Paul Leeming



Dean, professors, distinguished guests and fellow students, I feel very honored to be making this commencement speech today on behalf of the Temple University, Japan Campus, Graduate College of Education.

Why am I here today? The list of people to thank is endless, probably starts with my parents, but I would like to thank my wife who supported me through all of this. She is not here today. She is at home in Osaka taking care of our five-week old daughter. But I couldn't have done without her. And also my other daughter Eleanor who often distracted me, 'Daddy, have you finished studying' but actually helped me relax to get balanced and just recharge and ready to go back and start typing again. I would also like to thank Dr. Beglar whose dedication to the graduate education program is incredible, and whose energy he puts in really is amazing. And also my supervisor Dr. Kozaki who tirelessly supervised my dissertation, always patient, and I think without her I would probably be graduating in the class of 2020. So, I thank you for that.

So what did I learn during six years at TUJ?

First thing I'd learned was never take a break! In one of my first classes at TUJ, Dr. Beglar told us to just keep going, and always move forward. After the coursework finishes, don't take a break. Even if it is only ten minutes reading on the train, wherever you can just keep going wherever possible. Of course, life sometimes throws obstacles in our way, and we can't keep going, but he did give me kind permission to visit family in UK for a couple of weeks one summer. But basically this was the principle that helped me finish to be here today. Writing a dissertation is a mammoth task. 450 pages, I think in the end. If you consider the final product, you may think it impossible, but that ten to twenty minutes a day over five years really does add up. And it's the same, I think in principle as learning Japanese. I studied Japanese for five years very intensively when I came to Japan, passed the proficiency test I wanted to pass and I thought I would just take a short break from study. My Japanese has improved a little since then. That break started nine years ago. I sometimes see Pakkun on TV and think about dusting off my Kanji book, but I am still on a break. So, never take a break! Just keep going.

Another thing that I learnt at TUJ was the importance of community. Attending lectures every Friday and Saturday for almost three years was really tough, and in some ways my cohort could not wait for the classes to finish. But it was also incredibly stimulating, and I am sure it was the same for other graduates. Every weekend I was able to share ideas, to think, to develop, to grow, and all within a community supported. TUJ really is a community. Although weekly attendance was quite tough it was also stimulating, rewarding, and inspiring. I genuinely miss the exchange of ideas and debate that accompanied almost every class, and that still occur wherever TUJ graduates and current students get together. TUJ Graduate School of Education had a research colloquium in Osaka this February for people to present research, and to me this sums up much of what is great about the program. Over two days, graduates and current students of the doctoral and masters programs met and shared ideas through discussion and presentations. It was actually great to spend a weekend at Temple again.

Part of being in this community that helped me was the friendly rivalry with my fellow graduate today, Max. After the courses had finished we chatted almost weekly to check on each other's progress and share ideas, which was incredibly motivating. "He has started chapter four. I need to up the pace! Great Max is on vacation in Hawaii-I can slow down!" Sorry I beat you to the dissertation defense by a week Max. No hard feelings I hope, and you did get a vacation in Hawaii, fair enough.

Strangely, after six years of dreaming of finishing the Ph.D. program, when I finished, I felt a little deflated. It's done. But what should I do now? That is when I realized that this is the beginning. Whether it be in business or academia, this is the starting point for us all. We worked hard to get here today, but this is the start. From here is where we really make a mark where the story will continue. I really look forward to the rest of the journey, and I am sure that TUJ and the community of TESOL practitioners will be with me on that road.

Continuing the international theme, I thought it was pretty amazing. So here I am, an Englishman, living in Japan, graduating from an American university. So I feel very privileged to belong to this international community. Thank you very much.