Tsukuba International School
March 5, 2015
I have been asked to give a speech to recognize your departure from our school. Whenever anyone leaves our school, I have to sign a piece of paper and I really, really don’t like signing those papers because it means that I am agreeing to let you leave our school. I sometimes wonder if I can refuse to sign it and just ask some of you to live at school from now on instead. But, it seems that I am not allowed to do that. Except in the case of Wanonno.
At our school, English is the language that we use in our classrooms. I hope that you have learned to speak English well at TIS, and I hope that you will be able to keep up your English after you leave our school. However, our school is not just about learning English. In fact, English is only one of the tools that you will use in your life, and some would say not even the most important one. Here are some things that I think are even more important than learning English.
The first is learning how to get along with lots of different people. In your classes at TIS, you have had some students with different backgrounds. Some students have lived in Japan all of their lives, some have lived in other countries, and some have parents from different countries. All of the families at TIS have slightly different cultures. However, we must all learn to get along with all of the people in our community, even if our cultures are different.
The second thing that is more important than learning English is related to the first. The first was about getting along with people who are different. The second is learning how to disagree with other people gracefully. There are many, many issues that divide people into two or more groups, such as euthanasia, abortion, immigration, and the death penalty. One of the toughest things you have to learn in life is that there is no such thing as being 100% correct when it comes to these and many other bigger and smaller issues. You are welcome to your opinion, but you must recognize and respect the fact that other people may not agree with you. In fact, they might have completely the opposite view to yours. However, the fact that other people disagree with you does not mean that they are your enemy. Quite the contrary. You must find a way to come to a peaceful understanding in your heart that it is okay for people to possess all kinds of opinions that differ from yours and that you do not have to hate a person because of their different views.
And finally, it is very important that you learn to think. I hope that while you have been at TIS, you have learned not to seek the one correct answer, but to explore many different ideas and viewpoints, and many different paths to answer the questions you have faced. And you mustn’t be quick to assume that you know the answer. Until you have tested your own thoughts out by studying them empirically through scientific methods, by asking other people for their input, or by reading about others’ struggles with questions similar to your own, you cannot be said to have thought enough about a particular topic to have any answers. It can be said that “one correct answer” is the enemy of truth, since there is rarely ever one correct answer, or one correct path to answer any question. You must use your powers of thought to seek out the truth and never assume that you have found the one correct answer, miraculously, without any effort at all. If you do think you know the answer without ever having to find or provide evidence for your thoughts, chances are high that your answer is nothing more than an opinion.
So, while I hope that you have improved your English skills while you have been at TIS, I also hope that you have learned to get along with people from different backgrounds, that you have learned to disagree with people respectfully and gracefully, and without resorting to verbal attacks or insults, and that you have learned to use your incredible power of thought to seek out the truth in all matters, rather than believing that you are somehow naturally able to detect the truth without due process.
Even though you are leaving TIS, I hope you know that you will always be a part of our school community. There will always be a spot for you in our little loghouse in the woods, and I hope you will come back and share your adventures with us some day.
Farewell, and we hope to see you again soon.