Founder's Message - Eighth Graduate Commencement Ceremony
Calabasas, California | December 11, 2002
Tap the boundless potential inherent in the life of each and every person, to help move humanity in the direction of goodness and harmony.
Message from the Founder
On the Occasion of the Eighth Commencement Ceremony, Soka University of America, Graduate School
Calabasas Campus, Wednesday, December 11, 2002
To the Class of 2002 of the Soka University of America Graduate School–my heartfelt congratulations!
Each of you, determined to become an expert in language education, has persevered through days of rigorous training and study. As the outcome of your successful endeavors, you are gathered here today for this joyful and victorious departure. In my mind’s eye, your faces shine bright, gallantly imbued with new aspirations toward the future.
Here I would like to acknowledge, with gratitude and respect, Mr. Stephen S. Dunham, Esq., vice chair of the Board of Trustees, and all our distinguished guests today for the warm support you have extended to SUA over the years. To the family members and friends of the graduates, I am indeed grateful that you have joined us today, and wish to thank you most heartily on behalf of the entire university and its graduates.
Finally, I would like also to take this opportunity to express my profound appreciation, as the school’s founder, to Dr. Tomoko Takahashi, SUA Provost and Dean of the Graduate School; Dr. Daniel Habuki, SUA President; and all the members of the faculty and administration for your earnest efforts to foster, encourage, and inspire the personal and intellectual growth of the SUA students whom I treasure as my very life.
As you take the first steps toward the fulfillment of your chosen mission in the field of education, I would like to share with you my personal conviction–that education is a sublime, all-out spiritual struggle demanding the commitment of our entire being.
The French educator Jean-Henri Fabre (1823-1915), renowned for his studies of the insect world recorded in his 10-volume work Souvenirs entomologiques,was inspired in his efforts by a profound love of humankind. Teaching science in junior, middle, and high schools for some 30 years, he was a person who truly dedicated his life to the spiritual struggle that is education. We are told that the classes he conducted were vibrant and inspired, that he drew the hearts and interests of the students like a magnet.
Recently, Dr. Yves Cambefort, vice president of the Jean-Henri Fabre Association, presented me with his annotated collection of letters by Fabre. These letters convey the passion with which Fabre poured himself into the work of publishing textbooks for children. The idea that the will to learn, the joy of learning, should be dulled and extinguished by lifeless textbooks designed only for the cramming of facts was, for Fabre, completely intolerable.
“Science is a garden,” he writes in one letter, “surrounded by formidable walls, the tops of which are strewn with shards of broken bottles. For the sake of the children, I wish to break down these walls and hurl those shards back at the demons. This I will without fail do!”
Lets us tear down the walls put up by misguided approaches to education! Fabre’s heartfelt appeal parallels the conviction and belief that moved Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944), the father of Soka Education, the pedagogy of value creation.
Makiguchi expressed these sentiments in his work Soka kyoikugaku taikei, the System of Value-Creation Pedagogy. “I am driven,” he writes, “by the intense desire to prevent the present deplorable situation – of ten million of our children and students forced to endure the agonies of cutthroat competition, the difficulty of getting into good schools, ‘examination hell’ and the struggle for jobs after graduation–from afflicting the next generation.”
The refusal to accept education as something defined by authority, the determination to unleash children’s inherent capacity to realize happiness–these are the intense desires that drove Tsunesaburo Makiguchi’s quest. Therein the font from which Soka Education flows, therein the spiritual legacy to which we are heir. And it is the succession of this spirit that binds us, making us inseparable and one.
In later life, Fabre was visited by the president and a minister of France who acknowledged his enormous contributions in the field of education.
In his forward to the first volume of Soka kyoikugaku taikei, the Japanese sociologist Suketoshi Tanabe describes such encounters and states:
Mr. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, an elementary school principal, has endured all manner of persecution and hardship while devoting the precious entirety of his life to his work, at last bringing to completion this extraordinary value creation pedagogy. How will Japan, as a nation of culture, recompense this great educator who is its pride?
Thirteen years after these words were written, militarist Japan in its folly recompensed Makiguchi with arrest and imprisonment. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi died in prison, having struggled resolutely and to the very end against the arrogance of authority.
Education can be thought of as a struggle waged against the many forms of evil which cause human misery. It is a struggle against the kind of dehumanizing “education” that imposes closed and claustrophobic value systems on people, suppressing free thought and creativity. It is at the same time a struggle against a culture of violence that instills hatred and suspicion.
The wisdom of Buddhism teaches that the most noble and precious treasure–the treasure of life itself–shines brilliantly and equally in all people. Here also is to be found the mission and challenge of Soka Education; that is, to tap the boundless potential inherent in the life of each and every person, to help move humanity in the direction of goodness and harmony.
Through dialogues with a wide range of thinkers and scholars, I have sought to establish a global network of education and friendship. These efforts are rooted in my conviction that education for global citizenship–education that has as its basis an authentic humanism–represents the vital foundation for a culture of peace for all humanity.
November 18 is the day on which the philosophy of Soka Education was inaugurated. This year, the 72nd anniversary of that launching, celebratory events were held in all parts of the world. In Brazil, the Federal Assembly solemnly marked the occasion and cities in the United States have issued proclamations commemorating this day. The City of Passaic in New Jersey, in its proclamation, duly recognized that 58 years ago, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi died as a martyr for peace, standing alone against the military authority of the Japanese wartime government. Who among those who betrayed, entrapped and persecuted Mr. Makiguchi would have imagined the worldwide tide of recognition that we witness today?
I would like to ask you to join me–for as long as we have voice–in proclaiming our proud heritage. Let us together pledge to ring in an era of Soka Education with victory after victory! All you continents of Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, indifferent of place!
Thus Walt Whitman addressed and saluted the world:
“Each of us inevitable,
Each of us limitless–each of us with his or her Right upon the earth,
Each of us allow’d the eternal purports of the earth, Each of us here is divinely as any is here.”
Just as Whitman declared, each inhabitant of every country on Earth is “inevitable,” an irreplaceable treasure of human dignity. I share this with you as an expression of my greatest possible esteem for you and hope that you will each be a Whitman of the 21st century, uniting humankind with a sublime and truly universal spirit.
It is with these heartfelt prayers and expectations that I anticipate your remarkable future achievements. Please take care and go well! I salute you and pray for the eternal flourishing of the members of the eighth graduating class, the glorious Class of 2002!