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‘May You Brighten Civilization in the 21st Century’

SUA Aerial Image
Photo by Gerry Hall

Soka University of America Founder Daisaku Ikeda sent the following commencement message to the Class of 2021 (undergraduate and graduate programs). Visit to view the ceremony, which was held virtually on May 28, 2021.

To Soka University of America’s undergraduate Class of 2021 as well as to the graduate Class of 2021 of the master’s program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change, all of you who are jewels of prodigal light, my warmest congratulations on this day! You have prevailed over challenge after challenge to celebrate your graduation with songs of triumph.

To your families, I offer my appreciation and felicitations from my heart, for you have surely had to endure as many or even more difficulties during this time to secure this crowning achievement with them.

And to the SUA faculty, staff and everyone who has been involved in rendering such thoughtful care and support for our students, enabling them to grow and flourish, please accept my lasting gratitude.

My beloved graduates, I envision firmly clasping every one of your hands, to send you off with this exhortation: May you brighten civilization in the 21st century like the dawn beaming with hope!

Arriving from every corner of the planet, our students gather as one with supreme courage and purpose to study at SUA—and all of you, without exception, are global citizens, the very embodiment of hope for humankind, who cast light upon global society in this era.

It is the light of wisdom that deepens through sincere, steadfast inquiry; the light of courage that intensifies through the spirit to tackle every challenge, undaunted by adversity; the light of compassion that mounts through acts of altruistic service.

A world-renowned agricultural scientist, M.S. Swaminathan has long been a dear friend to us. Through his research to improve variants of rice and wheat, professor Swaminathan saved countless people across Asia from starving while contributing mightily to the advancement of the “Green Revolution” and sustainable agriculture in his motherland, India. He was originally inspired to his calling by the Bengal Famine of 1943, which he witnessed firsthand as a student. In an effort to banish hunger and starvation and rid the world of their tragic toll, he threw himself into his studies with fiery resolve.

As professor Swaminathan saw it, for those who embrace the sublime goal arising from the desire to help others, each new day represents the dawn of another breakthrough.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world, you are all striding forth with sublime ideals lit in your hearts as you continue to break new ground in this time of your youth—and in doing so every single day of your lives, be proud that you usher in a new dawn for all of us.

Even more so, having shared so many moments of joy and sorrow with your fellow classmates, the bonds of trust forged with one another will only strengthen and scintillate after graduating.

As you know, Rosa Parks is the mother of the American Civil Rights Movement who, together with your mothers, fathers and people of goodwill worldwide, expected great things from SUA. And this is what she called out to us:

We are here on the planet, Earth, to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.

I implore all of you to step out, advancing in good cheer while creating value come what may, bringing light to our planet in this century as unfading beacons of hope.

May each of you enjoy the best of health, happiness, victory and glory—this I pray, together with my wife, Kaneko, every day, for you are as precious as my very life.

Please all, stay well with stout hearts in high spirits!

In celebrating the 20th anniversary of SUA’s dedication on this glorious day in May,

Daisaku Ikeda
Soka University of America
May 28, 2021

About Soka University of America

Soka University of America’s undergraduate program opened its doors on May 3, 2001, in Aliso Viejo, California. Daisaku Ikeda established the nonsectarian four-year liberal arts school, which is founded on the Buddhist principles of peace, human rights and the sanctity of life.

SUA has distinguished itself among liberal arts colleges by offering an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio and study abroad for every undergraduate student. Its master’s program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change launched in 2014.

U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges 2021” ranked SUA No. 28 among national liberal arts colleges. SUA also came in fourth among liberal arts colleges in California.

Marking its 20th anniversary this year, SUA has focused ever more deeply on its mission statement “to foster a steady stream of global citizens committed to living a contributive life.” In June 1996, Mr. Ikeda outlined three qualities of global citizenship during his speech at Teachers College, Columbia University, offering a universal lens from which people could both perceive a harmonious world and act to achieve it. They are:

  • 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.[1]

SUA is open to top students of all backgrounds and beliefs. Admitted students whose annual family income is $60,000 or less may be eligible for full tuition Soka Opportunity Grants. Additional opportunities are available for higher income levels. Visit to learn more about the university and its mission.


  1. A New Way Forward, pp. 88-89. ↩︎

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