Saturday, September 01, 2007

My farewell speech

I moved to Tokyo last month and still haven't gotten Internet service at my apartment set up yet, so updating the blog has been impossible. Right now, I'm just stealing access from the Apple store in Shibuya, so I don't really have the time to write anything, but I thought I'd post a copy of the farewell speech I gave in Japanese on my last day at school. The Japanese is followed by my English translation section by section, but the translation may read strangely in some places because the speech itself was written in Japanese (that is, not written by me in English then translated into Japanese, but from the beginning conceived in and written in Japanese). I promise it's a much better speech in the original. Later, once I have my Internet set up, I'll write more about the reception my speech received and the whole experience of leaving the school. Anyways, here it is:

皆さんは、「アメリカ人」と言う言葉を聞くと、どんなことを考えますか。無意識に、どんな言葉が出てきますか。 背が高い?白人?目が青い?個性が強い?思いやりがない?
When you hear the word “American”, what do you think of? What kinds of words come to mind unconsciously? Tall? White? Blue-eyed? Strong individuality? Lacking consideration for others?

When Americans hear the word “Japanese”, what do you suppose they think of? What kinds of words do you think come to mind for them reflexively? Short? Weak individuality? Considerate?

When you were asked this question, you thought about the differences between yourselves and Americans, right? This is because the words “American” and “Japanese” carry within them the image of the other group as different. There are likely those that don’t find this too important a point, but from these images of another group as different, there emerges the possibility of coming to think of the other group as a different kind of human beings. And with that, there is the danger of forgetting the humanity of the other group entirely.

毎日南校に行っていた私は、最初から毎日 一日中生徒とふれあってきました。しかし、学校に来たばかりの時に、皆さんはただ「Hello!」と言ってから、笑いながら向こうに走って行きました。 授業中に、私がいる生徒たちにじろじろ見られることが多かったです。ある時に、私は一人の生徒に英語の言葉の説明していた間に、その生徒は私が言っていたのを聞く代わりに、 あっけに取られたような表情で、その子は自分の子犬のように腕をなでて、「すごい。。。ゴールド!」と 言いました。
Coming to school every day, from the beginning I was interacting with you students all day. However, when I first started at school, everyone would just yelp, “Hello!” at me and then run off in the other direction, giggling. In class, you guys often just stared at me. One time, while I was explaining the meaning of an English word to a student, rather than listen to what I was saying, she got this wide-eyed look to her and started petting my arm like I was her dog. “Wow…” she gasped, “It’s gold…”

また別の日に、私はその日の活動を説明してから、その前にずっと私が言っていたことに集中したような生徒に「Do you understand?」と聞いてみて、その子は「アダムス先生の目がちょう〜青いね」と答えました。たしかに、よくほめてくれましたが、私が言っていることよりも、皆さんは私の腕の毛や目の色の方に興味があったようでした。あの二学期にはじめて挨拶として「でっかい!」と言われた経験もありました。あの時、私は生徒たちから見ると、人間じゃなくて、かわいくて、エキゾチックなパンダとして見られていたと思いました。
Another day, after I had explained the activity we’d be doing in class that day, I tried asking a student in front of the class, “Do you understand?” since she looked like she had been totally focused on what I was saying before. She answered, in a dreamy voice, “Adamusu-Sensei no me ga cho aoi ne…” or, in English, “Mr. Adams, your eyes are so blue…” Certainly, it was nice to be complimented so often, but it seemed like everyone was far more interested in my arm hair or eye color than in anything I might be saying. That term was also the first time I’ve ever had “Dekkai!” (“huge!”) used towards me as a greeting. At that time, I think from the students’ perspective, I wasn’t a human being so much as a cute and exotic panda.

でもだんだん見慣れてくると、普通に対話できるようになりました。朝皆さんが「Good morning Mr. Adams!」と言って、「Good morning!」と私が答えました。昼休みにしゃべったり、冗談を言って笑ったり、一緒にバスケットボールやテニスをしたりしていました。学校が終ったら、家庭教師として英会話を教えて、英語部の担当者として英語部の子たちと特に仲よくなりました。パンダから人間に変身したようです。
But gradually everyone got used to seeing me, and we became able to have normal conversations. In the morning, you all now said, “Good morning Mr. Adams!” and I answered, “Good morning!” We chatted during lunch break, told jokes and laughed, and even played tennis and basketball together. When school ended, I tutored kids in English conversation, and, as supervisor of the English club, became particularly close to club members. It seems I had transformed from a panda into a human being.
ほんの65年前には、私と生徒のような若者は敵でお互い殺し合いをしていました。去年広島を訪ねた時に、どうやって人間がこんなにひどいことができたかと思いましたが、あの時に、アメリカ人が「日本人」を聞くと、神風、腹切り、ナンキン、1億の竹槍などを考えていたでしょう。あるいは、あの時の日本人が「アメリカ人」を聞くと、鬼畜米英、などを考えていたでしょう。一般的なルールとして、他の人間を殺すことは無理なはずですが、双方とも相手が同じ人間だとは思っていませんでした。だからこそ、人間を殺すことができるようになっていたのです。 人間性を失っていたということです。
Only 65 years ago, young people you and I would have been enemies in a war trying to kill each other. When I visited Hiroshima last year, I thought about this and wondered how it was that we were able to do such horrible things to other human beings. I suppose when the Americans of that time heard the word “Japanese” they thought of words like kamikaze, hara kiri, the Rape of Nanking, or the “hundred million bamboo spears” reportedly waiting for us on the Japanese mainland in the hands of every single, fanatical Japanese person, all willing to fight to the death. Likewise, when the Japanese at that time heard the word “American” they probably thought of words like kichikubeiei, (“British and American Devils”). As a general rule, it’s impossible for us to kill another human being. But we didn’t consider each other human beings. As a result, it became possible to kill each other. This process is known as dehumanization.

もちろん、あの時は戦争のプロパガンダのせいでしたが、なぜ国民があのプロパガンダを信じていたかと聞くと、多分相手と会ったことがなくて、 相手の具体的なイメージがないと、相手がすごく曖昧なものになってしまったのでしょう。相手の人間性を忘れてしまったと思います。 今も私たちにとって 同じ理由によって、今アフリカのダルフルで苦しんでいる人はただの新聞に出る記事にすぎない存在ですよね。あの人たちの具体的なイメージを持っていない私たちから見ると、あんな人たちはただの言葉の世界の存在で、あの人たちの死は数字としたしか考えられません。
Of course, at that time it was the result of wartime propaganda, but why were we all so susceptible to propaganda? It’s likely we’d never met anyone from the other group, and, unable to form a concrete image of the other, they became a very amorphous thing. And we forgot their humanity. In our lives today we can see the same attitude manifesting itself for the same reasons with the suffering of people in places like Darfur in Africa, a people who exist for most of us purely as articles that appear in newspapers from time to time. Lacking any concrete image of them, they exist only in the world of words for us, and their deaths are just numbers.

It’s for this reason that I think the JET Program is such a great thing. Obviously, it’s important for helping students study English for their entrance exams, but I think the more vital goal is allowing us to understand one another’s humanity. Because from now on, when you all hear the word “American,” you’ll think, “Oh, Adams-Sensei!” Because you have a concrete image of me in your mind, you won’t lose sight of the humanity behind the word “American.” And I hope this isn’t just for Americans, but that you adopt this attitude towards all of the foreigners you meet in the future. Internationalization and human understanding towards the Other will move forward like this, step by step. I think all of us here today – students and teachers – are walking on this path forward together.

To the third year students preparing for exams, when you hear me talk about “a path forward,” it probably makes you think about going on to university, right? Well, I have one thing to say about that too.

「私は早稲田で勉強した」と言ったら、「すごい!」とよく言われました。皆さんにも言われました。一方で、アメリカでも、”I went to UCLA”と言ったら、”Wow!”とよく言われました。たしかに、両方はエリートな大学です。たとえば、UCLAでノーベウル賞受賞者の教授がたくさんがいたので、ものすごく面白い授業があります。そして、素晴らしいUCLAの図書館でどんな本でもあります。それに、一緒に勉強している仲間は多様で、やる気がある人ばかりです。しかし、私から見ると、早稲田やUCLAのようなイリートな大学に入れるのはそんなに偉いことではない。もちろん、入学試験を合格するのは難しいですが、入れることよりも、入ってから何をするか、何を習うか、何をできるようになるか、ということの方が大事だと思うからです。UCLAのようないい大学に入ったら、偉いことができるようになる可能性があるかもしれませんが、機会を利用しないと意味がないと思います。
When I tell people I studied at Waseda University, people often say to me, “Sugoi!” (Amazing!) Many of you also said the same. Similarly, when I tell people in the US that I went to UCLA, they too often say to me, “Wow!” Certainly, both are elite universities. At UCLA, there are many great professors – several even are Nobel Laureates – so there are very interesting classes. And, you can find any book you’d ever want to read in the fantastic UCLA libraries. Your peers at the school are very diverse and motivated students all. However, from my perspective, getting into elite schools like Waseda or UCLA isn’t so impressive. Of course, it’s difficult to gain acceptance to the schools, but I think it’s much more important what you do after you get in. What do you study? What do you become able to do? If you get into a good school like UCLA, you may have the potential to do great things, but if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity, just getting into the school is meaningless.

I think most of you here today are motivated, intelligent, and hardworking students. I’m sure you’re often told similar things by your teachers and parents. It’s likely many of you will go on to study at good universities. However, to me, passing the university examinations is nothing but a kind of parlor trick. It’s simply a performance showing off your basic intelligence and drive. What can you really comprehend about a person just from knowing they passed a university examination? When someone enters Tokyo University, do they immediately transform into a great person? In the end, does it really mean anything?

I think to be called, “sugoi” you must actually accomplish something. Because I don’t feel like I’ve done anything amazing, when people say this to me I become rather embarrassed. I think you all should also feel embarrassed if someone says “sugoi” to you.

I think whether you’re really sugoi or not should be something based on your growth as a person or how you’ve progressed as an individual. Therefore, don’t take passing the examinations as your goal. Passing just gives you a chance. Passing is just the first step towards your future.

来月から、私は東京で翻訳家として働きます。日本語がもっとぺらぺらになりたいので、仕事は勉強になるといいなと思って、この仕事を決めました。その後に、私の夢は外交官になることです。外交官になれたら、将来に皆にすごいと言われることをやってみたいですが、今は一歩一歩、 謙虚で頑張ります。皆さんも高校で、大学で、勉強してください。手に入るチャンスを利用してください。 本当にすごいと人から思われる将来を目指して、 一歩一歩、頑張っていってください。そして、そのあなたがたのすごい将来にまた会いたいと思います。
From next month, I’ll be working in Tokyo as a translator. I chose the job because I wanted to become more fluent in Japanese and I figured I could study while I worked. After that, my dream is to become a diplomat. If I can become a diplomat, I would like to try to do things in the future worth of being called sugoi, but in the meantime, I’m trying to do my best with humility, step by step. All of you, please keep studying at high school and college. Take advantage of the chances you are given. Aim at a future in which you could be thought of as sugoi, and do your best, step by step. I hope I can meet you again in that sugoi future we have made.

Thank you very much.

1 comment:

drcaa said...

That was a wonderful speech!