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Happiness Means Not Being Defeated

Soka Education


The following is an excerpt of a student speech presented during Soka University of America’s 2018 commencement ceremony.

Photo by DAN GRAHAM.

by Preandra Noel
Class of 2018

Four years ago, I committed to attend Soka University of America (SUA), because I was blessed with the chance to make one of my many dreams come true, which was to realize what it meant to be the happiest Preandra that I could be in this lifetime. I recall very clearly, opening my acceptance letter with my mom and feeling as though I were the lucky winner of a big four-year-long vacation.

Here and now, I can say with absolute conviction and joy that in these four years, my dream has come true and that I am happily embarking on a new journey in my life in pursuit of the next one.

As I reflect on my time here at SUA, I believe that my dream came true because I accumulated the wealth of the most beautiful treasure in the world. I made plenty of unconditional friends with whom I can be myself and, together, make the world a better place. Better yet, I have made a countless number of brothers and sisters who not only changed my life, but also gave my life a newfound purpose.

It was on May 11 last year, when life took me by the reins and changed drastically, unexpectedly and in a blink of an eye. My mom, Nobuko Noel, at age 52, passed away from cancer recurrence. I became a motherless child, lost my best friend and felt that my whole world was turned upside down.

The flames of suffering and despair seemed to destroy everything around me, and the light of hope I arduously tried to keep aflame within started to dim. Without the person who gave my life purpose and joy, I began to give up on myself and lose sight of who I was.

I was confronted with my biggest fear—the fear of becoming nothing. However, it was in these darkest of moments when I truly recognized the value of my Soka education. My friendships, the most precious gift that I am taking away from my undergraduate experience, was at the heart of solidifying the foundations for my absolute happiness. From my first day at SUA and up until today, each person here has embraced me with an indomitable spirit of compassion and camaraderie, all of which gave me the courage, strength and comfort in the most difficult time of my life.

SUA Founder Daisaku Ikeda teaches us that happiness means to not be defeated. As we step outside this small microcosm of the world into the bigger one, I look forward to everything that life has in store for us because I have no doubt that we, together, are going to face and overcome any obstacle that comes our way with courage, wisdom and compassion.

We, the Class of 2018, have shown actual proof during our time here—that together everyone achieves more. There is only so much that can be said in five minutes, but I would like to emphasize that I am incredibly honored and grateful to have been born on this tiny blue planet, in this ginormous universe, in the same era as the graduating Class of 2018. I have absolute faith that world peace is in the palm of our hands and that we will achieve it using our education.

Preandra was the Soka Student Union President for the 2017–2018 academic year. She currently lives and works in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

(p. 11)