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America Will Be!: Conversations on Hope, Freedom and Democracy
with Vincent Harding

America Will Be!
Pub. Year



Dialogue Path Press



America Will Be!, a dialogue between Vincent Harding and Daisaku Ikeda, illuminates the historic events of the American civil rights movement and underscores the vital role of people, especially today’s youth, in creating a brighter future. Published in August 2013, the timely release of America Will Be! coincided with the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) gave his noteworthy "I Have a Dream" speech. Both authors discuss the historical significance of this speech and emphasize its continued relevance for people today. Ikeda states: "Great dreams nurture extraordinary people, inspire great struggles, and build great lives, leading ultimately to a new, brighter future." Harding believes people need courage to dream and "to put [themselves] into that which does not yet exist--to step out and let that dream possess [them], and then to act on it."

Vincent Harding was a friend and adviser to Dr. King and professor emeritus of religion and social transformation at the Iliff School of Theology. Drawing on the stories of his own experience during the civil rights movement, he shares an inspiring vision of freedom, equality and nonviolent social change. Harding states: "I maintain that for every country in the world to develop a healthy democracy, we must share our stories as well as listen carefully to the stories of others." He further explains how stories are a powerful tool and sharing them helps us to understand where we have come from, and poetically how we are all connected to one another. The power of a story, Harding notes, multiplies once a story is shared, for then it no longer is the sole property of the teller, but now also belongs to the listener.

Both authors agree that in order to transform the future we must first examine the past with an understanding of the boundless potential of our present reality. Ikeda states this succinctly: "History is made in the present." Drawing on his insights as a Buddhist philosopher and leader, Ikeda continually emphasizes the infinite potential all human beings possess for overcoming the constraints of their present reality, noting that the key condition for the continuity and development of any movement or society is the joyful awakening of people to their infinite potential. Harding also notes, "We must not be overcome by the past but must deal with it with utmost honesty and, at the same time, embrace a hopeful view of the future. This is the only way that the dream can be meaningful and authentic as we continue to create a new present that leads to a transformed future."

In the preface Ikeda states: "We who live in the twenty-first century have a mission and a duty to study the great spiritual struggle of our predecessors and open a new path forward." Over the course of their sixteen conversations ranging from such topics as the March on Washington, the Expansion of Democracy and Becoming World Citizens, Harding and Ikeda constantly impart a message of hope and human possibility. The authors’ shared outlook is perhaps best encapsulated in the words of Dr. King: "even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream."

Vincent Harding and Daisaku Ikeda first met in Tokyo, Japan, on January 17, 1994. The idea of publishing a dialogue together grew out of their discussions at that time and was continued through written correspondence. Their ongoing dialogue was initially serialized in Daisanbunmei, a monthly commentary magazine, from February 2010 to May 2011. In December 2012, a Japanese edition of their discussion was compiled and published.


Preface by Daisaku Ikeda
Preface by Vincent Harding

  1. A More Perfect Union
  2. A Brilliant Test of Human Nature
  3. The Coming of the New America
  4. Extraordinary Character
  5. On Encouragement
  6. Influential Encounters
  7. The Expansion of Democracy
  8. When Youth Took the Lead
  9. The Pivotal Struggle in Birmingham
  10. The March on Washington
  11. Beyond Vietnam
  12. A Revolution of Values
  13. Nonviolent Acts of Courage
  14. Carrying the Legacy Forward
  15. Start With a Dream
  16. Becoming World Citizens

Appendix 1. Selected Works--Daisaku Ikeda
Appendix 2. Selected Works--Vincent Harding
About the Authors


"Anchored in the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr., and Buddhism, the sixteen conversations between Harding and Ikeda offer insight into the core values that must inform the work of each individual engaged in the struggle for democracy."
-- Ceasar McDowell, Professor of the Practice of Community Development, M.I.T.

"Vincent Harding is a national treasure, and his wisdom is profoundly nourishing in this national moment. This groundbreaking dialogue with Daisaku Ikeda is a gift to all of us who approach American democracy not as something which is irreparably broken, but which we have the privilege and pleasure to grow to new maturity."
-- Krista Tippett, host of "On Being with Krista Tippett," and author, Einstein’s God

"It is difficult to imagine two people who are better suited to engage in and to encourage such a deep, probing dialogue about the work that is required to build a multi-racial, multi-ethnic democracy rooted in a shared awareness of the dignity and humanity of us all."
-- Michelle Alexander, author, The New Jim Crow, and associate professor of law, Ohio State University

"I have long known that Vincent Harding is the most profound living interpreter of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. America Will Be! is packed with valuable insights about what Vincent calls the movement 'to expand democracy in America.' As Harding and Ikeda learn from one another, readers of this inspiring book can listen and be enlightened."
-- Clayborne Carson, editor of the papers of Martin Luther King Jr., and founding director, the King Institute at Stanford University

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