On December 28, 2016, The Reverend Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., President of DePaul University, conferred a special Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa, upon Daisaku Ikeda at a ceremony in Tokyo, Japan. The conferral statement is available here. The following is Dr. Ikeda’s acceptance speech.
ON THE CONFERRAL OF THE DEGREE OF DOCTORATE OF HUMANE LETTERS,
HONORIS CAUSA FROM DEPAUL UNIVERSITY
The Reverend Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., President of DePaul University; Dr. Jason Goulah and Ms. Maimi Hirano;
Thank you for traveling the great distance to Japan, despite the many demands of your official duties. It is a pleasure to welcome you to Japan in this season when a snow- capped Mt. Fuji towers majestically in the distance.
It is indeed a singular honor and privilege to be conferred with the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from DePaul University. I would like to offer my most sincere thanks. Please also accept my deepest appreciation to you for kindly agreeing to conduct the conferral in Japan when protocol would require that I receive this honor in person at your campus.
Today’s ceremony brings back vivid memories of my visits to Chicago, a city for which I have a deep affection. My first visit was in October 1960, at a time when the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was rapidly gaining momentum throughout the United States.
Walking through Lincoln Park, filled with people of diverse backgrounds, I firmly resolved to work for a world of peace and coexistence where no one is judged or discriminated against on the basis of their race, creed, social standing, or any other factor.
Since then, I have been privileged to share the friendship of an expanding circle of people in the United States who are deeply committed to these ideals. Soka University of America has become a place where young people embodying this heritage have come together from throughout the world, bridging all differences, to learn and study as global citizens.
From its founding in 1898, DePaul University, whose main campus borders on Lincoln Park, has consistently worked to advance human dignity, equality and happiness.
DePaul is well known as one of the earlier institutions to admit women to their degree programs on an equal footing with men.
In recent years, under the outstanding leadership of President Holtschneider, DePaul has made great strides, taking its place among the leading urban educational institutions in the United States.
DePaul has been recognized as one of the most innovative schools in the country, and your students are known to enjoy one of the highest levels of satisfaction with their educational experience.
It is therefore my great privilege to receive this prestigious honor from your renowned institution of higher learning. I wish to humbly accept this laurel of humanism together with and on behalf of my SGI friends in 192 countries and territories worldwide, including in the United States, who are all striving to contribute to their respective societies as exemplary citizens. Thank you very much indeed.
This year marks 145 years since the birth of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944), who was the founder of Soka education and a martyr to the cause of peace. Next year will be just fifty years since the first Soka School was established to give concrete form to Mr. Makiguchi’s educational vision.
I cannot find words to express how appreciative I am to receive an honorary degree from DePaul University on this most significant milestone, as it demonstrates your deep and welcome understanding of the principles and practice of Soka education. This is a manifestation of the debt of gratitude I owe Mr. Makiguchi, the predecessor of these educational ideals, and it will serve as an enduring source of encouragement and inspiration for the future efforts of Soka education.
As an elementary school principal, Makiguchi pioneered the practice of providing free lunches to children in difficult economic circumstances, something that gained considerable press attention in Japan 95 years ago this month. He modeled this on the “penny lunch” program carried out for the benefit of underprivileged children in a school in the Chicago suburbs.
This was just one of the ways in which he was inspired by the educational practices being carried out in the Chicago of his day. It is symbolic of the way in which his single-minded commitment to the happiness of children led him to learn from progressive centers of learning and to institute bold and courageous reforms.
I understand that at the time, Chicago was experiencing a large influx of immigrants from Europe, and economic inequality and poverty were seen as serious social problems. DePaul University opened its doors to people from less privileged backgrounds and provided them the opportunity to receive an excellent education, thus making unique contributions as a university of the people. I can only imagine the delight with which Mr. Makiguchi would have welcomed the deepening of exchange in this way with DePaul University, an exalted institution of such honorable traditions.
Makiguchi embraced a deep respect for the great American philosopher John Dewey, who was shaped by and made enduring contributions during his time in Chicago. When Dewey visited Japan in 1919, he lectured at a meeting of elementary school principals, and based on recent research, it is thought that Makiguchi may have attended that lecture, and in this way encountered Dewey directly.
Here I am reminded of the “Copernican revolution” that Dewey called for in education, by which the child would become the “sun” around which educational practices revolve and are organized.
Our world today is in the midst of a process of upheaval that is shaking politics, economics and even religion to their core. I am convinced that nothing less than such a Copernican revolution is now demanded of humankind, by which we look to children and youth as the sun, and in which we make learning and education the central concerns of the twenty-first century.
The multiple, overlapping bonds of trust and collaboration among educators and educational institutions are a source of illumination that can cast aside the darkness of even the deepest chaos and confusion. DePaul University serves as a crucial node in this magnificent global network of learning.
I understand that the motto of DePaul University is “I will show you the way of wisdom” and that these words have propelled an ongoing quest for authentic knowledge and wisdom.
President Holtschneider expressed this when he stated: “We seek to prepare not only educated human beings, but wise ones. Graduates with perspective, able to choose and pursue what’s most valuable in the world, intent on directing their life’s energies to make a difference for the world.”
I wholeheartedly concur with his insight.
He has also stated that “wisdom is a lifelong journey,” and that “individuals find wisdom from those they encounter.”
We look forward to continuing to earnestly learn from the wisdom and traditions of DePaul University, and to joining with our respected friends on an energetic journey in search of wisdom dedicated to fostering people of talent and commitment throughout the world.
Allow me here to express my renewed pledge to continue expanding a global solidarity of education dedicated to the creation of the values of good, happiness, peace and humanity, alongside the young people who will succeed us.
In closing, and with deepest gratitude, I wish to offer my heartfelt prayers for the eternal glory and flourishing of my new alma mater, DePaul University.
December 28, 2016
Soka Gakkai International