Boys Be Ambitious!

In Japan the school year is from April to March. Therefore February and March are the season of graduation. In many schools, two hymns are sung for the ceremony. One is “Auld Lang Syne”, a well known Scottish folk song, with a Japanese text about graduation. The other is a song called “Aogeba Tôtoshi” (Remember the Gratitude). Click the score, and you can hear the music.

The Ministry of Education adopted this song in the school songbook in 1884. The composer is unknown. It may be a European folk song, because Japanese composers at that time could not compose such a western-style song.

The second verse of this song is usually omitted. The reason is that the text contains a phrase, “Make effort to be successful and famous.” Some school teachers insist that this is against equality. I think this is a big mistake. A rich person is not superior to a poor person as human value. This is not a problem of equality. Equality is not sameness. However, teachers, who stand against this verse, are socialists or communists, and they are convinced that rich capitalists must exploit poor workers. This is also a mistake. A person, who made success in life, can contribute other people and the society in his/her own way, for example, employing people, or buying expensive goods. Success in life is not necessarily antisocial under a healthy economical system.

Dr. William S. Clark (1826-1886), an American agricultural scientist, who was the president of Sapporo Agricultural College, said “Boys be ambitious!” This phrase was handed down and encouraged Japanese youths for many years. I agree with him. Boys and girls should be ambitious. To be ambitious is, in this context, to wish to be successful and famous. Success and fame is the same as to get a good reputation in this country. To get a good reputation, we must be virtuous; i.e. to be kind, honest, and diligent. It is impossible to get a good reputation while we are troubling others. In short, a good reputation is a result of socially useful life with cooperation and contribution. Dr. Clark obviously talked about this kind of ambition with cooperation and contribution.

Boys and girls should be ambitious, not for the personal happiness, but for the general welfare. Without singing the verse, “Make effort to be successful and famous”, boys or girls have lost their ambition and became spiritless. They do only their favorite things and avoid unpleasant tasks. They do not make effort to actualize their dreams. Worse than that, they may have no dreams at all. This is a very serious problem in Japan. When somebody pushes them to work, they become neurotic and come to me. It is very difficult to treat them. Both pharmacotherapy and psychothepapy are ineffective.

To solve this problem, we must encourage them at home and at school “to be successful and famous”, and, at the same time, teach them how to cooperate with and contribute to other people and the society. Child rearing at home and education at school are the upper reaches of a river, and medical or psychological treatment is the down stream. It is meaningless to clean the garbage in the down stream when it is discarded in the upper reaches. Encouraging children to be ambitious will be an answer to solve the youth problems.