Today marks the dawn of a new chapter in your lives, a chapter filled with boundless opportunities and endless potential. It is with immense pleasure and honor that I stand before you, applauding your success and achievements. Each and every one of you has reached a remarkable milestone, even in the face of the pandemic. It is a testament to your unwavering determination and tireless efforts. And for all of us, your family and friends, this accomplishment, whether it be a bachelor's, master's, professional, or doctoral degree, is something truly worth celebrating.
The Pursuit of Excellence
As we gather here today to celebrate your successful graduation, let's reflect on the journey that has brought us to this point.
You may be aware that Tohoku University is currently the only contender for the title of "University for International Research Excellence." This recognition by the government reflects our 116 years of commitment to enhancing research capabilities, creating social value, and reflecting them on our education. We will continue to strive for final accreditation and work collectively to further establish our university as a global leader.
The first President of Tohoku University, Masataro Sawayanagi, declared at the university's very first entrance ceremony that we would be a world-class institution in research. This marked Tohoku University as the first university in Japan to define itself as a "research university." Our on-going commitment to research excellence is what has earned us the trust of society in our education and social co-creation.
The Role of Academia in Society
Excellence in academia extends beyond simple research publications; it embraces practical implementations, the responsibility to help communities through the scientific discourse, and fostering the next generation. You are the ones who start a journey from one of the best academic institutions with your commitment and creativity to elevate everyday life in communities all over the world.
Outstanding education also implies you are prepared to take the responsibility of tasks not everyone will be able to accomplish or even challenge, using your knowledge, experience and skills you gained during your time here at Tohoku University.
An Ever-Changing World
We must remember that we are living in an ever-changing world full of uncertainties and predicaments - climate change, aggressions that violate the framework of international law, new technologies beyond societal readiness, and for us here, demographical change, just to name a few. As a university that prides itself on its engagement with global communities, Tohoku University must not only passively adapt to societal changes but actively pursue transformations to create a better future for all.
The importance, influence and impact of many research results have yet to be determined. And as such, the value of research will become what we make of it.
We aim to redefine the concept of a research university, not preconceived by the logic of an isolated ivory tower of academia, but as an institution driven by research excellence, serving as a platform for innovation, creating social value, and addressing global issues; a role model through which the next generation can learn and grow themselves. Our commitment is to fully engage with society so we can demonstrate a dynamic and responsive approach to the evolving needs of our world.
The Impact of AI and Individual Responsibility
One example of the dynamic changes that impact us all, whether it is an institution or an individual, is the sudden rise of generative AI. On campus, we have one of the largest research groups engaged in Natural Language Processing in Japan, a field focusing on the analysis of human languages so machines can learn to understand sentences and interact with us. Research at a comprehensive university like ours not only advances AI research, but also gives us the opportunity to discuss its direction and make it useful for the betterment of society.
Meanwhile, for many of casual users, texts, images and other media are now displayed on your screens almost instantaneously. Many questions are "answered" by simply asking online, and not by extensive learning or going through advanced monographs. However, you should remember, once you obtain "an answer" it is up to you what to do with it. It is the point where the assistance by technology ends. AI tools mimic existing patterns and provide existing knowledge. Nobody can replace your individual creativity, nobody can take over your own responsibility, and nobody can inhibit your freedom to embark on a journey you desire. And for that matter, nobody can live your life for you!
Our Legacy and Identity: "Open Door"
Tohoku University's emphasis on freedom, openness, and equality was manifested as one of our founding principles, "Open Door", providing people the opportunity to choose their own path. We were the first university in Japan to accept three female students in 1913, despite the cautionary remarks from the Ministry of Education of Japan at that time. Two of these three female students, Chika Kuroda and Ume Tange, later became leading scientists in Chemistry. Our founders' strong commitment for "Open Door" has never faded and even strengthened over the recent years. In April last year, we adopted the Tohoku University Declaration of Promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This year marks the 110th anniversary of the beginning of female university students in Japan, and we will celebrate the anniversary at Homecoming Day this weekend, where we plan to honor our overseas graduates. So stay tuned.
We are very proud of the strong historical identity of Tohoku University, and you, our graduates, who carry on this legacy we nurtured over the years.
Joining the Global Community
As you step into new environments and take on new responsibilities, remember that you are never alone and you will always be a part of the Tohoku University family. Our alumni network spans the globe, and we are here to support you. Our Shuyukai Alumni Association enables us to stay connected and engage with each other on a personal level.
By now, you realize that graduation is not the end of your journey with Tohoku University but the beginning of a new partnership. You are all valued members of the Tohoku University community, and you should wear the "Tohoku University Graduate" badge with pride and confidence. I have no doubt that each one of you will contribute to future innovations and support communities both at home and abroad. I am looking forward to listening to your endeavors and adventures.
Congratulations on your graduation, all the best for your future, stay safe and see you again soon.