A Letter to the Next Generation


With fond memories and deepest respect for Prof. Sumiko Iwao who recently passed away, we would like to share below the beautiful speech she made during the Fuji Declaration Symposium “Co-creating a World in Harmony” held in Tokyo on May 12, 2017.

Prof. Iwao was one of the founding Japanese members of Soul of WoMen. She received her Ph.D. from Yale, taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and was Professor Emeritus at Keio University. She was an early leader in Japanese women’s studies and social psychology, and a national figure serving on many government committees and commissions including Chair of the Gender Equality Council. Since 2008, she had been operating microfinance projects to help poor women in Tanzania. She founded Sakura Girls Secondary School, which operates in a Maasai village, providing educational opportunities to girls from underprivileged backgrounds.

Speech by Sumiko Iwao:

I would like to read the letter that I have prepared―the message that I would like to leave for the next generation. But before I go on, let’s remind ourselves of what Kahlil Gibran wrote on children in his famous book The Prophet, which I translated into Japanese and published when I was young.

Let me quote:
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

So here we can see the balance we wield between the generations. The pace of social change is accelerating as everyone knows. The next generation is going to live in the world beyond our imagination. Therefore, I would like to say the following as a stable bow.

Firstly, no matter how fast and vast the society may change, I wish for the next generation living with diverse people to serve others with respect. No matter how much the society may change, conflict, hatred and sorrow always remain with people. If you are hurt, please be sure to exert your efforts so that others will not experience the same harm or pain.

Secondly, in order for the next generation to be stable bows, for the generation following, be sure to acquire core knowledge and flexible ability to apply it in multiple situations. Nobody can steal nor take away the education that you acquire. I started a girl’s secondary school in Tanzania to produce future women leaders. As no one can take away the education the girls will gain at the school.

Thirdly, cherish and treasure every minute and every day remembering that it may end suddenly without any warning. But you still remain in harmony and balance. I learned it and understood it so very clearly when a tsunami swept away beloved ones six and a half years ago. I cannot forget this fact and ever since, I always finish what I can today before the day ends. As it happens, tomorrow I will be hospitalized for my back surgery, I will make sure I will return any material things that I have borrowed. If not, I am leaving everything clear to others in case I won’t come back from the operation.

Lastly, I wish to add a few concrete things remembering the sweet faces of my students in Tanzania. I want them to cultivate, reap social capital during their years at the school. Also, since they will be living in the age of artificial intelligence and higher level information technology, they should acquire the skills to draw on the necessary information out of the sea of big data in order to make wise and appropriate judgements and balanced choices if they should become lost in the darkness.

By: The Fuji Declaration

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