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“By the Choices That You Make, Let’s Transform Our World”


Soka University of America’s Class of 2019 graduates; keynote speaker is Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

ALISO VIEJO, Calif., May 24—In a poignant tribute to the graduating Class of 2019, Soka University of America President Daniel Y. Habuki recalled the unforgettable words of SUA Founder Daisaku Ikeda nearly 50 years ago at his graduation ceremony from Tokyo Soka High School. Mr. Ikeda, he said, had emphasized that the true value of education one received would be determined by their attitude toward their own life.

“The most important result of your education at Soka will show in how you live every day,” Dr. Habuki echoed to the graduates. “Become people who will make others’ lives shine brighter.”

With these parting thoughts, 114 undergraduates (the 15th class) and eight graduate students (the fourth class of the master’s program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change) took part in SUA’s 2019 commencement ceremony, held at the school’s Soka Performing Arts Center. The diverse members of the Class of 2019 hailed from 19 countries.

In his message to the graduates, the SUA founder conveyed “three key capacities” that are vitally important in their journey to contribute to the “peace and happiness of humankind.” (See the excerpted message to the right. The full version will be posted soon on

Leymah Gbowee, a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, served as the commencement speaker. She is best known for leading a nonviolent movement that united Christian and Muslim women, playing a pivotal role in ending Liberia’s 14-year civil war in 2003 (see World Tribune interview on p. 11).

Ms. Gbowee asked the Class of 2019 to remember that “personal choices matter.”

“The turmoil the world imposes does not prohibit us from contributing or recreating our circumstances,” she said. And in the darkest times, “both precious and essential is unshakable faith in oneself,” she added. Then, “eventual dawn is sure to come.”

Ms. Gbowee concluded with this call to action:

Young people can never be tomorrow’s leaders unless you come to terms with your own personal situation and choose to act. …

It is time for you to have a deep understanding of your stories and motivations—that you can step out and be someone, by the choices that you make, to transform our world. Join me as we create a better world.

Ayumi Inoue contributed to this report.

To the Class of 2019

‘What We Share Is Greater Than What Divides Us’