Founder's Message - 14th Commencement Ceremony

Aliso Viejo, California | May 25, 2018

Soka University of America - from above

My happiness lies in all of you becoming happy. My victory is for each of you to triumph.

Message from SUA Founder Daisaku Ikeda
To the Class of 2018 Commencement Ceremony, Soka University of America

Congratulations to today’s graduates! You who are the treasure of humanity and as precious to me as my own life!

I can picture you vividly, the undergraduate class of 2018 and the class of 2018 in the Master’s Program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change. I see you now in my mind’s eye taking flight, soaring from the hills of Aliso Viejo on new journeys with profound ideals and pride in your hearts.

To the families and friends of today’s graduates sharing in this joyous occasion, my heartfelt congratulations to you also. And to the faculty and staff of SUA who have warmly cared for and nurtured these brilliant students night and day, you have my deepest gratitude.

It is a great joy and honor, as founder, to welcome the distinguished guests in attendance today, including our commencement speaker, Ms. Susi Snyder, nuclear disarmament program manager for the Netherlands-based peace organization PAX, and a member of the International Steering Group of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which won the Nobel Peace Prize. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you all.

Ten years have passed since the SUA student song “On the Path of Peace” was composed. It is a song of which I am very fond. Today again, my wife and I are listening together to this song and the song “The Light of Hope” as we watch over the ceremony, thinking of you all.

In celebration of your new departure, reflecting on some of the exchanges we have had with cherished friends who have visited SUA over the years, I would like to share with you, my beloved students, three actions that I believe are essential steps on the path of peace.

The first is to renew your youthful vitality each day through the power of hope.

I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Norman Cousins, lauded as “the conscience of America,” on two occasions at the former Soka University Calabasas campus, where we shared a stimulating dialogue on a wide range of topics.

When Dr. Cousins was 49, he was diagnosed with a degenerative connective-tissue disease and informed by doctors that he had a one in 500 chance of survival. Through the power of his determination and life force, he not only overcame this illness, but also recovered from a heart attack at 65. Dr. Cousins, an immortal champion of peace and humanity, demonstrated to us the power of conviction.

The greatest power in the world, he said, is the capacity of human life to rejuvenate itself. He was convinced that human beings have an innate ability to overcome all kinds of suffering and ordeals and to cure illnesses, both physical and mental. However, even more remarkable than that, he said, is the power of hope.

Life is a constant succession of struggles. The loftier your goals, the rougher and more challenging will be the peaks and ridges that you must scale. There will also be times when you meet with despair and disappointment.

Please be convinced, however, that the boundless powers of revival are inherent within your youthful life. It is precisely at the most difficult of times, when things are hardest, that I would like you to strive to take a step forward with a never-defeated spirit. Reignite the flame of hope that has burned within your heart during the golden days you spent at SUA and then challenge yourself again to take another step. It is from here, from this effort, that your life will without fail begin to revolve mightily with renewed hope.

The second action lies in the sincerity with which we strive to spread the friendship of global citizenship.

This past March, Ms. Shigeko Sasamori, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, spoke during the First Annual Symposium on the Culture of Peace hosted by the SUA students on the role of youth in the nuclear disarmament movement.

Ms. Sasamori was exposed to radiation from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima when she was 13. Ten years later, she was brought to the United States to be treated for the keloid scarring on her skin. It was Dr. Cousins who exerted himself to make it possible for her to receive numerous necessary surgeries and later adopted her as a daughter.

Throughout her life, Ms. Sasamori nurtured friendship with many people through beautiful human-to-human exchanges. Dr. Joel Elkes, a psychiatrist and friend of Dr. Cousins, once fondly shared his memory of Ms. Sasamori offering to give his wife a shiatsu massage when she was feeling unwell.

Dr. Elkes was moved almost to tears as he watched Ms. Sasamori so caringly treat his wife with her painfully scarred fingers out of her sincere and earnest desire to comfort and heal the person in front of her. This experience, he said, provided an important insight for his own research. It led him to the conviction that the vital key to recovery from any illness or pain is to be found in life-to-life contact, a connection that can transcend cultural differences and even a history of hatred.

It was Dr. Elkes’s belief that beautiful heart-to-heart interactions stimulate the sublime harmonizing power inherent in all people.

Our SUA is a solidarity of people seeking to create human harmony through open-hearted and sincere exchanges with each person in the community and in the world. As proudly sung in “On the Path of Peace,” you have fellow alumni with whom you share a shining bond of love. There are fathers and mothers throughout the world who place in you their passionate hopes and expectations, eagerly awaiting your success in the world. With such pride, I would like you to cheerfully and with sincerity expand a network of friendship and trust, building a unity of global citizens and forging heart-to-heart bonds between people.

The third action is to strive with unrelenting tenacity to bring out the goodness in human life.

In October 2001, Dr. Joseph Rotblat, who dedicated his life to the abolition of nuclear weapons, visited SUA and delivered a commemorative lecture. This is a treasured page in our history.

In our discussion, Dr. Rotblat shared with me why he was able to continue his efforts for peace for as many as 60 years. It was, he said, because he believed in the goodness of human beings more than anything else. In other words, he was able to forge on in his challenges without relinquishing optimism precisely because he embraced a philosophy which held that human beings are intrinsically good.

We at SUA have been entrusted with and continue to uphold this conviction of Dr. Rotblat. Following in his footsteps and those of our great forerunners, and alongside the distinguished guests here today, let us together move forward with unremitting tenacity, with faith in the innate goodness of life. Let us bring forth this goodness from within ourselves and others, and let us continue to do so throughout our lives with vigor, wisdom, and joy!

My happiness lies in all of you becoming happy. My victory is for each of you to triumph.

I would like to conclude my congratulatory message by wholeheartedly calling out to all my beloved graduates: may you all be blessed with good health, good fortune and victory!

Three cheers to our proud graduates! My most heartfelt congratulations once again!

Daisaku Ikeda