Founder's Message - Eighth Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony

Aliso Viejo, California | May 25, 2012

Close up of donor wall and lights

It is my cherished hope that you will be forthright and unfettered in opening your hearts and minds as you encounter priceless new friends.

Message from SUA Founder Daisaku Ikeda
To the Eighth Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony, Soka University of America

To the class of 2012 undergraduate and graduate students of Soka University of America, all of you whom I treasure with my life, I offer my heartfelt congratulations on this day of glory, victory, and hope!

In my entrance ceremony message to the undergraduate class of 2012 four years ago, I said that in the East, the number “eight” has for centuries also meant “to open.” And that is precisely what you, the eighth incoming class of SUA, have done here at this campus, this cradle from which leaders of global citizenry spring. You have opened SUA’s tradition of liberal arts education, a tradition rich in diversity, so that it may expand ever further and shine far into the future.

Allow me, then, to express the utmost gratitude to the class of 2012 for opening the second decade of this institution in such magnificent fashion.

I, too, share in the profound joy of your families, who made it possible for you to study here, and your friends, who supported you over the years.

I am equally happy for and grateful to the members of the faculty and administration for nurturing our students as if they were your own children.

I thank our alumni as well, knowing that many of you have had to travel a great distance to be here for the class of 2012 on this joyous occasion. My gratitude also extends to the undergraduate students who have gathered today, the men and women who must shoulder the great weight of building a new era.

To the members of the graduating class who are about to boldly embark anew, I have this to say: Blaze open glorious new pathways with dignity and honor!

Today, you will take flight from the alma mater that you have grown so fond of. Yet, no matter where or how far away you may land, know that you and SUA are inseparable. Whatever the time or your predicament, our institution will remain your most ardent supporter.

Forty years have already passed since the illustrious British historian Arnold Toynbee and I began a dialogue in May 1972 out of a shared hope and vision for a better future for humankind.

I fondly recall how deeply Dr. Toynbee and his wife, Veronica, appreciated their alma maters. While our discussions were conducted in London over several days, my wife Kaneko and I were invited to take an official tour of Cambridge University, from which Mrs. Toynbee graduated, in our spare time. When we met her the following day, she greeted us with a bright smile, expressing genuine gratitude for visiting her school.

Dr. Toynbee once explained that his alma mater, the prestigious Winchester College, endowed him with three treasures that he would prize for a lifetime. The first was the inspiration that he drew from the profound ideals on which the institution was founded, the second was a mentor who was worthy of respect and praise, and the third was a close and enduring friendship with schoolmates.

These three treasures would sustain Dr. Toynbee in his unflagging and lifelong pursuit of academic inquiry and powers of creative thinking.

A life dedicated to heroic purpose is inevitably marred by fierce, relentless difficulty, like great storms preying upon an epic voyage. SUA, however, is your spiritual refuge amid life’s maelstroms. Its founding principles are your unerring compass. And the ties shared with mentor and good friends are the unbreakable bonds that keep us all together. I therefore call upon you to prevail over every raging billow and set forth toward a future of triumph that none have dared to venture or achieve.

The next point I would like to discuss is the importance of uniting people through courage. To our great joy and privilege, the renowned cultural anthropologist and dear friend Professor Nur Yalman is with us today despite his demanding schedule.

In the opening pages of A Passage to Peace: Global Solutions from East and West, the dialogue Prof. Yalman and I co-authored, I introduce the following poem by Yunus Emre, the great 13th-century humanist poet of Turkey, Prof. Yalman’s birthplace: “The world to me is sustenance, Its peoples and my own are one.”

Prof. Yalman has led a life embodying the very spirit of this poem, establishing bonds of friendship around the world and setting forth the way for people of diverse ethnicities to live in harmony. As he explains it: “In the years to come, the peoples of the world must overcome differences in thought, culture and customs; open their minds wide and expand the network of humanism that is the shared wisdom of the human race.”

That indeed will be a modern renaissance. Throughout history, the philosophies and cultures of the world have evolved their own fundamental humanisms. In the modern renaissance, these humanisms should become a global symbiosis in which all coexist in mutual respect.(1)

Prof. Yalman and I agree that education has the capacity to emancipate people from prejudice and exclusivism, elevating human thought to greater heights and thus enabling us to view matters from the standpoint of all humanity. Moreover, he has high hopes for our university, believing that it will prove invaluable in realizing the long-aspired goals of our world.

By studying at one of the most diverse liberal arts colleges in the United States, SUA students are the dawning light of wisdom for a better future for humanity. In our dialogue, Prof. Yalman and I refer to this Turkish proverb: “Mountains don’t get together; people do.” It is my cherished hope that you will be forthright and unfettered in opening your hearts and minds as you encounter priceless new friends with the world as your stage. Do so as you strive to unite the hearts of all people.

My third and final point is this: Persevere in the task of sowing the seeds of hope and plant the saplings of victory.

Be it in your studies, or in society or life in general, in one sense, you will be engaged in a continuous struggle with adversity. What will you do when you reach a seemingly insurmountable impasse? I am not exaggerating when I say that the outcome will be decided by the resolve you summon at that moment.

Kaneko and I will always cherish Dr. Wangari Maathai as a dear friend. The Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel Peace laureate, who longed to visit SUA one day, shared her personal tenet with me—that is, whenever she faced difficulties, she would take action; whenever she felt that she was about to be overwhelmed, she would dig into the soil and plant a sapling.

Soka is a synonym for the courage not to give up. Which is why Soka represents infinite hope and why it equals absolute victory.

I ask that you and your beloved friends continue to encourage each other in times of distress and difficulty, never wavering in the task of sowing one by one the seeds of hope and planting the saplings of victory. I, too, pledge to do the same with even greater vigor for my beloved students of SUA and for your future.

Kaneko and I will always be praying that you will all, without exception, lead lives that shine with good health, happiness and triumph. Our appreciation for our graduates truly knows no bounds.

In closing, allow me to dedicate a passage from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Emile, which I read with great fondness as a youth and often discussed with my mentor, Josei Toda: “There is no happiness without courage nor virtue without struggle.”

My plaudits to our class of 2012, to our alumni and to all of you studying at SUA, who are our eternal light of hope!

Daisaku Ikeda

(1)Nur Yalman and Daisaku Ikeda, A Passage to Peace: Global Solutions from East and West (I. B. Tauris, 2009), p45