Commencement Address by Hiromasa Ikeda: "Soka Education and World Citizenship"

May 27, 2011


Those who have a prime point, a source of consistent renewal and inspiration, are able to remain strong even in the face of the most difficult challenges.

Before I delve into my speech today, I would like to introduce a commemorative gift that the founder, my father Daisaku Ikeda, has entrusted me with to present to Soka University of America.

As President Habuki just shared with us, my father was recipient of the first honorary doctorate conferred by SUA. My parents both deeply appreciated this and had a photograph taken with the honorary degree to commemorate the occasion.

In the background is the framed photograph of Mt. Fuji and a cherry tree, one of the photographs that my father takes from time to time. I think it is considered one of the best he has taken.

As I would be representing him at today’s ceremony, my father entrusted me with this work, asking me to present it to you all as a token of his congratulations on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the SUA campus in Aliso Viejo and the completion of the Soka Performing Arts Center.

I would like to express my most sincere congratulations on this historic commencement ceremony.

As you may know, I attended SUA’s first entrance ceremony on behalf of my father. Scenes from that ceremony, which was filled with the energy of new construction, remain fresh in my mind even today. Ten years have passed since that time. Thanks to everyone’s heartfelt support, Soka University of America is able to mark this milestone triumphantly, having developed magnificently in the intervening years. I would like to express my greatest respect to today’s graduates, who have worked together with past and future graduates to establish a superb tradition of wisdom here at SUA.

I ask that you remember and continue always to be motivated by the spirit of gratitude and appreciation to your families, to the SUA community, to the greater Aliso Viejo community, to all those the world over—and especially the founder—who have supported the university and have worked to make your studies possible.

Presently, my father is engaged in a new dialogue with Rector Viktor Sadovnichy of Lomonosov Moscow State University, an illustrious institution with a more than 250-year history.

One point from their discussions is how the first decade of the 21st century has also been a time of new growth and development for Lomonosov Moscow State University. The university has been charged with the mission of nurturing the talents of the generation who came of age in the harsh and turbulent era following the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, and enabling them to go forth to shoulder the task of creating a new Russia.

The great historian Arnold J. Toynbee asserted that individuals, organizations, societies, and even civilizations all develop through a process of “challenge and response,” by resolutely meeting the various and often severe challenges that arise to confront them.

In this sense, those who have a prime point, a source of consistent renewal and inspiration, are able to remain strong even in the face of the most difficult challenges.

In his dialogue with my father, Rector Sadovnichy has stressed that the founder of Moscow State University, Mikhail Lomonosov, serves as such a source of inspiration, and that the university’s inclusion of his name in its official title symbolizes the resolve to carry on the founder’s will and vision. Indeed, when the founding spirit of an institution is cherished and made the basis for each individual’s action, it can provide a font of energy for continuous, perpetual development.

The theme of my talk today is “Soka Education and World Citizenship.” In 1996, in a lecture delivered at Columbia University, the founder proposed the following qualities for the kind of world citizens who can bring an end to war and contribute to the peace and happiness of humanity:

First, the wisdom to perceive the interdependence of all life;

Second, the courage not to fear difference;

Third, the compassion to empathize with others and forge ties of solidarity with them.

Based on these three points, as well as SUA’s founding vision, I would like to share some thoughts with you on the spirit of global citizenship. I would be honored if my words provide some food for thought as you consider your future course in life.

I would like to begin with the notion of illuminating the comer of the world you inhabit with the light of wisdom.

The philosopher William James urged that if individuals everywhere would endeavor to improve and save the world of their immediate surroundings, that would lead in tum to the salvation of the entire world. In other words, the value of wisdom lies in our capacity to improve reality.

In his early days, the founder’s heart burned with youthful passion as he studied and worked amid the chaos that prevailed in the years following Japan’s defeat in World War II. He considers it a point of pride that, in those youthful years, he was able to contribute to the growth and flourishing of any workplace where he was employed.

It is important to avoid being impatient and to work hard to win the trust of others wherever you go, making that place develop and prosper. It is through such struggles that you will be able to polish the kind of genuine wisdom that will illuminate your life. You will also be building an enduring foundation for your life. And you will be able to contribute importantly to the good of others, society, and the world.

The second point that I would like to stress is the importance of courageously breaking through obstacles and bringing down walls.

The first kind of wall that must be brought down are those that separate and divide people.

John Dewey declared that there needs to be an effective ideal to support efforts to create peace. It is essential that we overcome the barriers of misunderstanding and prejudice based on differences of race, nationality, geography, or affiliation.

The consistent efforts made by the founder embody this spirit. In the midst of the Cold War, for example, he met with leading world figures such as US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Soviet Premier Aleksey Kosygin, and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. Through these meetings he was able to help defuse tensions and generate momentum toward a resolution of the East-West conflict.

Opening paths with courage—this is the powerful spirit that Dr. Ikeda, as founder, wishes to bequeath to you all. The walls of prejudice and misunderstanding that separate people arise in the human heart. Thus, they can only be brought down through courageous engagement and dialogue.

Another kind of barrier that needs to be surmounted are the walls of hardship and suffering. During World War II, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the originator of the philosophy of Soka Education, opposed the tyranny of the Japanese militarists. As a result, he was imprisoned. And yet he maintained his convictions up to the moment of his death in prison. His disciple and successor, Josei Toda, was imprisoned together with his mentor. Mr. Toda later declared that his goal in life was to “banish misery from the planet.” He held fast to the visionary idea of global citizenship and stood up to protect the dignity of life and realize peace.

This history, in which the founders of Soka Education risked everything, including their lives, has been key to the appreciation for this educational philosophy that has developed in Asia and throughout the world. Confronting hardship with courage and persevering for peace and justice—such actions manifest universal values and earn the trust of people beyond national borders.

There are also fundamental forms of suffering that are experienced by all and which are inherent to human life. Buddhism describes these as the “four sufferings” of birth, old age, sickness, and death, along with such sufferings as that which we feel upon being parted from those we love. Thus the courage with which we meet these challenges—as well as the compassion to empathize with and encourage others who are suffering—has the power to unite the world.

I recall how the founder extended his deepest sympathies and whole-hearted encouragement to the family of the late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi after he was felled at the hands of terrorists. He said, “Though there may be torrential downpours and dark nights, if you weather these things, a dazzling morning aglow with happiness will await you. The deeper your suffering, the brighter and more luminous the happiness that will greet you on the dawn. Please change your destiny into a source of great value. Those who can do this are truly victorious and peerless as human beings.”

I urge you to courageously prevail over your hardships and to tum your pain into a powerful wellspring of compassion—compassion that enables you to be a true friend to those who suffer. I am convinced that during your four years at SUA the seeds of compassion have been sown in your hearts.

There were two SUA graduates among those impacted by the devastating earthquake that struck Japan this past March. But they remained courageously in the afflicted region, engaging in relief activities and supporting the victims of the disaster, especially children and other foreign residents in Japan. Their example will remain as an important chapter in the history of SUA.

The third point I would like to stress is the importance of mobilizing the forces of harmony and collaboration based on the spirit of compassion.

Eleanor Roosevelt, renowned for her contributions to human rights, wrote the following about the prerequisites for great undertakings:

“Along with the need for individual development, there is also an equally pressing need to work co-operatively. This, of course, involves learning about people and finding out how to draw the best from your association with them. Mutual respect is the basis of all civilized human relationships.”

Regardless of how outstanding your individual abilities may be, if you isolate yourself from others and the rest of society you will not prosper in the end, even if at first, you seem to enjoy freedom from the interference and concerns of others. Rather, we are able to achieve our greatest victories when we work in partnership with others, mobilizing the skills and abilities of a wide array of people. This is a point that the founder often stresses. I would like to ask you to please study others’ virtues, learn from people’s best aspects, as you realize great achievements at your place of research, at your jobs, in the community, and in the world.

I am confident that the time will come when the graduates of the Soka schools will, as heirs to the spiritual legacy of the founder, and in solidarity as global citizens, contribute in places throughout the world, leading global society in the direction of peace and happiness.

I would like also to note that this year Moscow State University embarks upon the second decade of the 21st century celebrating the 300th birthday anniversary of its founder Mikhail Lomonosov in 1711. SUA is also about to start its second decade of history. This next decade will be one of further construction for the university and will be a critical one for lives of each member of this graduating class. I recall that, as I readied myself to enter the workforce, my father encouraged me to be patient and persevering, looking ahead at least 10 years.

Your hard work in the first 10 years after your graduation will create the indispensable foundation for your later activities and contributions. Your success and victory in society will be the real proof of victory for Soka University of America.

Allow me, therefore, to conclude my congratulatory address by expressing my earnest wish that you advance together with and alongside your alma mater in the coming decade and throughout your lives.