Great address in graduation ceremony, the University of Tokyo, 2015

This is one of the most impressed address I have heard. I’m not a graduate of the university so just heard by media, but this address still becomes a compass of my behavior. Unfortunately it’s not popular in spite of the greatness, here I made unofficial translation of the speech.

Congratulatory address at graduation ceremony of the faculty of liberal arts, the University of Tokyo, 2015 by Prof. Yojiro Ishii, Head of the faculty of liberal arts.


Address by Dr. Yojiro Ishii, faculty of liberal arts, the University of Tokyo, 2015

Congratulations today on your graduation everyone, and as well as your families. This year total 175 students graduate from liberal arts faculty. Graduation ceremony as the University of Tokyo has been held in the morning at Yasuda-Kodo, so that here I would like to celebrate your graduation again as this faculty.

When it comes to graduation ceremony of this university, though it was almost half century ago, I recall the very famous speech by Dr. Kazuo Okochi, who was an economist and the president of the university of Tokyo at that time in 1964, when Tokyo Olympic was held. He said, “Become emaciated Socrates better than a fat pig.”

In that year, I just upped to junior high but since the sentence was widely reported by mass media, still now I can remember clearly the words. Very young as I was but I was impressed by the speech and thought that’s the only speech that the professor of the university of Tokyo could do. And I suppose not a few of you also have heard of the speech somewhere.

But, although I have told this story before in some chance, there’re some mistakes and misunderstandings in regard to that remark.

The first mistake of all is the subject, “Dr. Kazuo Okochi,” which means, actually this remark was not originally from Dr. Okochi, but quotation from “Utilitarianism” by John Stuart Mills, English philosopher in 19th century.

Perhaps you might wonder that in spite of his position of the university president, he plagiarized other’s sentence without notice, but of course it’s not. Seeing the speech manuscript, it’s certainly written that “In the past, J. S. Mills said, “Want to be emaciated Socrates better than a fat pig.”” The manuscript said not “be” as instruction but “want to be” as wish so it’s a little bit different but anyway here, the name of J. S. Mills was written clearly. That’s why it was legitimate quotation along with official manner. But the media reported the word as if it’s just originally Dr. Okochi’s own words, and the society believed it and has passed down.

The second mistake was more deeply connected with the content. To say the truth, John Stuart Mills had never said both “Become emaciated Socrates better than a fat pig.” or “Want to be…” The paper, “Utilitarianism” said,

It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.

Utilitarianism – John Stuart Mills

Now you find that the sentence was pretty different to the word Dr. Okochi said. And the Japanese version of the paper looks accurately translated, so it seems that Dr. Okochi had modified the sentence into the other, totally different one. I suppose he vaguely remembered it and carelessly arranged to fit with what he wanted to say. As the result of it, I guess “a pig satisfied” went “fat pig” because of the image of it eating as much as it wants, and “Socrates dissatisfied” went “emaciated Socrates” from the image of never easily eating what he wants. But you know Dr. Okochi’s words have totally different nuance to the original, so that it’s a problem to introduce that the words are from Mill nonetheless. If things don’t go well, it might be regarded as a case of arbitrary fact manipulation.

However, there’s one mistake more than those. Dr. Okochi, in fact, skipped this sentence in his speech. There’s for sure in the manuscript, but wondering skipping on purpose because he found his mistakes or just inadvertently, anyway he never said in his actual speech. As a matter of fact, only the manuscript went around over the media and was reported, which led his word had become real in spite of no existence. This is the third mistake.

So, there’re three mistakes around his remark of “Dr. Okochi said, “Become emaciated Socrates better than a fat pig.”” At first the subject of “Dr. Okochi” was wrong, the object of “Become emaciated Socrates better than a fat pig” was totally inaccurate quotation from Mills and and in addition, even the verb “said” was not the fact. Then in short this proposition was wholly wrong from the first to the end and never, even only one fact existed. Even though, this phantom episode has been passed down truly and even become a kind of legendary.

Well, here what I would like to say is, you have to remind that information you get in your life nowadays, especially miscellaneous information on the internet will be sort of same as the story I just shared. I suppose providers of such untrue information don’t have certain malice and also suppose they only repeat kind of telephone game, but;

Good-intention copy and paste and blind retweets occasionally make us misunderstood more than malice falsehood does.

And once uncertain information goes public with some color of truth, no longer no one try to make sure if it’s true or not through approaching the original document directly.

Along with information mediated multiply, it goes away from the original fact at an increasing tempo and everyone is accepting without question. And criticism, which should be activated also goes dysfunction before we realize. I really realized the problem has been getting remarkable these days as the internet becomes popular.

But we have to break this kind of bad habit. Doubt every information and confirm truthfulness of it. Review primary information and validate with your eyes and your ability to think. I think the robust criticism of these is the essence of arts that you all have to have after graduating the faculty of liberal arts, regardless of arts or science.

At the graduation ceremony in this morning, a representative student of literature faculty made a great address in reply. Since I just heard first time so it’s not truly accurate but in short, the point is “Every single word has name. Even a word of anonymous has name of who left the word. But we shouldn’t regulate ourselves or become silent. We must tell words under our name.”

It is really true. From now on, your words always have names. These are not only your own name but the name of the university you graduate, and the name of your faculty of liberal arts. Then, wherever you proceed, in study field or your work, I would like you to doubt every information with your robust criticism, validate it, examine it, and tell your only words with your name without hesitation as one of graduates of the university of Tokyo.

By the way, retuning back to the story of “the pig and Socrates,” when I heard that at the first time though I was still young, I wonder why we have to be only “fat pig” or “emaciated Socrates.” I may as well be a fat Socrates if I can.

So here I saw the manuscript again, I found there “We may want to be fat Socrates if we can.” For sure there’s no rule that people to be Socrates must be emaciated, then at this point I totally agree. But also it’s kind of hard to imagine fat Socrates. At today’s ceremony, the president Dr. Hamada, who left this university after 6 years of his post, said “tough and global” at last of his speech. Here, in honor to both presidents Dr. Hamada and Dr. Okochi, I would like to say “Be a tough and global Socrates.” to you.

Well, when it comes to my situation, this March is the last month of my post as a head of faculty of liberal arts. At the same time, I will take mandatory retirement from professor. If I am allowed to say such kind of conventional expression without embarrassment, this ceremony is for you all as well as for me. This may be some kind of fate that I can graduate with you all but anyway this is the last chance for me to tell things to you from here. Then not Dr. Okochi’s “emaciated Socrates” or not Dr. Hamada’s “tough and global,” I would like to close this speech with presenting the most favorite words of me to you all.

This is the words from “Also sprach Zarathustra” by Nietzsche, a German philosopher.

You have to want to burn yourself in your own flame: how did you want to become new when you haven’t become ashes first!

Also sprach Zarathustra – Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

I would like you also to burn yourself in your own flame at first, not thinking of the consequences, and become ashes. And after that, you would find another new of you. People who can’t totally burn themselves can’t reborn. For this age of me, it’s over once I put myself into flame but you can make yourself reborn again and again. From now, even if you goes wherever you want, please continue to burn yourself and find new ones of you.

Of course, you shouldn’t forget to really make sure the words I said to you are really on “Also sprach Zarathustra.” Perhaps this might be the last joke.

I wish you open your brilliant future. And I wish your power of arts, cultivated in this Komaba, with your robust criticism will eventually bring wisdom light to this deeply and deeply confusing world. Again with all my feelings. Congratulation on your graduation.

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