Sep 26, 2018
Welcome! Congratulations on your admission! On behalf of everyone at APU, I want to take this opportunity to welcome all of the families and friends here today, and to congratulate you on the admission of your new APU students.
Just last month I had the honor of presenting an honorary doctorate to the prime minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. In his acceptance speech, Dr. Mahathir spoke of how important it is for young people all over the world to get to know each other. He said that if we are going to have good relations between countries, we must know each other. That if we know each other better, then the chances of conflict between countries will be far less, and even if there are conflicts, there will be opportunities for people who know each other to settle their conflicts not through violence and wars but through negotiations, through arbitration, or maybe through a court of law.
I agree with the prime minister, that getting to know each other can lead to mutual understanding and to a more peaceful world. I also believe that meeting people is a valuable part of learning. I like to say that three of the best ways to learn are people, books, and travel. As human beings, we get smarter with experience, and some of the best ways to gain experience is by meeting many people, reading many books, and traveling far and wide.
Luckily, APU has a wide variety of people for you to meet. We have students from 90 countries and regions, which makes APU what I like to call a "Young United Nations." There is no other university in Japan with diversity like ours. From this day forward, you will spend your time on campus with classmates from all over the world. You can learn many things from other people. By making friends with people from other countries, you can learn their point of view, hear how they plan to spend their time at university, and listen to their plans for the future. Of course, this goes both ways. By talking to each other honestly, you and your friends can deepen mutual understanding and help each other grow.
As for books, I definitely hope you will try to read several of the classics. Books that are considered classics even after several dozen or several hundred years are bound to be excellent. The human brain has not evolved much in over 10,000 years. The emotions that we express and the judgments we make are no different from those of someone from long ago. This is why books that were excellent in the distant past remain excellent to this day. "How Do You Live?", a novel by Yoshino Genzaburo, is now a best seller in Japan. It has been turned into a comic book, so I think many people in Japan have read it. But this book was first published over 80 years ago, in 1937. In fact, this is one of my favorite books. Inside your program, you will find a list of classics I would like all of you to read, and I hope you will try to read some of these during your time here at APU.
Next, let me talk about travel. In short, travel means going places. If someone tells you a new bakery is good, you cannot know if it is good until you actually go there, buy some bread, and try it for yourself. This is why I strongly encourage all of you to go on study abroad or have some kind of overseas experience. Now that you are at APU and have the chance to make friends from all over the world, I think it is only natural to want to go see where your friends are from. Life is long, but your time at university is when you have the most free time. I hope you will take advantage of this and go see the world. As the old proverb goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." I am certain that travel will change your life. We have student exchange and many other programs to help you go see the world. The world is a big place, and I hope you will have the courage to get out there and see it.
So, what exactly can you learn from people, books, and travel? Naturally, you can gain knowledge and experience. In many ways, these can be the most efficient ways to gather a wide variety of knowledge. However, learning from people, books, and travel provides you with more than knowledge. Just as important, this learning helps you hone your ability to think. When you learn to cook you first follow a recipe, and then you make minor adjustments to develop a dish of your own creation. The same principle applies to thinking: thinking for yourself starts by taking knowledge from different places, then using this to build and create new ideas.
There is no other university like APU in the world, not just because it attracts students from so many countries and regions, but because it provides education in both Japanese and English. The world opens up even more for people who become multilingual, especially for those who master English, the world's lingua franca. I hope all of you entering APU will do your best to improve your command of English, just as I hope you enjoy the challenge of studying Japanese.
I want to leave you with one last piece of advice. As you gather knowledge and create new ideas, be sure to put your new-found knowledge and ideas into your own words. The act of writing these down will help you to organize your thoughts, so that you can better access them and better understand them.
If my ideas about people, books, and travel have resonated with you, start by telling your friends. Then, if you write about the idea in your own words—whether on Facebook or a blog—you will build a better understanding in your own mind. By creating output, you will better remember what you have learned.
I was only just appointed to the position of president this January, so like you, I am new here. I look forward to working with you to make APU an even more fun and exciting place to learn.
September 21, 2018
Haruaki Deguchi President Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University