Microsoft word - university of tokyo 2013 entrance ceremony?speech (1)
University of Tokyo 2013 Entrance Ceremony Speech
Thank you for inviting me to speak today.
To all you new students, congratulations. I wish you the best from the bottom of my heart.
I would especially like to offer my deepest congratulations to those of you who are from
Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures - and Takeru Inamura of Soma High School in
Fukushima Prefecture, and his parents. I also wish to express my feelings of gratitude to Mr,
Quite some time ago, I myself graduated from the Faculty of Medicine here at the University
of Tokyo. After several years of clinical training, I went to the United States of America,
where I spent years in academic institutions – teaching, doing research and being involved
in patient care as a physician. There, as an independent individual, I built a career that was
outside the sphere of Japanese organizations.
During that time, I was able to observe Japan from a distance. This allowed me to
see the country more clearly, and I began to discover both good and bad aspects that I had
not considered while living in Japan. I cared deeply about this country, of course, because I
After fifteen years, in an unexpected turn of events, I returned to Japan. Since then,
I have been the recipient of many diverse opportunities. My perspective throughout has
been to see “Japan as a member of the world community,” and I have considered my
responsibilities and taken action based on this framework. This has led me to sometimes be
outspoken about Japanese society and universities.
Some of you may know that I served as the Chairman of the National Diet of Japan
Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission in the recent past. And
some of you may have wondered, “What kind of person is
this Chairman?” Well, you can
find out the answer to that by Googling me.
I would like to express my gratitude to President Hamada and others who have
The University of Tokyo is Japan’s top university, and it is one of a select group of the most
prestigious universities in the world. Yet, we can see the beginnings of a shadow being cast
The recent reconsideration of the university admission process and the allowance
of autumn admissions reflects the sense of crisis that this university recognizes. But this
reconsideration of admission process and autumn admission may be a necessary step on
the way to reaching higher, more important goals. The University of Tokyo bears a special
responsibility to Japan – because when “Todai” makes an announcement, it makes the
newspaper headlines, it is talked about at the dinner table, and most importantly, it can be a
In the past ten years, the top universities of the world, which so many passionate students of
the world strive to enter, have greatly transformed their undergraduate programs. They have
begun to place more weight on being global and diverse, with more emphasis on the
overseas and cross-cultural experiences of their undergraduate students. What is behind
In the past twenty years, since the time you were born, the Japanese economy has ceased
to grow, and you have probably not heard many positive things about the country. But all
around us, the world has become globally connected – and increasingly inter-dependent. It
has changed faster than anyone could have expected, and it is likely that this change will
only become more rapid. The balance between the world economy and politics has begun to
shift. National governance and finances, industry and economy are all undergoing fluid and
dynamic changes. The disparities and differences in race and religion have increased
potential conflicts and the world has become more vulnerable. A small, regional
confrontation can have a huge impact on the world.
We are moving from a vertical to a horizontal global society, with more flexible and
dynamic organizations. In this new world, diversity, difference, and people whose voices are
dissident and unique have high value and potential. In this “flat world” where every
individual’s strength and capacity can be easily assessed, the world will watch and evaluate
The world’s best universities know that there are things that are fundamental to the world’s
future. They include the deepening of mutual understanding among youth from around the
world, as well as creating diverse and multi-dimensional connections between individuals.
For these reasons, universities are making an effort to develop individuals who can view
themselves and the world from many angles.
I know that it is difficult for organizations that value uniformity to recognize the diverse and
multifaceted ideas of this new world. Here are some statistics on you students who were
admitted to the University of Tokyo: One out of four of you graduated from one of the top ten
high schools in Japan. Two out of five of you graduated from the top twenty high schools.
Many of you spent the past six years of your middle and high school education studying in
the same schools, and were selected through the same entrance exam.
Less than nineteen percent of you are female. It’s interesting that this average has remained
around twenty percent over the last ten years, despite the fact that the rate of being admitted
is about the same for males and females. It means, therefore, that few women take the
entrance exam in the first place, which points to the fact that there are social factors at work
here. Here’s a final statistic: The female-to-male ration at this university is the lowest among
Harvard, Cambridge, Stanford, Princeton – the universities that come to mind when
you think of the world’s best – all have an equal male-to-female ratio of undergraduate
students. On top of that, the Presidents of four out of the eight Ivy League universities in the
So there is a weakness at the University of Tokyo, and it is the institution’s focus on
uniformity at the expense of diversity and an international mind-set. While there are many
male faculty and students, there are few women and foreign faculty and students.
It is incredibly important for you to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses
within the context of the global situation, and you can only learn this by going out into a
different environment. By understanding your weaknesses, you will not suffer from
overconfidence or arrogance: instead, you will become humble. And it is this humility that
allows you to make full use of your weak points and build true confidence.
“Be humble, not arrogant.” That is the attitude that will lead you to true confidence
no matter what you do or where you go in this globally connected world.
There are many astonishing things happening in the world. And I would like to bring your
attention to one of them: the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), which are an
innovative educational method that belongs to this digital age.
MOOC makes it possible for anyone, anywhere, to take the courses of Stanford,
MIT, Harvard and Berkley. It is also possible to share and evaluate your grades with those
universities’ students as well as other students from all over the world. In fact, there are
some courses that are being taken by thousands, or tens of thousands of young people. So
take advantage of this. Use it to understand your strengths, open your eyes, and feel your
In Japanese universities, the evaluation of the curriculum and educators has not
been taken seriously, and there are many teachers that oppose it. However, with MOOC, the
assessment of classes and professors has become more open to the world, and it is
reforming the meaning of university education.
Universities have become open learning spaces for students and professors alike.
Digital technology has the power to enable individuals to pursue their full potential beyond
their social standing, nationality and national borders. MOOC empowers anyone to further
If you participate in the MOOC courses, you may find yourself wanting to go to a
university abroad. It may sound outrageous now, but it is a distinct possibility, and it is up to
Creating your own value in this global world is the first step in building your own unique
career. I would also like to recommend taking time off from university. Because no matter
how much knowledge you have, if you do not have any experience, it is merely a part of the
virtual world within your own imagination. There is nothing as important as actual experience.
And meeting people of your own generation who will carry the future of the world on their
backs is extremely important for you and your future. Make friends like that all across the
world, and you can keep in touch with them through the internet. You can become a “hub”
for connecting talented people in Japan and countries overseas.
This, I believe, is the message and purpose of the change to autumn admissions and
graduation at the University of Tokyo. This should make it easier to experience different
parts of society and explore different worlds. In particular, I would like to strongly
Why abroad? Because you will have a much better chance to discover the challenges that
face the world and realize your own potential. It will also give you a wider framework to see
both Japan and yourself objectively from the outside which, as I said earlier, enables you to
better understand the good points, the strengths and the weaknesses. You will feel your
awareness change and develop. So don’t turn away; you should actively pursue such
There might be moments when you feel that “this is something I want to do.” Whether it is a
gut feeling or intuition, it can awaken a passion in you because it will be your inner voice
speaking. There are going to be endless opportunities and choices that you can act upon:
studying at a university abroad, participating in an exchange program, interning for a
company, the government, an NGO, volunteering, interning abroad through AISEC, taking a
gap term, taking a gap year, and many more. Taking time off from university is also a smart
I know many young people who have found their dreams or goals by going abroad. I know many
such students at the University of Tokyo. After these experiences, these students show sudden
and remarkable change. This is why I recommend going abroad and taking time off from
university. It is recommendation of taking time off to find your own world.
It is impossible for anyone to predict how the world will change. Today, you are standing at the
start line of your new life. There is an American film called The Dead Poets Society
, about the
bonds formed between a teacher and his students at an elite boarding school. I was very
moved by this film. There are many wonderful and memorable quotes from this film. One of
them, “Carpe diem
,” which means, “Seize the day” or “Live in the moment” has stayed in my
Every time I am asked to sign someone’s book or a card, that is what I write:
“Carpe diem, seize the day.” If you live each day according to that phrase, you will live each
So, that is what I want to leave you with today:
And once again, congratulations to all of you.
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CURRICULAM VITAE S. SYED JAHAN , 8/149 – Middle Street MANDAPAM – 623 518 Educational Qualification • Pursuing M. Sc., Zoology, Annamalai University Annamalai Nagar, • B. Sc., Zoology, Jamal Mohammed College Bharathidasan University Technical and other qualification • Typewriting junior grade 1990, Department of Technical Education, Tamil Nadu • Typewriting s