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Words that Encourage Myself

Japanese Chinese

When I was still an elementary student, we had a book titled "Wakai hi no ichinichi ichigen [One Quote a Day for Young People]" (edited by Hajime Uno; editorial supervisor, Saneatsu Mushanokoji, 1961) at home. I think my father received the book from the editor who was a friend from his high school days. The book, an easy-to-understand guide to famous sayings by prominent people, featured one quote a day over the course of a year. Most of them were introduced with a short half-page explanation on the person's birthday or the anniversary of his or her death. It was through this book that I first learned about the book "Kike wadatsumi no koe [Voices from the Sea--Letters and Diaries of Japanese Students Killed in the War]." I recall little of what I actually read, but I learned a number of words and phrases that I liked.

I can't say that I am particularly interested in famous sayings or proverbs, but there are some expressions and words that I sometimes recall that gives me courage and wisdom. Because we all take different paths in life, some may have no interest in the expressions others like, but let me introduce a few.

Although I was a child at the time, I was deeply shaken when I heard the news of the assassination of U.S. President Kennedy in 1963. In a previous blog, I wrote about a favorite phrase from his inaugural speech that I repeated to myself at the time: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." With these words, he challenged each individual to make a contribution to society and the public good. Later when I was nominated chairman of an international association, I used the same phrase in my acceptance speech, challenging members to consider what they could do for the association. No one, however, noticed that it was a variation of President Kennedy's appeal.

Once when I was studying in the United States and became despondent over my experiment failure, an American classmate consoled me with the words "It's not the end of the world." This expression is certainly comforting, but whenever I feel down, I remember these words by Martin Luther that remind me of the greatness of those who have gone before us: "Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." Planting an apple tree was a metaphor for his religious movement. The apple tree would not bear fruit until many years later. If the world ended tomorrow, the effort would be wasted, but Luther was still determined to carry on, and it is this determination that I most admire and respect.

Finally, although it is not an encouraging saying, I'd to introduce a quote by Charles Darwin, the scientist that I respect the most as the epitome of scientific positivism: "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge." A bit difficult to translate, it sounds like something that might appear on an English-Japanese translation test. It tells us that compared to those who are knowledgeable, those who lack knowledge assert themselves with confidence. As Director of CRN, my mission is to provide knowledge and views based on facts about children to society at large; as such, these are words that I do not want to forget.

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sakakihara.png Yoichi Sakakihara
M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Ochanomizu University; Director of Child Research Net, Executive Advisor of Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute (BERD), President of Japanese Society of Child Science. Specializes in pediatric neurology, developmental neurology, in particular, treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders, and neuroscience. Born in 1951. Graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo in 1976 and taught as an instructor in the Department of the Pediatrics before working with Ochanomizu University.
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