06 April 2019

co+labo radović     Darko's Graduation Speech at Systems Design Engineering Ceremony    
This year, Darko Radović was asked to deliver a Systems Design Engineering Graduation Speech at the SD Graduation Ceremony at Yokohama Pacifico. Here is full text of that speech (of course - minus Darko's digressions).

SD Graduation Speech
delivered 25.3.2019

It was a great honour for me to be selected to deliver this Graduation Speech today. I would like to express my most sincere congratulations for the accomplishment which we are celebrating here today!
You are the 22nd generation of SD graduates. My compliments, to each and every of you! I extend my congratulations to your parents, family members, friends and colleagues, to professors and all of those who have helped you reach this important landmark, and who should feel proud of you today.

Every graduation marks an ending;
            with this ceremony today, you have formally completed your first university degree.
Every graduation also marks a new beginning;
            in your case, that is the beginning of your Graduate Studies, or of your professional life.

That is why this brief address will consist of two parts – the official congratulations, and one personal advice.
While, in the name of the staff and students of the Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Systems Design Engineering I congratulate you all on successful competition of one important, formative stage in your lives, the focus of my talk will be on future, on the steps in front of you, on reaching academic and professional maturity. I want to give you one advice.

That advice is not original. It is, actually, two thousand and five hundred years old. I will communicate it to you by telling a story with four characters. Three of them are old (much older than I am), while the fourth one is very young.

The first character which I want to introduce is a famous Greek philosopher, Socrates. Socrates died many years ago. If he was still alive, he would be 2580 years old. He has died, but his thought is as alive and as relevant as ever.

The other character in the story which I want to tell today is a great Japanese intellectual and activist whose work you all should know very well – Fukuzawa Yukichi. If still with us, the founder of Keio University would be 184 years old. While he has died more than a century ago, the results of his work are evidently alive and relevant.

The third character which I invoke here is Alain Badiou. He is a 82 years old, famous and still very active French philosopher. In the central part of my talk I will use Badiou’s voice to convey I what want to tell to you.

And the final, fourth and most important of the characters in this story is each and every of you - individually.

I have a pleasure to address 121 of you today. I congratulate to you all, but I want to speak not to the crowd of 121, but to a big group of young individuals. As always, I want to stress that you are all equal, but - different. Good education advances both equality and difference. Your own difference is what I want to emphasise today.

So, let me begin …

Two years ago, Alain Badiou has published his new book, entitled The True Life. This tiny volume explains the main point of my talk today. Badiou addresses young people, talking about their future - precisely as I am doing today. He tells a story of Socrates, a story of the great teacher who used to talk regularly to the youth of ancient Athens, giving them advice which remains as relevant today and here, as it was relevant then and there.

The thought of Socrates is 2,000 years old, but still relevant – because it is profoundly human.

Socrates has lived a full and eventful life. History and legends say how he used to be a stone mason. He knew physical labour. Then, he was a soldier, a hoplit who knew the war. Eventually, as a philosopher, he started exploring Alathea, the ancient Greek Goddess of Truth. That dangerous theme, the truth, brought about his demise. In the year 399 b.c.e. Socrates was sentenced to death and executed.
What was the mortal sin of one of the greatest thinkers of all times?

That is what Alain Badiou explains in The True Life, and from there I borrow some of the words that follow:
            “Socrates, the father of all philosophers, was condemned to death on charges of ‘corrupting youth’. …

It is important to understand that there:
            “Essentially, to corrupt youth means only one thing: to try to ensure that young people don’t go down            the path already mapped out, that they are not just condemned to obey social customs, that they            can create something new, propose a different direction as regards to true life.”

The problems which you are going to face today if you chose the Socratic path are very similar to those which the Greeks of your age had to confront 2,500 years ago.

Badiou continues how:
            “… the starting point is Socrates’ belief that young people have two inner enemies …
and he summarises that:
            “Basically, when you’re young, you’re faced, often without being clearly aware of it, with two possible life         directions, which are somewhat overlapping and contradictory. I could sum up these two temptations like         this: either the passion for burning up your life or the passion for building it.”

The superficiality of computer games explain what Socrates meant by this definition of your “first enemy”.
Your … shukatsu could serve us as a good example of the “second enemy” facing the youth.
Both are conditioned by an overwhelming power of the present, by the world as it is now, by ruling power relations. The System.

Then, Badiou gives that concrete Socratic advice which I want to convey to you today:
            “There’s is nothing more important for everyone, but particularly for young people, than being attentive           to the signs that something different from what is happening might happen.
            To put it another way, there’s what you are capable of – building your life, using what you’re capable of –      but there’s also what do don’t yet know you’re capable of, which is actually the most important    thing …
            what you discover when you encounter something that was unforeseeable. …
            you discover a capacity in yourself that you were unaware of.”

That is precisely what happened to Yukichi Fukuzawa. In 1853, when American Black Ships entered the Bay of Edo, he was 18 years old. As Tokugawa Japan faced a dramatic, unforeseeable situation, Fukuzawa discovered in himself the capacity which he was not previously aware of.

Today, while congratulating you the great achievement which we are celebrating today, as your professor I feel responsible to … corrupt your minds, precisely in the way Socrates was, and Badiou is doing. I feel obliged to continue with great Socratic tradition.

Yukichi Fukuzawa was not seeking an easy career. He was not following the paths beaten by his sempai. He embarked on the path of voracious learning of foreign languages, on communication with other cultures, on travels and contextualisation of the best of what he has seen elsewhere into the realities of the 19th century Japan.

Do not forget – when he discovered in himself the capacity which he was not previously aware of, the capacity to lead, Yukichi Fukuzawa was of your age! In the year 1858 (which you can find on the coat of arms of Keio University) Fukuzawa has established a school for Dutch studies in Edo. He was 23 years old. Almost all of you who are graduating today are only one year younger; the majority of you are 22 years old.
Fukuzawa obviously did not think that he was too young. He did not seek the safe paths charted out by the precedents. There were no precedents. And, there are no excuses for saying how one is too young to be brave, too young to be innovative, especially too young to dream. Dreams challenge the System, they produce change.
Fukuzawa followed the “corruptive” logic of Socrates. In himself he discovered a capacity he was unaware of.
            He was brave, progressive, and he sought change.
            He rebelled against timid, conservative, status quo.

(But, I often get told how “Japanese people” are, somehow, precisely that; shy, timid and conservative.
As a foreigner (the foreigner who chose to live and work in Japan) I dare to say, I know that is not true!
            In that argument, the example of Yukichi Fukuzawa is on my side.
            No one can dispute that he was Japanese, a Japanese par excellence.)

The advice which I promised to give to you today, the best advice which one can give to the young people at the opening a new phase in their lives which was formulated more than 2,500 years ago, is:
            Do not follow the paths which are already mapped out for you, do not blindly obey social customs.
            Seek, propose and create new, different directions which lead to a true life.
            Seek how to be good and how to do good; how to be happy.

At your next step – which is now – when entering your Masters studies or the workforce, please remember Socrates, remember Yukichi Fukuzawa, remember Alain Badiou and - be brave. Seek in yourself the capacity to dream, and try to make this world a better place.

You are young, and the future literally belongs to you.

There is a lot to learn from us, professors (including those among us who are 2,500 thousand years old). In The True Life Badiou, importantly, proposes “an alliance of disoriented youth and old veterans of life”. But - think critically. Learn from us and – judge. As the great Modernist architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, whom you know as Le Corbusier, once said - seek to stand on our shoulders, see further than we are capable to see .

Once again, it is my great honour to, in the name of System Design Engineering, congratulate you and all of those who love you and trust in you, the successful completion of your SD degree and I wish you all the best in the future.

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