Notes from the President

My message to new APU graduates (Spring 2024 Graduation Ceremony)

Mar 15, 2024

Congratulatory Message

First, I would like to congratulate all the students of APS, APM, GSA, and GSM on your graduation. You have made it to this day with the support and guidance of many people, including your faculty, classmates, upperclassmen and underclassmen, staff, the people you met at off-campus training programs and while studying abroad, and your bosses and co-workers at your places of employment.

You were exposed to many cultures on APU’s global campus, and you overcame obstacles and doubts as you pursued learning that you could only experience at APU. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the guardians and families of today’s graduating class for supporting their studies. Please accept my sincerest congratulations on behalf of everyone at APU.

Many of you here today began your university life amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The entrance ceremony was cancelled, and classes were moved entirely online. What’s more, the start of classes was postponed twice. You also had to endure strict infection prevention measures in AP House. Our international students faced delays in entering Japan, and many of you saw your opportunities to work part-time dwindle. With the drastic decrease in the number of tourists, Beppu became like a ghost town. Some of you opted to remain in Beppu, while others returned to your parents' homes to take your classes online. Study abroad opportunities disappeared during your first two years, and you had to adapt to alternative online programs. I am sure you faced many inconveniences and anxieties during this time.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the death toll from COVID-19 reached about 7 million as of February of this year, and some researchers estimate that the death toll was anywhere from twice to quadruple this number. The impact of the pandemic on society differed significantly by country, however. In Japan and neighboring Asian countries, the number of deaths per million people ranged from 400 to 700, due in part to the effects of severe restrictions on activities, but in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other Western countries, where many people opposed government restrictions, the number ranged between 3,000 and 4,000. Fortunately, if I may say, no current APU students were lost to COVID-19.

At the beginning of my remarks, I mentioned that you have made it this far thanks to the support of numerous people. As the President of APU, I would like to say a few words about the struggles faced by our faculty, staff, alumni, and local government officials. The staff in the Academic Office worked late into the night every day for over three months making the necessary preparations so that 6,000 students could take classes on Zoom. Meanwhile, to prepare for teaching Zoom classes, faculty members held voluntary study sessions where they took turns playing the roles of teacher and student. The staff in the Student Office traveled around the region to collect information so they could provide everyone with instructions on how to avoid clusters in AP House and Beppu City. Furthermore, with support from alumni around the world and members of the local community, a group called APU Hands was established to distribute food to APU students at AP House 4. Meanwhile, the Japanese government, Oita Prefecture, Beppu City, and the Ritsumeikan Trust each provided scholarships and part-time jobs to assist you with your student life.

Another major challenge for APU—a university that values its global learning environment above all else—was providing support to international students who were admitted to APU but unable to enter Japan due to COVID-19 entry restrictions. Led by the staff in the Admissions Office, APU provided focused support for international students’ entry into Japan every time the national government eased its immigration restrictions. This included airport pick-ups and transportation to nearby hotels, providing students with food and emotional support during their hotel quarantine periods, and assisting students with transportation to Beppu. We also provided pre-departure assistance for countries with a large number of incoming students. Between March and July 2022, we were able to bring more than 1,100 international students into Japan en masse. In June 2022, we welcomed these students by holding a second entrance ceremony entitled “Welcome to Your Home 2020-2022!,” and we filled the campus with banners that read "We've been waiting for you!”

Although you were confronted with a challenge in the form of the pandemic, you were able to continue your studies at APU while using modern technology to connect with your friends, and you provided each other with encouragement as you paved the way to your postgraduation. I have nothing but the deepest respect for your resilience, or in other words, your ability to withstand adversity.

On the occasion of your graduation, I would like to make two requests.

First, I would like you to live a moral life. To do this, you need character, and this is something you create yourself. In your lives that lie ahead of you, your character will be determined by what you think, what you feel, and the actions you decide to take. Always think about whether your words, actions, and attitudes are respectable. You must not lead lives where you think it is okay to do anything to the extent that you don’t break the law, or that it is okay to do something wrong as long as you don’t get caught. To have courage, to face your troubles head on, to be honest, to be loyal, and to empathize with others—it is truly meaningful to keep putting these kinds of things into practice.

Second, I would like you to value everyone you meet. APU has developed one of the most diverse university campuses in the world. Students from many different countries and regions who have different cultures, customs, and religions come to study at APU. The experience of learning to accept students with different cultural backgrounds and ways of thinking as individuals, and belonging to the same university community with such people is a precursor to the future of human society. At APU, we refer to this approach as “inclusiveness,” and it forms the basis of our university’s development. I hope you will make the most of this inclusive experience and value all the people you meet in your lives going forward. At the same time, I hope you will value the friendships you made at APU with your classmates, upperclassmen, and underclassmen.

In many countries around the world today, it seems that political parties that attract supporters by demonizing and excluding "others" who are different from "us" are gaining strength. Donald Trump, who is likely to be the Republican candidate in the upcoming presidential election in the United States, has repeatedly made discriminatory remarks against women and minorities and is trying to destroy the social mechanisms that guarantee equality. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni opposes partnerships for same-sex couples and rejects multiculturalism and the acceptance of non-European immigrants. In France, parties with racist ideologies are gaining strength, although they have not come to power. In Sweden, the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam Sweden Democrats became the second largest party in the September 2022 general election, forcing the administration, which had promoted the creation of an open society, to step down. These kinds of changes taking place in Western countries, which have traditionally been considered established democracies, are noteworthy. Unfortunately, the situation in Asia and Africa is not any better.

I have a request for all of you who have studied at APU. APU is a university that believes that each and every one of us, as human beings in pursuit of freedom and peace, must above all have a deep respect for human dignity. I am sure that in your long life ahead of you, you will encounter arguments such as the one I mentioned earlier, namely, that some people are the root of all evil and that eliminating them would be good for society. You may even find this argument persuasive. If you find yourself in such a situation, I want you to remember the sense of respect and acceptance for each individual that you developed at APU. Having studied at APU, you have the power to save the world.

Today is the day when you stop being APU students and become APU alumni. Your activities as alumni will serve to enrich APU as a university, and this process of enrichment will, in turn, support your career development. In this sense, you will all remain members of the APU family.

In the future, human society will have to solve many global issues such as climate change and international conflicts. I hope that every one of you will use the expertise you have acquired at APU, the power of your mutually supportive networks of friends around the world, and the resilience you have developed in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic to demonstrate leadership in solving these problems.

In closing, may your lives be filled with happiness, and once again, congratulations on your graduation.

Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University
March 15, 2024

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