Address to Tsuda College

Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer
October 10, 2008
Tokyo, Japan

It is a pleasure to be here at Tsuda College to speak to you today. I have looked forward to my visit for some time. I always enjoy talking to young people about achieving their hopes and dreams. But, I am especially happy to have this opportunity to speak to such a large group of talented young women. The world is changing and women will lead more and more of our institutions, businesses and governments. It is fun to think of how women in your class here at Tsuda will undoubtedly influence Japan and the larger world beyond. There may even be a future Prime Minister sitting here with us today. And that fact reminds me that I need to make a good speech so that America will have a friend when you come to power.

The history of Tsuda College and America are intertwined. Madame Tsuda spent the early part of her youth in America. She was impressed with the education young women could get in the United States, and she returned to Japan determined to do the same thing for young Japanese women. The result was the eventual establishment of Tsuda College. Over the years, generations of Japanese women came to this place and they received a first-rate education. Often though, when they left, they were denied the opportunity to advance in their careers to the full extent of their abilities. Things are different now, and they are better. The changes that will occur in your lifetime will only accelerate your opportunities. You will have a chance to see and do things that your mothers and grandmothers could only dream of and I am confident that you will make the world a better place.

Forty years ago, I sat where you sit today, a student eager to acquire the best university education I could. While that no doubt seems an eternity to you, to me it feels like a few minutes in a few months just a few years ago. The world is very different now than it was forty years ago. Technology has changed everything. Today, you cannot imagine living in a world without cell phones, or DVDs or the Internet. Forty years ago I could not imagine living in a world where they existed. In 1990, a year in which many of you were born, the total number of Americans connected to the Internet outside the government was exactly zero. Less than twenty years later connections in America are approaching 300 million. A few weeks ago the New York Times reported that the number of Internet connections in China was over 300 million.

In fact, we are headed for a situation in the next few years where the number of connections in the world will exceed the entire population of the planet - more than nine billion. These are staggering statistics, but then again the Internet has brought staggering change to America, Japan and the world. And it has done so within most of your lifetimes. It has touched every part of our lives, from business to entertainment. And it has not been the only harbinger of change.

Advances in science and technology have lengthened our lives and enriched our living. At the turn of the century in 1900, a child born in America could only expect to live to the age of forty-six. At the turn of the century in 2000 a child born in America could expect to live to the age of seventy-eight. As Japanese, your life expectancy at birth today is eighty-two. Technology made that kind of change possible and billions of people are the better for it.

Great change has also occurred in the world economy. Despite the recent turmoil in the financial markets, it is still fair to say that never have so many been so prosperous in so many places. Increased trade, increased access and increased education have allowed billions to have better lives. In China for instance, almost 300 million Chinese have emerged into middle class prosperity but the success of that endeavor is tempered by the realization that there are still 300 million Chinese living on less than $2 a day. There are an additional 700 million Chinese that are living somewhere between that $2 a day and the middle class. The international economy has changed so much since I was your age, that we even coined a new word to describe it – “globalization”. The effects of globalization will only increase during your lifetime.

When I was the American Ambassador to Australia, an American company called Electronic Data Systems - EDS - gave me a tour of their Adelaide offices. It was then that I really began to understand what globalization was all about. The EDS people said they had engineering clients who began their day working on plans in America, after eight hours they handed their work off to Australian engineers who would work another eight hours before handing off to British engineers who completed the 24 hour work cycle. The British then started it all over again by returning their work to the Americans who began another work day. At the height of its power, the British used to say proudly that the sun never set on the British Empire.

Today, whether you are doing business in Britain, Asia, North America or Europe, whether you are British, American, Japanese or German your money will never sleep, your business day will never end, your opportunity to trade will never stop. And in your lifetime, the speed of all this commerce will only accelerate.

And great change has not been confined to the worlds of science and business. The international order that I knew as a student is no more. The Cold War is over. You grew up in a world without the Soviet Union. Yet, I remember the summer when the Berlin Wall went up, the years when I never thought it would come down, and the night when East Germans climbed it to strike the death knell for communism. Today, the international order is in the process of redefining itself. Its center of gravity is shifting to Asia. In the world you are about to inherit, China, India and Japan will increasingly play the role of great powers.

When it comes to social concerns, millions around the globe are demanding the right to participate as full citizens of their societies. My country experienced the greatest social revolution in its history while I was going to high school and college. Growing up in the South, I experienced first-hand the awful reality of segregation - the legal separation of Americans on the basis of race. Black Americans could not eat in the same restaurants where I ate, stay in the same hotels where I stayed or send their children to the same schools that I attended. It was not until I went to college that I could sit in the same classroom with another American whose skin was black.

And in those years discrimination was not just race-based. Much of it involved gender. When Madame Tsuda traveled to the United States in the late nineteenth century she was struck by the opportunities American women had relative to women in Japan. The United States may have been more progressive in gender opportunities then than in comparison to other countries, but there was still a long way to go. Women were not an equal part of any society in the world when I sat where you sit today, and certainly not in America. When I went to law school, the number of my classmates who were women was still small - ten to fifteen percent. Today, the majority of law school and medical school students across America are female. In fact, 58% of the students attending all colleges and universities in America today are women.

Forty years ago no woman headed a Fortune 500 company in America. Today 12 women are Fortune 500 CEOs. In 1993 the number of women serving on the corporate boards of those companies was a little over 6%. Today that number has increased to almost 15%. In 1986, the number of women serving as university presidents in America was a little less than 10%. In 2006, that percentage had more than doubled to 23%. A woman now serves as President of Harvard University. By any measure women are seeking and achieving greater leadership roles in every aspect of American society and our country is the better for it.

Regardless of who ultimately wins, Americans can be proud of the fact that this summer the Democratic Party nominated an African-American for President and the Republican Party nominated a woman for Vice President. These nominations are proof that most Americans want character and competence to count for more than color or gender.

These changes in attitude toward race and gender have had and will continue to have profound and positive effects not only on American society but on the entire world. No one can argue that we will not create a better world as we leave prejudice and discrimination behind. Women here in Japan, women in this room, will be part of a continuing social revolution that will make a positive difference in people’s lives. Seize the opportunities that will present themselves to you and history will sing your praises.

Beyond this continuing social revolution, enormous physical change will come to the world around you. Much is written and reported today about the pressure more people and more demand for natural resources will have on our environment. The dialogue sometimes takes on a doomsday tone that can be quite depressing. But I would argue that rather than this being the end of our planet, a new world is just now emerging. We will transition to a different world economy in your lifetime that will be less dependent on fossil fuels and more efficient in its use of energy. The transportation that you use when you are my age will most likely be powered by hydrogen, whose byproduct is water, not carbon dioxide. Why am I so confident that the environmental story will have a happy ending? Because you will be in charge of the world and no generation will ever have come to power with a greater sense of environmental responsibility than you have today. Over time you will come to understand that these manmade problems can be solved by men and women who are determined to solve them because they want to live in a cleaner, better world than they would otherwise have if they did nothing. It will cost more and cause much change. The economy and the world will look different than they do today but it will happen because you will choose to make it happen.

When I was your age, the prophets of doom regularly predicted that the population explosion would result in Malthusian catastrophes of unthinkable size. People would starve by the hundreds of millions and storm the gates of the developed world. That has not happened for a couple of reasons. As people became more prosperous, they started having fewer children, not more. And second, science made it possible not only for people to live longer, but for their food supplies to be dramatically increased. This scientific bounty will only increase during your lifetime. The science of genetics has already made it possible to grow rice that can prevent 500,000 Asian children a year from going blind because their diets do not have enough Vitamin A. Technology right here in Japan has developed another kind of rice that can act as a cholera vaccine to those who eat it. Nanotechnology developed during your lifetime will allow mosquitoes to inoculate against rather than infect humans with malaria.

What wonders you will behold before you reach my age as the pace of change continues to accelerate. There will be more to learn each day and there will be different ways to learn it. You will see, feel and understand more than any generation. The world will grow smaller and in the midst of all that change, you will sometimes wonder if there is anything that will remain constant in your lives. I can assure you that there is.

The human spirit will always seek justice. The human soul will always seek peace. The human heart will always seek love.

There is something deep within all of us that makes it so. You should never underestimate the power of love to transform the human soul. When you look into the face of your own child you will understand that better. When you share the joy of another’s accomplishment not because it brings something to you but because it brings happiness to them you will understand how satisfying it can be to help another. When you realize that kindness and forgiveness nurture your soul as much as they benefit another’s you will understand contentment.

Soon you will graduate from Tsuda. And when you do, you will feel increasing pressure to succeed. I hope you will come to understand what real success is. The true measure of success does not come from the title in front of your name or the clothes you wear or the car you drive or the balance in your bank account. The true measure of success comes from the number of people who have come to love you and the number of people you have come to love. If you can remember that, I think when you get to be my age you will have found happiness no matter what else may have changed in the world.

I wish you well on your journey. I enjoyed being with you today. I just wish I could stay in this world long enough to see all the wonderful things you will do in your lives. May you find peace and happiness as you make a better world.