Founder's Message - 13th Commencement Ceremony

Aliso Viejo, California | May 26, 2017

Founders Hall and Peace Lake calm and blue

Cast the light of hope even farther by working with people and organizations that encourage hope.

Message from SUA Founder Daisaku Ikeda
To the Class of 2017 Commencement Ceremony, Soka University of America


The heart is a free and unfettered thing. My heart has traversed the vast Pacific in but an instant, to join you at this very moment, here at the Soka Performing Arts Center of Soka University of America in beautiful Aliso Viejo.

Allow me then to extend you my warmest applause, for you have not only added another illustrious chapter to the storied tradition of your alma mater, you have managed to crown the remarkable narratives of your youth with epic success. I will be keenly following this wonderful commencement ceremony as if I were there.

Congratulations to the undergraduate class of 2017 and the class of 2017 in the Master’s Program of Educational Leadership! I know this is a particularly proud moment in your lives. You represent the very hope of humanity. You are all no less precious to me than my very life.

As to your families, who sent you on your way far from home, and to your friends, whose support you have come to rely, I extend my profound felicitations.

To the faculty and staff of SUA: I am deeply grateful to you for warmly encouraging our students, for the care and counsel you have provided them, regardless of the time of day or night.

We are privileged to have so many distinguished guests and dignitaries with us today, among them being Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. As the founder of this institution, I know of no greater joy and honor than in welcoming you all.

An internationally renowned psychologist, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi has for many years acknowledged and appreciated Soka’s initiatives in peace, culture and education, which have been developed and driven by ordinary citizens.

In a Japanese newspaper interview five years ago, he cited three conditions that he felt were the most important in life. The first was trust; the second, hope; and the third, the opportunity to enjoy what one is doing at any given time. These three are indeed the staple with which you, as youthful global citizens, may flourish and forge on even further in the service of humankind in the years to come.

Given Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s conditions and befitting the congenial mood of this ceremony, I’d like to offer three suggestions of my own, as if we were all gathered around him engaging in a friendly chat.

The first of my suggestions is this: Earn the trust of society and the world and extend the bonds it builds.

As Dr. Csikszentmihalyi notes, trustworthiness is of paramount value. Josei Toda, my mentor in life, counted fidelity and trustworthiness among the most vital qualities that a young person should cherish. Life itself could be described as a great test to determine the extent an individual can win the trust of others and broaden its reach.

That is why I call on you to always remain trustworthy in a manner becoming of an SUA alumnus, creating meaningful value at whatever stage of life you are bound for.

Few things are more powerful and persuasive than integrity in fostering trust. Nelson Mandela spoke of one of his deepest convictions, noting that, “You tend to attract integrity and honor if that is how you regard those with whom you work.”

To be known as a person of integrity and honor, someone who people can depend on and ease their concerns—I urge you to shine in this way. To do so, you must aspire to engage in a ceaseless process of self-betterment and -reformation, or what we term “human revolution.” Trustworthiness, then, is a specific benchmark of this inner-directed transformation.

Furthermore, the way to build a more peaceful world can be found in expanding the connections of trust built through sincere dialogue, thereby enabling us to transcend our differences and bring about a deeper melding of minds. I’d like to reaffirm this point with all of you.

In a dialogue with Abdurrahman Wahid (1940-2009), the former president of the Republic of Indonesia told me, “Dialogue can provide a human face regardless of ethnicity, cultural differences or historical backgrounds.”

This is precisely what you have been doing at SUA, a campus attracting students from around the world—honing yourselves in the power of dialogue to enable each other’s humanity to shine through. Be proud of this experience as you take flight upon forged wings as young global citizens. The time has come for you to soar with courage toward the vast vaults of purpose only you can fulfill.

The storm clouds threatening our times darken even further, yet I call on you to transform mistrust into trust, division into unity, the fear of differences into the joys of diversity. Do so with grace and daring without morose, fear or uncertainty. That is my abiding hope.

As to my second suggestion, it is this: Cast the light of hope even farther by working with people and organizations that encourage hope.

In my message to the welcome reception for the undergraduate class of 2017, I stated that Professor Kevin Clements, the globally renowned peace and conflict scholar from New Zealand, and I were working together on a dialogue. I am pleased to report that our work was published in Japanese last year and would like to introduce a few episodes from it that Prof. Clements shared with me.

“During my time at … [an NGO dedicated to conflict resolution],” he explained, “if I felt depressed, by what I had experienced in a particular war zone, I was always heartened by connecting with individuals and groups who were hopeful.”

His firsthand experience in conflict zones led him to appreciate “the importance of working with others on problems that threatened to overwhelm [him] personally.” For this reason, he urged “young people to treasure those who share their aims.”

Those who have friends with common goals are strong. This is because we can summon forth an abundance of hope by encouraging each other. Hope inspires the wisdom and power to overcome any hardship or obstacle.

You and your friends share an overarching purpose and solidarity here at SUA. No one draws as much hope from and has absolute faith in your future success as your father, mother or guardian, wherever they may be in the world. And, as you advance along your chosen path, I am certain you will encounter many new friends who will find resonance with your most worthy of aspirations.

A great sage in the East once wrote, “if one lights a fire for others, one will brighten one’s own way.” When we dedicate our lives and passions to bettering the lives of those around us, we kindle the kind of hope that illuminates the future not only for ourselves but for others as well.

As you and your friends share in one another’s joys and sorrows, cast the light of hope far and wide with indomitable optimism while striving together to triumph in life and achieve your grandest of ideals.

My final suggestion is this: Live to the fullest in every life-moment to discover the fount of joy and creativity to shape the future.

Here, I’d like to share a passage from Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s book, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, in which he states that “a genuinely creative accomplishment is almost never the result of a sudden insight, a light bulb flashing on in the dark, but comes after years of hard work.” This, I feel, is a profound and penetrating observation born from his tireless, never-ending pursuit to understand the human mind—something so familiar, yet which remains a frontier so unfathomed.

You are all young. You shouldn’t feel compelled to achieve immediate success. Take this time instead to thoroughly prepare yourself by staying in the moment to do the very best you can—and learn to enjoy the challenges you encounter day after day.

Things may not unfold as you hope, but that is exactly when you should be working even harder to come up with innovative ways to overcome whatever obstacle you confront. Even failure is, of course, an integral element in your learning curve, opening new paths to create greater value. As long as you remain true and humble while doggedly striving to surmount every difficulty, you are bound to break through, experiencing surges of creativity as mighty and magnificent as the dawning sun.

I’d like to entrust these words to my beloved graduates: “where there is unseen virtue, there will be visible reward.” The passage epitomizes a causal relationship that enables people to experience peerless hope.

Today’s commencement ceremony is the start of a new creative journey for you. It is my hope that you will all open new vistas in life, in society and in the world by tirelessly compiling effort upon effort, tackling challenge after challenge.

Dr. Betty Reardon, the founding director emeritus of the International Institute on Peace Education, kindly attended the World Summit of Educators held at SUA last year. She had this to say: “there is a ground for learners at SUA to prepare to build one global community for all people.”

SUA is a bastion of wisdom that aims to build a collective future founded on hope, one which enhances and expands human solidarity by engaging in initiatives to advance peace, education, and culture.

I’m delighted to learn that SUA will launch a new life sciences concentration in 2020. I also understand there are plans to construct a new science building as well as a residence hall. And while these things are impressive, nothing will bring greater glory to the ever-unfolding legacy of this institution than the progress and victories that you, our alumni, will achieve from now.

I will be praying wholeheartedly that every one of you enjoy the very best health and happiness, and that your lives will be crowned with lasting glory and triumph.

Three heartfelt cheers to my beloved graduates of the classes of 2017, and to all the members of the SUA family! Congratulations from the bottom of my heart!

Daisaku Ikeda