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May 26, 2023

Daisaku Ikeda Sends Message to Soka University of America’s 19th Graduation Ceremony

Wanjira Mathai speaks at 19th commencement ceremony at Soka University of America
Wanjira Mathai speaks at SUA’s 19th commencement ceremony

On May 26, 2023, Soka University of America (SUA) in Aliso Viejo, California, USA, held its 19th graduation ceremony at which 98 undergraduates from 20 countries and 4 postgraduates of the Master’s Program of Educational Leadership and Societal Change received their degrees. The commencement address was delivered by Kenyan environmentalist and activist Wanjira Mathai, managing director for Africa and Global Partnerships at the World Resources Institute and daughter of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Wangari Maathai. SUA founder Daisaku Ikeda sent a congratulatory message to the graduates.

At the ceremony, Ms. Mathai was awarded SUA’s 2023 Soka Global Citizen Award for advocating for social and environmental change on both local and international platforms over decades.

In her keynote address, Ms. Mathai recalled her meeting with Mr. Ikeda in Japan in 2005, and his conviction that peace and the environment are inextricably linked. She spoke of the foresight of SUA’s educational approach of grounding students in an understanding of peacebuilding, human rights, community engagement and social activism. Such transformative education, she said, is exactly what is necessary to foster much-needed effective global leaders. While climate change is, she asserted, the most significant challenge of our world today, hindering sustainable development and threatening to drag millions of people back into poverty, “we have never had better knowledge, better solutions and better prepared talent to address these issues.” She said that graduates would be leaving the campus equipped with the fresh creative capacities and qualities necessary to tackle such global challenges.

Ms. Mathai went on to elaborate three “nuggets” as a parting message and guide to the students: to take each opportunity that presents itself, to sustain a global perspective, and to consider the impact of one’s actions on others and the role that one can play in championing others. “The dignity of human life,” she affirmed, “will always be the currency that matters.”

Soka University graduates of 2023 toss their graduation caps in the air
2023 SUA graduates jubilantly toss their graduation caps in the air following the commencement ceremony

In his message, Mr. Ikeda congratulated the graduates and thanked their parents and SUA faculty and staff for their tremendous support. He described his meeting with Dr. Wangari Maathai and Ms. Mathai in Tokyo in 2005 and how Dr. Maathai, in the hopes of encouraging young people everywhere, had shared that the difference between victory and failure in life is often no more than the willingness to get up when you are down.

Mr. Ikeda stated, “Immeasurable potential lies dormant within the great earth of every individual’s sublime life. The purpose of SUA’s education for global citizenship is to further enrich and seed this earth, summoning forth the unlimited wisdom, courage and compassion from the depths of your lives and converging them to surmount even the most difficult challenges to bring about the well-being, peace and prosperity of humanity’s global family.”

He urged the graduates to “sow new seeds of value creation” and to “foster others who serve the cause of peace and our shared humanity.” He called on everyone to become “pioneers of a truly global civilization upholding the dignity of life, cheerfully forging indivisible bonds of trust and friendship wherever your lives may lead you.”

 [Adapted from an article in the May 29, 2023, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan]

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