The Aroma of the New

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Commencement Address at Belhaven University

By Makoto Fujimura

Belhaven University Center for the Arts

I am grateful to be given this honor: an honor that is symbolic of the commitment to the arts that Belhaven University, Dr. Roger Parrot, and your Board of Directors have made. You are making a statement; that the arts are fundamental to the core of higher education. The arts are not a peripheral luxury for the elite few, but a central necessity, how a civilization is to be defined, and how our humanity is to be restored. The arts, like the spring flowers all about Belhaven this day, bring the aroma of the New.

I have just returned from Japan where I saw first hand the enormous devastation from 3/11—the massive earthquake, the Tsunami, and the ongoing nuclear disaster. I visited the small fishing village of Ishinomaki in northern Japan, a beautiful coastal town swept away by a series of tsunamis, one of which reached 30 meters high. My friend Emiko, who grew up in Ishinomaki, now finds her home and her parentsʼ business gone, though they themselves were spared having been in Tokyo at the time. The aroma—the stench—of death filled the air as I walked about the region. I saw rice fields inundated with salt water, fishing vessels in the middle of streets, trucks still floating in the rivers. After a month, volunteers with masks and orange overalls are still helping residents salvage what they can, helping one house at a time.

Read the whole address here.

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