Graduation Ceremony, September 2021
- Yoshiaki Terumichi, President of Sophia University
- Tsutomu Sakuma, S.J., Chancellor of Sophia School Corporation
Opening Address by Yoshiaki Terumichi,
President of Sophia University
Before I proceed let me convey my sincere felicitations to every one of you on your graduation. These greetings of mine also go out to your parents and others, who have assisted you all along. The COVID-19 pandemic which erupted last year, continues to cast a shadow on everything. Some of you, or your family members or friends, may possibly have been infected by the disease. Yet, there are many others who continue to suffer from its pains, and who thus have no choice but to face many other adversities as well. I wish to convey my heartfelt sympathies to every one of them.
You students have spent a year and a half of your college life amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and I sincerely respect your patience and successful effort, which has led to your acquiring of your degrees. I am sure a few years ago when you were admitted to Sophia University you pictured a student life on campus, on the basis of which you envisioned new goals and a more mature self. Amid the many changes in society and within your personal milieu that have been evoked by the pandemic, how many of your goals have been successfully achieved?
At every milestone of our lives, we set up goals, plan our approaches towards them, and measure our progress as we take concrete steps to realize them. We usually make plans based on the assumption that our social and personal settings will continue to develop linearly. However, when spasmodic and radical social deviations occur, as we beheld in the case of the pandemic, a great amount of energy needs to be expended in order to redraw the pathways we had envisioned. Even so however, you have indeed succeeded in acquiring your degrees. You may have confronted hurdles or experienced frustration along the way, you may have had moments of confusion or despair, and yet your struggles have led you to success. I am convinced that this fact carries a far greater significance, than the achievement of your original goals.
Consequently, I am in praise of your efforts. As President of Sophia University, I am proud of you. Reflecting back on the situation the university was faced with in the course of this crisis, we see that intense effort was devoted to not halting our education, or compromising its quality. More than anything else, your efforts under such adverse circumstances will undeniably constitute a crucial page, in the history of our University. I wish to pass on to you in a special way the feelings that arise within me, for having spent this time with you.
Now, I wish to share with you who are graduating from Sophia University in a laudable manner, some current concerns of mine. I wonder if our thoughts are fully engaged with others. Today, we have been blessed with an occasion to gather together and share our joy, within the same time and place. I wish to ask the wise souls of Sophia University as to what their eyes are looking at? In society, there are many who are faced with losses suffered owing to the pandemic or natural disasters, and who have no hope of early recovery. Also, on gazing out further into the wide world, we see many who are exiled from their nations, or who have become marginalized by economic development. The milieu we enjoy today, is not the “average” milieu one witnesses across the globe.
Besides globalization and digitalization, the pandemic is also arousing a change in society. Human society needs to address this multilayered transformation in an astute manner, and usher in a new society typified by justice and value. This is a vital task calling for instant address, and with increased speed. I admit I have before me leaders for this task. Yet, neither Sophia nor I can say, “we leave this task in your hands.” Your alma mater, Sophia University, has the mission of continuing to send out prudent souls like you to engage in the task of building a new society, and hence we will continue to be part of these efforts. Let us not forget that both Sophia University and yourselves are in positions, wherein society entrusts you with tasks like these. This is because as I said earlier, there are many people in the world, who are in situations wherein they have no choice but to ask someone else to perform such tasks for them. These are the “others” referred to in the motto, “Men and Women for Others, with Others.”
The Deputy Director of the Catholic Jesuit Center just introduced a passage from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew. The Bible teaches that when you think of a suitable world, or think of others, you should not just conform to what is before you. In a chaotic world, it is vital that we continue to consciously pursue the path of virtue, always thinking of others and understanding the true nature of the way, instead of superficially addressing issues that lie before us.
I hope your future success and progress are led by the educational philosophy of Sophia, namely “Men and Women for Others, with Others,” and I hope also that you make it visible to the world in your own unique ways. Your visits to our campus are always welcome, and when coming on a visit please share your thoughts with us. How did you approach the pandemic? What implications did the pandemic have on society? And reflecting back, let us confirm the fact that both our society and ourselves will never forget to be open to the feelings of others, and that our lives will always be “with others,” even amid the challenges awakened by the pandemic.
My congratulations once again, on your graduation.
Congratulatory Address by Tsutomu Sakuma, S.J.,
Chancellor of Sophia School Corporation
My hearty congratulations to each one celebrating the completion of your undergraduate or graduate program today. Let me extend my joy to your parents, guarantors and other supporters including those who are attending this ceremony online.
It must be absolutely a very special day for those of you receiving your degrees. It is because you have overcome many challenges that include not only your studies but also the challenges of different languages, cultures, and lifestyles. On top of that, you have made many efforts in the very limited circumstances imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic for almost two years in the latter half of your student life. In that sense, today, you must be filled with profound joy that all your efforts have proven worthwhile. We are also very proud of you. We hope that you will share the fruit of your research and studies with and for the people you are going to meet in the world.
This world and the people that you are going to meet are currently faced with the challenges of the pandemic. While we know that all efforts are made for global solutions, in reality, people are increasingly suffering as a result of human conflict arising from wealth disparities or national/local self-priority interests. A suffering world awaits you. Now that we are living in such times, the world has high expectations for all of you, who are guided by the Sophian spirit, “for Others, with Others.” We can rephrase the Sophian spirit as “for the suffering, with the suffering,” in the context of the realities of the pandemic.
One way to address the sufferings of others is to analyze the situation in which they are suffering and to develop a solution. That in itself is a valuable and meaningful exercise, but analysis does not really help us reach out to those suffering. Another way is to call to people’s conscience and launch a movement to change the situation. This is also a valuable and meaningful exercise but will not let us touch the very person who is suffering. Therefore, suffering people suffer in isolation. If there were anyone who could empathize with and support a suffering person, that person would be someone who knows such suffering from experience. I am sure that many people will try to address people’s suffering. However, how many people can really become involved with suffering people? People who suffer are lonely in every respect. People who suffer ultimately suffer because they are confined in the darkness of isolation. If they were ever to see a streak of light in that darkness, it would be when someone who knows such suffering and listens quietly to their cries.
I am sure that through your knowledge and skills, which are the fruit of your individual efforts, may aim to “create a world of sustainable development without leaving anyone behind” by becoming leaders, analyzing ideals based on analyses of the current situation. In the struggles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I hope that as “people who know suffering”, you are well aware of the meaning of walking with the suffering people.
I expect that all of you graduating from Sophia University today will live “for Others, with Others,” guided by the Sophian spirit in your individual places. I pray that through your work, the entire world may be blessed with life.
Once again, Congratulations on your graduation.