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Awards

A Common Future Heritage

Ikeda Sensei’s acceptance message for his honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota.

Common bond—Graduates of the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs celebrate at their graduation ceremony, May 14, 2022.

The University of Minnesota awarded Ikeda Sensei an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the 2022 commencement ceremony of the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, held on May 14, 2022, at Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis. SGI Vice President Yoshiki Tanigawa accepted the honor and read the acceptance message on Sensei’s behalf. The following is the full text of the message, which was published in the May 17, 2022, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

Seikyo Press.

Allow me first to extend my heartfelt felicitations to the proud graduates of the University of Minnesota, who have overcome so many challenges, including those arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, to arrive at this moment of celebration.

As a founder of a university myself, and having shared the years of growth with that institution, I know the profound emotions with which one sends off graduates year after year. There is a passage from a Buddhist text that I, together with our alumni, always cherish. It describes a “departure that is not a departure.”[1] That is, even if we leave and are physically apart, in our hearts we are always free to return and reunite.

The Mississippi River, which runs through your campus, has its headwaters in the state of Minnesota. From this source, it ceaselessly flows off and away, and yet, its waters remain connected in a continuous stream as it enriches vast expanses of land. 

In the same way, I believe that each graduate, fused with the life of the university and drawing on it as an inexhaustible wellspring of the spirit, will go on to create new value for humanity as you flow, lives brimming with wisdom and vitality, out into society, the world and the future. And you will do this in exquisite communion with your fellow alumni.

Inscribed [in Latin] on the Regents Seal of the University of Minnesota is its wonderful motto, “a common bond for all the arts” (omnibus artibus commune vinculum).

Today, it is my immense honor to receive the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from this most prestigious institution of higher learning.

It is a truly great honor to be able to share this common bond with the University of Minnesota in the grand and ceaseless endeavor of humanistic education. I offer heartfelt thanks on behalf of myself and the members of the Soka Gakkai International in the United States and in 192 countries and territories worldwide who are striving, as global citizens, to usher in a century of humanity in which the dignity of life is ensured. Thank you very much indeed for this honor.

The precious bond I now share with your university is also associated with the unforgettable bond I shared with the renowned British historian Dr. Arnold J. Toynbee. Just 50 years ago this month, in May 1972, Dr. Toynbee and I initiated a series of dialogues that continued into the following year. Over the course of our talks, which extended in total to more than 40 hours, he shared with me his memories of traveling through the United States and around the world.

The University of Minnesota was founded in 1851 on the noble conviction that all people are enriched by understanding. The scale of the mission of today’s graduates, who will set out from today to confront an era of crisis with energy and momentum, is truly immeasurable.

In November 1955, Dr. Toynbee delivered an important lecture at the University of Minnesota. In it he advocated that the only way to avoid the destruction of humankind is for societies around the world to learn to live together as a single family. Dr. Toynbee continued that “what Mankind needs now, above all, is time for the different peoples to become familiar with one another’s diverse ways of life” and “to appreciate them as parts of a unified Mankind’s common future heritage.”[2]

The Regents Seal of the University of Minnesota contains its motto, written in Latin, which means “a common bond for all the arts.”

I believe that Dr. Toynbee’s invitation to me, a person 40 years his junior, to engage in a dialogue from the perspectives of East and West, was a manifestation of this conviction, and I recall this gesture with a profound sense of gratitude. 

For the past half century, I have made all efforts to pursue the path of dialogue, of learning from each other’s differences, entrusted to me by Dr. Toynbee. In this way I have sought to express my gratitude and fulfill my pledge to carry on Dr. Toynbee’s legacy. 

Among those with whom I have engaged in such dialogues is Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, looked up to as the father of agricultural modernization in India. In the book containing our exchanges, we discuss with profound respect the achievements of University of Minnesota alumnus Dr. Norman Ernest Borlaug, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in reducing global hunger. 

Inspired by the encouragement of his mentor at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Borlaug went on to build “a common bond for all the arts” throughout the world, and with his indomitable “never give up” spirit, developed the high-yielding wheat varieties that were crucial to the Green Revolution.

Today, more than ever, we must heed Dr. Borlaug’s impassioned words, “You can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery,”[3] and his call for “cooperation, not competition, to be the order of the day.”[4]

There is an Eastern saying that the “farther the source, the longer the stream.”[5] The University of Minnesota was founded in 1851 on the noble conviction that all people are enriched by understanding. The scale of the mission of today’s graduates, who will set out from today to confront an era of crisis with energy and momentum, is truly immeasurable. I know that your years at your alma mater will continue always to serve as a source of enriching understanding. 

The people’s poet, Walt Whitman, extolled the importance of the Mississippi River as unmatched by any on earth. It is my hope and my confidence that today’s graduates will achieve personal happiness and success as well as great contributions for the future of a united humankind.

Today as I proudly join the University of Minnesota family, I firmly pledge to work, alongside young people throughout the world, to ensure that the great flow of peace, culture and education continues into the future.

In closing my acceptance speech, I offer my heartfelt prayers for the eternal flourishing of the University of Minnesota and the health and successful endeavors of all those present today.

Thank you very much.

Daisaku Ikeda

President, Soka Gakkai International

May 14, 2022

References

  1. The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 36. ↩︎
  2. Arnold J. Toynbee, The New Opportunity for Historians: A Lecture by Arnold J. Toynbee at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1956), p. 13. ↩︎
  3. Stephen Yafa, Grain of Truth (New York: Penguin Random House, 2015), p. 113. ↩︎
  4. See Leon Hesser, The Man Who Fed the World (Dallas: Durban House, 2009), p. 213. ↩︎
  5. “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 736. ↩︎

University of Minnesota Awards Honorary Doctorate to Ikeda Sensei

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