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May 27, 2022

Founder Ikeda Sends Message to the 18th Graduation Ceremony at Soka University of America

Soka University of America graduation ceremony 2022
SUA President Edward Feasel addresses the graduates at the graduation ceremony held at the Soka Performing Arts Center

On May 27, 2022, Soka University of America (SUA) in Aliso Viejo, California, USA, held its 18th graduation ceremony. The commencement address was delivered by Iranian lawyer and activist Shirin Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her pioneering efforts to promote democracy and human rights. SUA founder Daisaku Ikeda sent a congratulatory message to the graduates.

In her address Dr. Ebadi, who was the first woman to become a presiding judge in Iran, serving until she was dismissed in 1979 following the Iranian revolution, spoke of the responsibility of citizens to safeguard democracy and human rights. “Discrimination and injustice can spread like a virus in the society,” she warned. “Injustice to you is the first step of injustice to me. Let’s not be indifferent!” She offered this poetic appeal to the students: “Let’s spread friendship like the wind. Let’s sow the seed of collaboration like the earth. Let’s give like the sun. Let’s fight injustice and prejudice angrily and fiercely. Let’s be kind to each other, kind.”

In his message, Mr. Ikeda congratulated the graduates and commended Dr. Ebadi for her steadfast advocacy for human rights and humanitarian causes, undaunted by imprisonment for her beliefs and other life-threatening intimidation.

Jacaranda tree at Soka University of America campus
Jacaranda trees laden with flowers greet visitors to the SUA campus

Mr. Ikeda described an exchange with the Brazilian journalist and champion of human rights Austregésilo de Athayde, recorded in the book Human Rights in the Twenty-first Century, which the two men co-authored. Dr. Athayde was a key figure in the drafting of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the adoption of which had been threatened by the deep political and ideological divisions of the Cold War. Asked what his focus had been in order to help diffuse these tensions and open the way for the adoption of the Declaration, Dr. Athayde’s reply was: “to promote spiritual bonds among the peoples of the world; that is to say, the promotion of spiritual globalism.” This, said Mr. Ikeda, describes the struggle of the graduates themselves.

“Precisely because you stand today on the cusp of an arduous journey in an era of trial and turmoil,” he told them, “I offer these words on your departure: ‘Summon forth resounding courage and exercise your true worth as global citizens of Soka.’”

Soka University of America 2022 graduates
The 105 undergraduate members of the Class of 2022 from 18 countries, together with 4 graduates of the Master’s Program of Educational Leadership and Societal Change Class of 2022

 [Adapted from an article in the May 27, 2022, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan]

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