Sep 17, 2019
Thanks to the efforts of the graduating class, their families, the faculty and staff of APU, and everyone else present today, we are able to be here for this graduation ceremony. Please allow me to extend my heartfelt congratulations to our graduating students! As a send-off for the graduating class, I would like to talk about three important points.
First and foremost, I hope every one of you become agents for change. The world we live in today is full of contradiction, and many people are struggling to survive. As a student of history, I believe that the 5,000 years since humans invented writing have been a process of people trying to free themselves from restrictions. Throughout the course of history in both the East and the West, there have always been people who have risen to the challenge to take action. You must not be passive observers: I want you to take a proactive approach to whatever it is you want to do in life. No matter the challenge, you will always be faced with real and difficult obstacles. Looking back at history, 99% of attempts at challenges have ended in failure. But the progress achieved by humankind is precisely due to those people who rose to the challenge because they realized that the world would not even budge one millimeter if they did not act.
Even if you fail, you must remember that we now live in an era of 100-year lifespans, so there are numerous chances to try and try again. If you consider that 99% of people try and fail, you can take solace in the fact that if you fail you are not alone. You are, in fact, in the majority. Personally, the most boring life I could lead is one where I find myself on my deathbed, full of regret for all the things that I did not do. I hope all of you will live your lives without any regrets. This is possible if you never back down from the challenges that arise in life. I believe that a rich life is the product of the entire range of human emotion. Something difficult does not offset something equally as enjoyable; rather, the two different experiences add up to make our lives fuller. In line with the spirit of the APU 2030 Vision, I want you to discover your place in the world and remember that, by using what you have learned at APU and thinking things through, you have “the power to change the world.” I hope you will all become agents for change, and that you continue tackling new challenges.
The second point I want to stress is that learning is a lifelong process. Your studies do not end with your graduation from APU. The world is constantly changing. If you do not continue to pursue learning, your knowledge will degrade day by day. After you enter the real world, I hope you continue to pursue learning from people, books, and travel. People can only become smarter through experience, and this means meeting many people, reading many books, and traveling far and wide. Francis Bacon said “knowledge is power,” but one of the slogans of the government in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 is “ignorance is strength.” These two concepts contradict each other. “Knowledge is power” is based on the rule of thumb that humans will only take action once they understand something. No matter what that something may be, once you are satisfied that you understand it, you can take action with confidence. In other words, to become an agent for change means you must never stop learning.
My third and final point is this: stay unique and remain true to yourself. The world today is driven by highly valued startup companies called unicorns. These venture companies, which are multinational and highly diverse, are led by highly individualistic and highly educated people. These people do not necessarily have the attributes that have traditionally been valued in Japan, such as sincerity, patience, high scores on university entrance examinations, being accommodating, and showing obedience to one’s boss. To put this another way, oddballs are trailblazing a new world. This is why I want you all to be confident and stay unique. Strive to become the world's best oddballs! There are now more than 17,000 APU alumni, and the robust Alumni Association has 36 chapters, 26 of which are overseas. No matter where you go to pursue your dreams, there are sure to be APU alumni willing to lend you a helping hand. Former APU students are everywhere, so put your trust in the APU network and tackle your new lives with confidence.
In closing, let me leave you with one of my favorite sayings:
“Go where nobody has gone. Do what nobody has done.”
Congratulations again on your graduation! I wish you all lives full of happiness in whatever you choose to do.
Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University
September 13, 2019