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ESD Members Courageously Advance Toward 2030

by SGI-USA Future Division Leaders

For the first time in four years, future division members ages 5–12 and their parents and guardians from around the country gathered at the beautiful SGI-USA Florida Nature and Culture Center over two weekends in July for the Elementary School Division (ESD) Conference. In unity with their friends in the junior high and high school divisions, the ESD centered their conference on the theme “Courageously Advancing One Step Toward 2030.” This theme was inspired by Ikeda Sensei’s guidance to members of the future division in March in which he encouraged them that “what’s most important right now is that all of you find the courage and passion to take one step forward.”

Each ESD participant was encouraged to take on three challenges: 1) to make great friends in faith, 2) to learn one thing about Ikeda Sensei and their Buddhist practice that could encourage them in challenging times, and 3) to make one great goal they would like to accomplish toward 2030. In addition, after visiting Ikeda Hall, families made their own vow together toward 2030. Many wrote to Sensei to share their determinations. 

The participants also enjoyed many fun friendship-building activities including games, a scavenger hunt, a powerful talent show and an epic bouncy house that nearly touched the FNCC gym ceiling! They discussed their own dreams and struggles and learned how their practice of Buddhism could help them achieve their dreams. Meanwhile, parents and guardians had the opportunity to engage in deep dialogues with one another and participate in sessions around raising their children in the garden of soka and supporting their children to attend college. They also learned about Sensei’s vision for Soka University of America.

SGI-USA Women’s Leader Naoko Leslie gave a study presentation, reminding parents of second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s encouragement that a parent’s ultimate expression of love for their child is found in their deep prayer for their happiness.

During the four-day conference, the ESD members were fortunate to receive a message from Sensei, which they read together each day of the conference. In it he calls the future division members Bodhisattvas of the Earth who chose to appear at this time to bravely and joyfully work for people’s happiness and a peaceful future. Sensei writes:

You each have a great mission that only you can achieve. You might not be good at certain things and sometimes may face struggles. But chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the main power source for creating unlimited possibilities and shining your brightest. The more you chant, the more you can turn your problems into “treasures of the heart.” 

Based on this encouragement, many of the ESD members made great determinations for the future, including working for the peace and the happiness of their families. During the open mic session, one ESD member after another said they would return next year because they had so much fun and made great friends. Those graduating into junior high this year decided to attend next year’s Junior High and High School Conference at Soka University of America.

 It was clear to the supporters and guardians attending the conference that a grand cause was made that will support the advancement of kosen-rufu into the 22nd century and beyond.

August 11, 2023, World Tribune, p. 8

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