Fall 2020 Commencement Ceremony Address
My sincere congratulations to each of you today on earning your doctoral degree. Since entering SOKENDAI, you have continuously pursued your research over many years. You have written a doctoral dissertation based on your findings, completed the required credits, and passed your final exams to reach this day and earn your doctoral degree. Please accept my sincerest congratulations.
Unfortunately, due to the global spread of COVID-19 infections, we are unable to gather at SOKENDAI's main campus in Hayama as we normally would for today's commencement ceremony. It's extremely regrettable that even my congratulations have to be delivered to you online. It has always been so important to me to call each of your names and hand you your degrees individually. Because the departments to which you belong are scattered throughout Japan, we rarely have the opportunity to meet. Likewise, you probably have a very few opportunities to speak with people in the other departments. That is why it is normally so important to take the time, however short it may be, to come together in Hayama, reflect on all your hard work, and dream about what the future holds now that you have earned your degree.
Now then, from today people will refer to you as a hakase, or "doctor," so I would like each of you to reflect more deeply on what the doctoral degree means to you. What skills do you now possess thanks to the research you conducted over many years and the doctoral dissertation that you wrote? For sure, you have become experts in a particular field of research. But beyond that, how have you grown as a person by completing your doctoral coursework and writing your doctoral dissertation? Perhaps between all the experiments and the writing, you did not have the time to observe yourself objectively in such a way. Be that as it may, recognizing the significance of your doctoral degree is, in my view, very important to your future.
Many of you will probably continue to conduct research as part of a scholarly community. Some of you will continue research in the same field as now, while others may head into slightly different fields. Others still may embark on a new life in a workplace not focused on scholarship. Whatever the case may be, having written a dissertation in a field that you yourself have researched means that you not only obtained knowledge of that field but also acquired a set of new skills. I encourage you to use those skills as the fine tools to open the way to your future life.
Whether you become a researcher or take up some other career, you are a someone who has earned a doctoral degree. That means you are the kind of person who sees more than what is right before their eyes. It means you are someone capable of seeing a bigger picture of the whole across both time and space. It also means that you are the kind of person who can identify what the issues are, decide what methods to take to resolve those issues, and develop a plan for doing so. Moreover, you do not merely accept the various opinions and assessments of a given situation. Rather, you are capable of examining them critically and viewing your own opinions and stances in relative terms. To be sure, as individuals who have only just obtained their doctoral degrees, those skills are not yet fully developed. At the very least, however, the seeds of such skills are in each of you. Please recognize and nurture them as you go forward.
Something else that matters: Friends and colleagues. By this, I mean the people you have had various opportunities to meet, be they the people alongside of you, ahead of you, or behind you in your department, people you may have met at conferences, or people from other disciplines. The network of friends and colleagues you have already formed will be an extremely important asset in your life to come. Having colleagues with whom you can share advice and help regarding scholarship as well as life's various hardships is a wonderful thing. A social network of this kind is a safety net in times of trouble and a precious source of information. Even more than that, it is a wellspring that will enrich your life.
COVID-19 has made the future of the world difficult to predict. With a growing number of people performing work online, everywhere in the world people are in the midst of discovering both the good and the bad of being online. The very nature of the civilization we have built for ourselves may even begin to be reviewed for change. Wherever you may go, whatever work you may do, I hope all of you will contribute to making a better society, as someone who understands what scholarship is.
Last but not least, let me also express my congratulations and appreciation to the many people who helped support your research life, including the faculty who served as supervisors and the members of your families. Again, my sincere congratulations.
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI