Ceremony for the Establishment of the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund at the University of Chile

Santiago, Chile

I am honored to be here today to celebrate the initiation of the University of Chile into the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund.

Chile and Japan have enjoyed cordial relations for more than a century. The Chilean naval training ship Esmaralda, visited Japan just two weeks ago. Many Japanese people, including myself, took part in the welcoming ceremonies. As you may be aware, in 1894 Japan purchased a cruiser named Esmerelda from Chile. It was thanks to this ship that Japan was able to win the Russo-Japanese War. It is well known that without the friendship of Chile, Japan would not have been able to win that war.

The Japanese people proudly remember the event as the first time that an Eastern nation defeated a Western one. Since this year is the 100th Anniversary of the Russo-Japanese war, the visit of this sixth Esmerelda was a historical event.

The Nippon Foundation and the Tokyo Foundation are delighted to be able to establish a SYLFF program at the University of Chile. In this way, we are contributing to the history of the excellent relationship between the two countries.

SYLFF is named after my father, the late Ryoichi Sasakawa. His motto was “The world is one family; all humankind are brothers and sisters.” This was his way of saying that all of us must transcend political, ideological, religious, racial and national boundaries if we are to live together in peace. My father was a firm believer in education. He believed that the purpose of education was not only to help young people acquire skills and knowledge. More importantly, it should instill them with a strong sense of mission and responsibility for their countries and world.

The Nippon Foundation, which my father founded in 1962, and where I serve as president, engages in many varied programs, but our work focuses on basic human needs and human resources development. Our work includes efforts in public health and poverty alleviation, education and training of professionals, and promotion of international understanding and cooperation.

We have worked with more than 90 countries over the past 40 years, building partnerships with governments, international organizations, and NGOs. Our fundamental goal in all of this is to provide support in a way that generates self-sufficiency.

In my capacity as WHO’s Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and as President of The Nippon Foundation, I am pursuing the elimination of leprosy as my personal lifework.

Leprosy has been a scourge of humankind throughout history, and those affected by the disease have suffered greatly from social discrimination. There are a great number of descriptions about this disease in ancient documents, including the Old and New Testaments, and Indian texts dating back to 600 BC. It was long believed that a cure for leprosy would never be found. This generated strong social stigma. I even believe that this disease caused the oldest form of discrimination between human beings.

However, leprosy is a curable disease today.

I am happy to say that thanks to the efforts of people working in the field in Chile, your country has already achieved elimination.

Tomorrow, I will be going to Brasilia, to attend an advisory meeting about leprosy elimination. I am devoting my all to achieving WHO’s objective of elimination in every country by the year 2005.

Yet there is another challenge left for us to tackle, namely, the recovery of human dignity for all people affected by leprosy.

Leprosy has been the most feared of diseases throughout human history. Its victims have been the ultimate outcasts of society, forced to lead lives that deny their humanity. For this reason, last March I approached the UN Human Rights Commission about this problem. I addressed the member states on the issue of leprosy and human rights. It was the first time the Commission had ever dealt with this issue, but their response was very encouraging. We are working to build a society free from discrimination based on leprosy.

Another of The Nippon Foundation’s projects is the feeding of Africa. In 1986, we teamed up with two men: former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug, the man who sparked Asia’s green revolution. Together, they developed a program called Sasakawa Global 2000 to fight the famine that has ravaged parts of Africa since 1984. By transferring improved agricultural varieties and production technologies to small-scale farmers, we have increased grain yields by two to six times.

Here in Latin America, we started a scholarship program to train agricultural leaders who will improve the life of rural farmers at the Zamorano Pan American Agricultural University in Honduras, Students from Central and South American countries receive 4-year scholarship to study under this program.

The activities that I have talked about here today are just some examples of the wide range of areas and activities in which we are involved. By extending our assistance to those who are suffering from social inequality or injustice we try to change the social structure. We try to address these problems by changing the way people think. We see our most important role as that of an agent of change.

And in order to change our societies, we need dedicated and thoughtful leaders. I always challenge SYLFF fellows to not only excel academically and professionally, but to also demonstrate their leadership in local, national, and global affairs.

Membership in the SYLFF network entitles fellows, administrators and faculty at 69 institutions to participate in programs administered by the Tokyo Foundation. These activities contribute to the enrichment of SYLFF fellows’ research, the professional development of administrators and faculty and, perhaps most importantly, opportunities for collaboration between all members of this community. Such collaboration requires trust, commitment to a common goal, respect for diversity, and a genuine willingness to invest in the future.

In closing, I would like to issue a challenge to all in the SYLFF community.

To our fellows, I urge you to build the strength and capability to deal with problems facing humanity and to reach out to those who are suffering. To faculty and administrators, I appeal to you to play an active role in the SYLFF network in ways that will best serve the University of Chile and the greater SYLFF community.

Welcome, University of Chile. Welcome to SYLFF.

Muchas Gracias!