under the pandemic is something that most people around the world have never experienced before. Unlike most people, however, for you, the epidemic has coincided with the last year of your degree program. A year ago, we had to cancel the degree conferment ceremony. The students who completed the doctoral program in March last year were enrolled in their bachelor’s programs in 2011, the year of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Some of them commented that the year of their enrollment was unforgettable. Like them, the milestone year of your graduation and successful completion of your degree program will be a memorable year for you. I hope you will take this opportunity to consider how people should behave when they encounter an epidemic, natural disaster, or any other difficulty that human beings cannot avoid, and how people can turn such an adversity into a great opportunity for humanity.

Today, we awarded degrees to a total of 2,044 students: bachelor’s degrees to 1,311 students, who are graduating from academia; master’s degrees to 672 students, who have completed their master’s programs; and 61 students, who have completed their doctoral programs.

Now that you have obtained your degree, each of you will embark on your own life path. I believe that many things you have learned at Osaka Prefecture University will bear fruit in your life. At this university, you have learned the basics of self study. In the age of the 100-year lifespan, please stay ambitious and keep improving yourself. I would like you to be a person who absorbs every new thing in order to learn, and is excited about new discoveries.

On this occasion, I ask you to make me two promises before you fly high into a new world: be open to others, and treasure every encounter you have with other people.

Be open to others

First, let me talk about the importance of being open to others. For many years, I had worked on research with students in my lab at the Graduate School of Engineering. I often had the opportunity to point things out that caught my attention and offer ideas from a different perspective, when students gave presentations in the lab to report the progress of their research or rehearsed for presentations for an academic conference. Different students reacted differently to my comments: some listened to me patiently, while others, unfortunately, often rejected my feedback. So, please be open to others and listen to them, whatever the case may be. When someone talks to you, you may sometimes feel judged, but the moment you interrupt and react against the person, your thought process comes to a halt. In my experience in my lab, open-minded students showed remarkable progress. Don’t rely only on yourself, but receive help from many other people to discover your weak points and overcome them in order to improve yourself.

Takeshi Kitano once said, “If you meet a cook, ask questions about cooking. If you meet a chauffer, ask questions about cars. If you meet a Buddhist monk, ask questions about the afterlife. Whatever the topic may be, don’t pretend to know about it. Just be open to others and try to listen to them. That will broaden your world much more than blowing your own horn. Besides all that, you can enjoy the company of the person.” I believe that an openness to other people’s opinions will help you grow.

Treasure every encounter

Now, about the second promise: please treasure every encounter you have with other people. The other day, after 40 years since my graduation from university and graduate school, I was asked to contribute an article to an alumni bulletin by an incumbent member of faculty of the department I used to belong to. So, looking back on my six years as a student, I wrote about the encounters I have had in the community that have led to who I am today. In just two pages I wrote about as many as 21 people – professors, seniors, juniors, and classmates – and my gratitude to each of them. I saw in a fresh light that I had had so many life-changing encounters within such a limited community in my department and major at university. Over the 40 years since then, I have had an opportunity to get to know many more people, and at this university, I have worked with the help of so many of them.

No matter how great you may be, you can’t live without the help of others. You have met so many people so far, and your interactions with them have helped you grow to this day. It’s a miracle that you have met these specific people, since there are hundreds of millions of people out there. Appreciate the precious encounters you have made and be proactive in establishing new relationships. During my 40 years of teaching, I have always felt the importance of relations in both my career and my daily life. Please continue to cherish the relations you have had with the many people you have met at this university—members of faculty and staff, seniors, juniors and classmates. Appreciate your encounters with them, to further enrich your life. If you can do so, I am confident you will succeed.

I mention this at every degree conferment ceremony, but, at many universities in the U.S., a graduation ceremony is called a “commencement.” Since “commencement” means “beginning,” this word does not seem to match the idea of “graduation.” I hear that the word “commencement” indicates the beginning of a journey into the world of knowledge and truth, and the start of a new chapter in life. Therefore, this is also your commencement. We are in a time of uncertainty, and you may be concerned about the future, but, as the old saying goes, “rainy days never stay.” I would like you to look forward and take a strong step forward.

Last but not least, support from your parents and other people around you has made it possible for you to reach this day of celebration, although of course you would not have achieved this without your own efforts. I strongly recommend that you be aware of the former fact and put your gratitude to these people into words.

To conclude my congratulatory address, I sincerely wish that today’s commencement will be the beginning of a happy, wonderful chapter in your life. Thank you.

March 24, 2021
Masahiro Tatsumisago, President of Osaka Prefecture University