Message from SUA Founder Daisaku Ikeda
To the World Summit of Educators
Soka University of America
I wish to express my heartfelt felicitations on the holding of the World Summit of Educators, a profoundly meaningful gathering which I believe will cast a piercing light of hope for all far into the future.
The world is rife with summits of every ilk. Yet, how many are held in the name of education? Few, if any, stand on such sublime ideals as this. Few, if any, seek to broaden the bounds of a network united in trust. And none, in my humble view, better represents a forum for the advancement of a brighter tomorrow for our world.
Allow me then to extend my warmest greetings and gratitude to the many educators and researchers from 32 countries that have come to Soka University of America to take part in this summit today. I am particularly grateful to Dr. Anwarul K. Chowdhury, who agreed to moderate the event, and to Dr. Betty A. Reardon for serving as its keynote speaker.
Twenty years ago, I had the privilege of delivering a lecture at Columbia University’s Teachers College, in which I proposed the holding of a global summit of educators. As the founder of Soka University of America (SUA), there is no greater joy and pride than to know that our graduate students and faculty were instrumental in making this dream come true. I thank you all from my heart for your hard work in making it so.
Why, then, did I propose such a summit? I did so out of my belief that nothing is more important and inspiring of hope for the international community to live in peace, than for educators worldwide to transcend the confines of state and government to strive in a united effort to develop educational models, based on global perspectives, that advance human welfare and wellbeing as well as awaken an awareness of the fundamental dignity and equality of all life.
The world today remains under assault by various forms of violence, from the widening income disparity between rich and poor to environmental degradation and grisly acts of terror and conflict, sundering human society and threatening life’s inherent sanctity at the most elemental level. And the steepest toll of all this is being paid by children.
To redirect this universal tragedy towards peace, harmonious coexistence and a humane way of life—the key, I assert, lies with education.
Dr. Reardon, the founding director of the Peace Education Center at Teachers College, believed that education was the only possible means of remedying a culture of violence, thinking it was our greatest asset and hope.
If we are to have hope for a better, brighter future for humankind, then educators of the world need to marshal their insights and intellect in establishing a culture of peace while forging stronger, ever-inclusive bonds of solidarity as we set forth upon a new era of education. Of this I remain convinced.
I understand that this summit will hold a panel discussion based on education for global citizenship as its theme, examining issues and solutions according to the thematic areas of peace, human rights, development and environmental education.
From the very outset, the fostering of global citizens has been fundamental to the principles and core spirit of Soka, or value-creating, education.
Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944), the founder of Soka pedagogy, had developed his notion of the “world citizen” in The Geography of Human Life, a groundbreaking work that he published in 1903 at the age of 32. In it, he argues that the individual, while recognizing one’s roots to the homeland, should be made aware that one is as much a member of the world as one is a national of one’s country—a truly incisive and forward-looking assertion for the time.
In the years following his work’s publication, Japan began careening down the path of militarism and its repugnant policies, which led to a stranglehold on education itself. A man of uncompromising pacifist principles, Makiguchi opposed the militarist regime to the very end, to die in prison for his beliefs.
Josei Toda (1900-58), Makiguchi’s most trusted protégé and successor, also advanced his vision of global citizenship after World War II, one based on the recognition that every person on this planet belonged to a common community and thus shared a common destiny. It was from this conviction that Toda called for the realization of world peace.
To foster global citizens who can contribute to the peace and wellbeing of humanity with unwavering resolve—this is the paramount aspiration and task I succeeded from Makiguchi and Toda, my mentors in life.
In my lecture 20 years ago, I cited what I believe are three essential attributes of global citizenship:
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.
Buddhism—which can be described as a sublime philosophy of education centered on the human being and ordinary people—expounds that every person, without distinction, inherently possesses the three qualities of wisdom, courage and compassion. Moreover, these potentialities are given full expression when we engage in dialogue and deeds in the service of others and society.
Given the state and direction of our times, I believe the need for educational models that will direct knowledge into wisdom, sublimate fear into courage and transform apathy and indifference into compassionate engagement is now more urgent than ever.
It was out of this sense of urgency that, while on my trip to the United States in 1996, I unveiled our plans to establish the SUA campus here in Orange County, California, as an institution spearheading the development of such models. My heartfelt hope is that the discussions on education for global citizenship held today at this university, which embodies the loftiest elements of value-creating education, will yield many invaluable insights for the future orientation of human society.
I hold my dear friend Dr. Chowdhury in the highest esteem. In a dialogue we co-authored, he shared his thoughts on the role of education in transforming the individual and achieving personal growth:
How [are we] to overcome greed and prejudice? …How [are we] to grow empathy for all? …Education should focus on making us better human beings and—today more than ever—better global citizens.
As I see it, the task entrusted to education lies in creating a culture of peace and to keep it forging onward like a tidal surge that cannot be slowed regardless of the difficulties it may confront. This must be done in tandem with the task of facilitating the process of bettering human life from within, while striving not only to further temper the solidarity of global citizens fully cognizant of the needs of our entire planet, but to broaden this community’s inclusivity.
I, too, have worked, in the course of visiting academic institutions in the U.S. and the world, to build a robust network of educators that transcends ideological, political and other differences with the aim of serving education’s highest interests. I intend to bequeath this network to the students of this school in the hope that they will build upon it with great care.
Recent findings in social medicine reveal that social networking plays an invaluable role in human lives. Apparently, our capacity to connect and interact with others can become a force for good: just as the human brain can do things that no single neuron can achieve on its own, a network of people can yield far greater results than a person working alone.
I would like to assure you that those of us at SUA are fully prepared to work closely with our distinguished friends and colleagues gathered here today in a shared effort to build a network for good while generating broader recognition of and support for the education of global citizenry, expanding its scope and reach to the world far into the future.
In July 1969, I was with the students of our newly dedicated Soka Junior and Senior High Schools in Tokyo when the American astronauts of Apollo 11 took their historic first steps on the surface of the moon. We were enthralled by the spectacle; though we were bound to Earth, our imaginations had soared on to the vast cosmos. Taking all this in, the students and I pledged to take that first step, another giant leap for humankind, to realize a world without war.
It is my abiding hope that this World Summit of Educators represents yet another giant leap towards a better future for all, one filled with genuine hope. I look forward to working with those of you gathered today in ushering in an era of education and peace in which the smiling faces of every child and youth will brighten our world.
In closing, I would like to offer my heartfelt prayers for your continued good health and wellbeing, for you are all indispensable members of our Global Family.
June 12, 2016