Ambassador Andrew Young Accepts Soka Global Citizen Award: ‘Don’t Ever Give Up on Peace’
“Ninety years doesn’t seem very long to me,” said former US Ambassador Andrew Young, who recently turned 90, upon receiving the second Soka Global Citizen Award on May 4. Ambassador Young traveled from Atlanta, Ga., to accept the award during a ceremony attended by more than 100 students, faculty, and staff in the Founder’s Meeting Room.
“I come to you today saying, yes, the world’s in a tough state now,” Ambassador Young said, “but looking at it from the point of view of the saints I’ve known, I’m still optimistic about our future.”
Ambassador Young has received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, France’s Légion d’honneur, the NAACP Spingarn Medal, and more than 45 honorary degrees. Perhaps best known for his leadership in the civil rights movement—serving as Martin Luther King Jr.’s close advisor and executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference—Ambassador Young has shaped policy and peacemaking on the global stage. He recently established the International University of Grand-Bassam in Cote d’Ivoire, Africa, a scholarship program for students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and is working on various television documentaries and global health and healing projects.
During his welcoming remarks, President Edward Feasel praised Ambassador Young as an exemplary global citizen who embodies the spirit of the Global Citizen Award. “We are truly honored to have Ambassador Andrew Young with us today as the second recipient of our university’s prestigious award,” President Feasel said. “We honor him today for his numerous achievements as a transformational leader in the nation and world, and his lifelong dedication to peacebuilding, human rights, and the freedom of all people.”
The Soka Global Citizen Award recognizes an individual for efforts, either throughout their life or for a major event or initiative, that embodies the essential elements of global citizenship as articulated by SUA founder Daisaku Ikeda in his 1996 address at Teachers College, Columbia University. The award criteria during the selection process stipulates that all nominees should have made a major contribution to the global community and effected positive change in one of the following areas:
- To root the practice of nonviolence in human society.
- To study current ecological realities and means of protecting the environment.
- To focus attention on issues of poverty and global justice.
- To awaken an awareness of human equality and dignity.
Ambassador Young is the award’s second recipient. The inaugural winner was Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, the former Bangladesh ambassador to the United Nations who was honored for his life’s work and achievements for peace and women’s rights. The annual prize carries an award of $25,000 to further the recipient’s work.
In his acceptance address, Ambassador Young reflected that in his many years of traveling internationally to build bridges between peoples and nations, there is no place he’s been where he didn’t meet someone whom he couldn’t look up to and see as the hope of their nation. Despite the chaotic state of the world in 2022, his message to the Soka students in attendance was resolutely hopeful.
“Don’t ever give up on peace,” Ambassador Young said. “Don’t ever give up on humanity. Don’t ever give up on the eternal spirit that moves through and among us.”