Award Ceremony

Award Ceremony for Sasakawa Fellows 2022

Class of 2022 WMU Sasakawa Fellows Awards Ceremony
Sunday 30 October 2022

Class of 2022 WMU Sasakawa Fellows Awards Ceremony

The Class of 2022 WMU Sasakawa Fellows Awards Ceremony took place on a warm, sunny afternoon on the last Sunday in October 30. Sasakawa Fellows gathered at the Sasakawa Auditorium to be awarded certificates after officially completing their master's degree programs1.

It was the first time in three years that this ceremony was held in person. In attendance were Mr. Mitsuyuki Unno, Executive Director of The Nippon Foundation (NF), who made a day trip to Sweden from London specially for the occasion, and Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, the honorable President of WMU. The audience comprised various WMU faculty and staff and 30 Sasakawa fellowship students from the Class of 2023, who all graciously took time to attend the ceremony and celebrate the birth of the new Sasakawa Fellows. It goes without saying that Mr. Eisuke Kudo, advisor to the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, made an appearance as well, flanked by two members of the Friends of WMU, Japan Secretariat.

After a flurry of commemorative photos of the graduates with Mr. Unno and President Doumbia-Henry, the awards ceremony began with opening remarks from Mr. E. Kudo, who congratulated the new Fellows for their achievements. The President came next, thanking the Nippon Foundation for its leadership in strengthening the Friends of WMU, Japan network and giving words of encouragement to the graduates, encouraging them to become leaders in the maritime field while fully utilizing the network they gained at WMU2. “By giving of yourself, your time, and your talent, so many people will benefit, just as you will yourself. Your network will ensure that everyone is involved in meaningful activities that will result in real outcomes for your country,” she said.

When it was his turn at the podium, Mr. Unno spoke of the limitations of what can be done by a sole individual or country. “In order to pass the oceans on to future generations, we need to work across disciplines, professions, borders, and ethnicities. You already have the tools to do this. The Nippon Foundation's Alumni Network, to which you will now belong,” he stated.

Then, switching gears, Mr. Unno provided some advice which carried a more personal touch: “Do not be afraid to be irrelevant. Rather, you should proactively be irrelevant.” He followed, “I feel irrelevance enriches our lives, and on some occasions, saves us. Please do not fear to be irrelevant and enjoy challenging a whole variety of things.” Mr. Unno then handed each graduate a certificate emblazoned with their names, and gave a verbal word of congratulations in each of their native languages3. Felicidades. Selamat. Parabéns. Mabruk. Abhinandana. Omedetou. 

After the formal ceremony, the venue changed to the brightly lit World Bistro for a relaxed reception accompanied by a delicious international brunch. The President called everyone to raise their glasses, which was followed by a non-alcoholic toast to congratulate the graduating students.

Near the end of the reception, Ms. Daniela Jimena Andrade Tamayo (Ecuador), representing the Class of 2023, gave a congratulatory speech, introducing her memories of the graduating class with great touches of humor and wit. Class of 2022 representative, Mr. Yankuba Marah (Sierra Leone), then addressed the audience, once again expressing his gratitude for The Nippon Foundation's support and his determination for the future. With that, the ceremony officially came to a close.

Unlike previous years, the event was held on a short Sunday afternoon, but it was a wonderful meeting where we were able to experience firsthand the "camaraderie" that is created when everyone involved in the journey - the journey of nurturing outstanding maritime leaders of the future - gathers in the same place. We have high hopes that this network will continue for many years to come after graduation.

1 Though there were 31 Sasakawa Fellows total in the Class of 2022, 30 were present for the ceremony as one Fellow had     to leave due to unforeseen circumstances. 
2,3 Please see below for the full speeches.


Award Ceremony for WMU Sasakawa Fellows
Speech by Mr. Mitsuyuki UNNO

Dear Graduates,

It gives me great pleasure to stand here today to congratulate the new Sasakawa Fellows on their graduation. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to President Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry and the faculty at WMU, for the excellent education they have provided. My gratitude also extends to home nations and organisations for sending the fellows to WMU. Most of all, I would like to thank and congratulate the families for their continued encouragement and support to the fellows.

There are many complex issues that entangles the ocean. You have refined your expertise at WMU, and I am sure that you will now be able to maximise your strength in your career. However, it is not always enough to just be an expert in your own field of expertise in order to untangle the complex issues. I would like to remind everyone to always keep a broad mind.

As we have seen with the rapid evolution of technology in recent times, events comparable to 300 years of change in the history of mankind have occurred in just the last 15 years or so. Just recently, Tesla unveiled its first humanoid robot, Optimus. I am sure that companies outside of maritime field like Google will build ships one day. A single maritime cluster, fixed in traditional thinking, where shipbuilders build ships, shipping companies transport goods will not be able to keep up with the changes that are certain to take place. Innovation will only come from going beyond the existing framework of the 'maritime field' and building a 'marine cluster' that involves all industries, setting ambitious goals that seem difficult to achieve, and looking ahead to work out what is needed to achieve them.

That is why I hope that you will never cease to be interested in different fields, set high goals, and keep on growing as individuals to drive change. Of course, we will also be happy to help you continue to take on challenges after graduation. There is a limit to what can be solved by the efforts of one country, one institution and one person. In order to pass the oceans on to future generations, we need to work across disciplines, professions, borders and ethnicities. You already have the tools to do this. The Nippon Foundation's Alumni Network, to which you will now belong. This network will be of great support to you when you take on new challenges. Currently, The Nippon Foundation has a network of over 1,600 Fellows in over 150 countries. But our achievements are not about numbers. What is important is that you are able to utilise this network and work together towards solving the problems of the oceans.

Congratulations on your graduation. And welcome to the Friends of WMU. We sincerely look forward to new collaborations with you in the future.

That was my congratulatory speech as an Executive Director of Nippon Foundation. I want to give some more personal talk.

At WMU, you gained knowledge, experience and colleagues, fully motivated to return and be active in your respective countries. I have no doubt you will do well, but if I were to offer you one piece of advice, it will be “Do not be afraid to be irrelevant. Rather, you should proactively be irrelevant.”

Not just in the world of business, but everywhere around the world, people try to avoid being irrelevant to maximise efficiency. This is somewhat related to the fact that with technological development, more precise calculation is now possible.

Representative example is the problem solving intelligence model using AI. AI’s world is an aggregation of data that is useful and comprehensible. There is no room for irrelevance or waste that has no use or cannot be understood. In another words, whatever is irrelevant or cannot be controlled could be eliminated, and you will be living a life that only enables you to see what you want to see.

AI is useful, without a doubt. However, human intelligence is able to accept an unforeseen existence that one has not yet sensed. To put it in another way, if you belong to a certain community or system without having any doubts, you will be no different to a machine.

I have talked about the importance of “DIFFERENT FIELDS”. Different fields may look irrelevant if you shut yourself in your own specialised field. However, this irrelevant exercise is the key to convert from 0 to 1. That is why I truly hope that you will do something that is irrelevant. The first step could be to read a book that is completely irrelevant to your field. Take some time away from your research and immerse yourself in a hobby.

Lastly, what we should not forget is that “Humans are with the Ocean.” The key word here is ‘with.’ Humans cannot avoid using the ocean for our wellbeing. However, can we perceive the ocean not just as means, but as an existence that we humans live ‘with’? Solving the ocean and environmental challenge boils down to this one point.

To think about the ocean that does not say anything or future generations that are not yet born may be irrelevant to your life. However, we are able to accept such irrelevant existence. I feel irrelevance enriches our lives and on some occasions, saves us. Please do not fear to be irrelevant and enjoy challenging a whole variety of things.

I love to drink, so I challenged beer which did not help my waistline. This is not what I mean to enjoy being irrelevant. Do not follow my example.

Now, I will be presenting your certificates. This is not merely a proof of entry to our network. This is to certify that you, as a Nippon Foundation Fellow, will remain to be part of our network for the rest of your life even after you graduate.  At the same time, it is a proof that you will commit to continue solving social challenges. You are the chosen ones from different countries around the world. With that commitment in your heart, I am confident that you are determined to work together with us to solve global scale and intergovernmental challenges.

Speech by Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry
President of WMU

Mr Unno, Mr Kudo, all our friends from Japan: 

I must start by thanking you for coming today and arranging this event. It is such a deep pleasure to welcome Mr Unno to the University again, after so many years when this has not proved possible. And we are honoured that Mr Kudo has been able to find time in his busy schedule to visit us twice this autumn. The worst effects of the pandemic are clearly receding across the world, as science and research has provided mankind with a weapon against this virus. It is so wonderful to see this new dawn. 

One effect of the pandemic has been to isolate us from each other. Even in small regions, movement was difficult and meeting others often impossible. The effect on international friendships was dramatic, with only virtual meetings being possible for over two years. 

However, by making it impossible to see our friends in person, the pandemic has given us one very real benefit: we now know just how much we value these relationships. We appreciate how personal contact and personal networks affect the quality of everything we do, from the mundane to the novel. It is much easier to break new ground when we are part of a trusted team. We are more responsive, more cooperative and more creative when working inside a supportive network of people who share our goals and our values. 

The Sasakawa Fellows form a global network that enriches all of you, and all of us. Each of you has a fundamental understanding of what matters. Your studies at WMU have provided you with a framework for action firmly based on moral principles and the goal of global sustainable development. 

You have learned that the currency of a real network is generosity not personal gain. By working together you make every single one of us richer, in both tangible and intangible terms. By giving of yourself, your time and your talent, so many people will benefit, just as you will yourself. Your network will ensure that everyone is involved in meaningful activities that will result in real outcomes for your country. 

Your network will connect you to people who are world leaders in the maritime and oceans fields. It will provide you with knowledge and opportunities to update your skills as time passes. Your network will reach outside your field of expertise and bring inter-disciplinary ideas and innovation. 

I would like to ask you all to join with me now in thanking Mr Unno and Mr Kudo for their inspired leadership in ensuring the vitality and strength of the Sasakawa Fellows Network. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!