Twenty years ago, when Dr. Ikeda gave his speech at Teachers College, global citizenship was still a relatively new concept, one commonly confused with something called globalization, a global process (a primarily commercial one) of international social and economic cooperation having its origins in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The spread of international trade and commerce narrowed the definition of a global citizen to one who either spoke several different languages, was equally adaptable in diverse and divergent work environments, or who was a global traveler, conversant in the national, not to say transnational, signs and symbols of this or that particular culture.
In his speech at Columbia not only did Dr. Ikeda challenge this fallacy of the narrow utilitarian value of globalization; he also offered three moral and intellectual indicators of global citizenship, with profound implications for the schooling and education of future citizens of the world:
- The wisdom to perceive the interconnectedness of all life and living.
- The courage not to fear or deny difference, but to respect and strive to understand people of different cultures and to grow from encounters with them.
- The compassion to maintain an imaginative empathy that reaches beyond one’s immediate surroundings and extends to those suffering in distant places.
With the interrelationships that globalization, for good or ill, necessarily enforces, a new awareness has gradually emerged among civil societies that there are concerns more important than only one’s personal happiness, that the suffering of others is not their suffering alone, and that it is not enough for one’s own country to enjoy peace and prosperity while people of other nations are plagued by misery. It is only through an education for global citizenship based on the above-mentioned principles that these ties of mutual interdependence will be forged.
Soka schools and Universities, from their inception, have firmly upheld the principle that education, if it is to be of any true value, must take for its main purpose the peace and happiness of humankind and the well-being of the planet. The word ‘Soka’ means to create value. Value creation has been defined as “the capacity to find meaning, to enhance one’s existence, and contribute to the well-being of others, under any circumstance” (Ikeda, 1989).
Thirty years after the establishment of its sister campus in Japan and five years after the founder’s visionary speech at Teachers College, the Aliso Viejo campus of Soka University of America (SUA) opened its door in 2001 with the mission to “foster a steady stream of global citizens committed to living a contributive life.” Boasting the largest percentage of international students in the United States, espousing an educational philosophy directly linked to the values of universal peace and human rights, and located in Southern California at the crossroads of the global East and West, North and South, SUA was well placed to host the first World Summit of Educators.