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January 30, 2007

Hofstra University, USA, Launches Course Titled "Gandhi, King, Ikeda: A Legacy of Building Peace"

Hofstra University on Long Island, New York, USA, launched a course titled "Gandhi, King, Ikeda: A Legacy of Building Peace" (GKI) as part of its 2007 spring semester history curriculum. Professor Michael D'Innocenzo, the university's Harry H. Wachtel Distinguished Professor for the Study of Nonviolent Social Change, a 46-year scholar of nonviolence, designed the course after viewing an exhibition of the same title sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. The classes began January 30, 2007 with 22 students and will be held every week through mid-May.

Professor D'Innocenzo's lectures will focus on the philosophy of non-violence advocated by India's father of independence Mahatma Gandhi, America's civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and SGI President Daisaku Ikeda and will be based on critical biographies on Gandhi and King and a summary of the key recommendations from Mr. Ikeda's peace proposals entitled For the Sake of Peace: Seven Paths to Global Harmony, A Buddhist Perspective. Professor D'Innocenzo will also refer to the ideals of Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) and Jane Addams (1860-1935), early American advocates of nonviolence.

Professor D'Innocenzo noted that the three activists share an unflagging belief in nonviolence and the interdependence of all life. He affirmed, "As fellow members of humanity, I believe we should imbibe from the spirit of these three giants." When asked how he will introduce Mr. Ikeda, who is less familiar to an American audience, he replied, "I will introduce him as heir to the values Gandhi and King stood for: the spirit that 'injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' We will discuss Dr. Ikeda's emphasis on nonviolence, his advocacy of a stronger United Nations and his philosophy that we must begin with our own inner transformation in order to affect lasting change in society."

Concurrent with the start of the GKI course was the launch of the Center for Civic Engagement, which celebrated its opening by hosting the exhibit "Gandhi, King, Ikeda: A Legacy of Building Peace," attended by around 400 researchers, students and local residents. In his keynote address on "The Two Super Powers: Peace and Nonviolence," Dean Lawrence Carter of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel stressed that practicing nonviolence was not about taking a passive stance but that it was a powerful force for battling against social injustice. The exhibition will show through March 22, 2007.

Dean Carter (center), participates in the ribbon-cutting

A student who attended Dr. Carter's lecture commented, "The philosophies embraced by the three coincide on a deep level." A graduate of Hofstra University praised the exhibition, saying, "It was highly impressive and offered genuine answers. As one who attended the lecture by Dr. King at this university back in 1965, I feel it is my responsibility to share with others the message of compassion and the importance of understanding one another by overcoming differences, as portrayed in the exhibit."

[Adapted from articles in the February 19, 2007, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan, and the February 23, 2007, issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; photos courtesy of Grace Kim and Manuel Elias of SGI-USA]