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Contestants, standing here in the spotlight is not something allowed for anyone. Those who have not been awarded must be feeling down, but you don't need to.

Be reminded that you are here today because you have been selected from among 70 plus applicants. Please be proud. I am pleased to say that the level of this year’s contest was very high by any standard.

Speeches can be informative, persuasive, inspirational, and empowering.

Today we were informed of what to and what not to expect in toilets in foreign countries, how to make teachers believe that you are an active student, and how to start a new romantic relationship.

We were persuaded not to pre-judge customs and practices in other cultures, and rather to reconsider our own accepted and familiar practice of saying as few things as possible to strangers in stations and stores.

And we were inspired about how better to live by not comparing ourselves to others, by sticking to your guns, but at the same time by being brave enough to change your course.

Of all these messages, I was particularly impressed by the ones that alarmed us of ethnocentrism and emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusiveness.

That is because we are living in an age of ethnocentrism, in an age of nationalism and it is a sad truth that we, Japanese, as a nation, have a tendency to be ethnocentric and Japano-supremacist. 

So it is quite timely and appropriate that many speeches today addressed that issue.

I know how hard you worked in coming up with your ideas, organizing them and reorganizing them so they can be most effectively conveyed to the audience,
drafting, which is always a hard, time-consuming task when you are doing it in a second language, and practicing oral delivery again, again, and again.

I’m convinced that the process that you have gone through since the day you decided to take up the challenge of entering this contest -- that process has made you grow up to be stronger, more mature, and more confident both as an English user and as a human being.

Let me praise you and congratulate you once again for that. Thank you very much.