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Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
May 18, 2009--Honorary Doctorate of Laws

Dr. Peter Gregson, President and Vice-Chancellor

All Queen's University honorary graduation ceremonies are special, but this conferment is unique. We are here to confer an honour on the individual who has received more honours than any other living person. The Doctor of Laws being bestowed on President Ikeda is the highest honour the University can award and it will shortly be conferred on one of the world's leading statesmen. It is also the first Queen's University honorary graduation ceremony to take place in Japan, a beautiful country with a proud heritage and with which we hope to enhance our educational and cultural links . . .

. . . The great Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, famously said: "Peace is not only better than war, but infinitely more arduous."

This is a sentiment borne out by the life of this afternoon's honorary graduand, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, who throughout his long career has tirelessly harnessed his skills as a writer, a philosopher, an educator and a leader to inspire humanity in the search for peace . . .

Daisaku Ikeda was born in Tokyo on 2 January 1928, the fifth of eight children, to a family of seaweed farmers. For much of his early life he struggled against ill health, nearly succumbing, in his teens, to the ravages of tuberculosis. This experience, and his doctor's gloomy prediction that he would die at an early age, instilled in him an appreciation of the sanctity of human life that became a defining feature of his personality.

But perhaps the most influential experience of his young life was the Second World War. Our honorary graduand grew up in an age when nearly every facet of Japanese life--from families and factories to schools and religious groups--was marshalled for the war effort.

This was the seeding ground of Daisaku Ikeda's passion for peace. He was a young teenager in the 1940s when Japan entered World War II. His four older brothers were drafted, and his eldest brother, died in the conflict.

He writes of that time: "I was 17 when World War II ended. There was, among young people, a tormented sense of spiritual void. It wasn't just the physical landscape that had been reduced to ashes. The bizarre system of values drilled into us in the wartime years had been exposed as fraudulent and razed to the ground..."

Daisaku Ikeda was searching for a mentor, a spiritual guide to help him make sense of life--and in1947, he found him.

Josei Toda was the leader of the Soka Gakkai lay Buddhist society, an organisation whose core philosophy stresses the profound connection between one's own happiness and the happiness of others.

Our honorary graduand later expressed this principle succinctly in a passage in perhaps his best-known work, 'The Human Revolution'. He said: "A great inner revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind."

Daisaku Ikeda soon found employment at one of Toda's companies and rose through the ranks. Indeed our honorary graduand has described himself as a graduate of Toda University--his term for the one-to-one teaching which he received from his mentor.

In May 1960, two years after Toda's death, our honorary graduand succeeded him as president of the society. In 1975, he became the first president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI).

Under his leadership, the society began an era of innovation and expansion, becoming increasingly active in global cultural and educational development. It fostered the ideals of peace, sustainability and human rights education.

SGI is now a worldwide network linking over 12 million members in 192 countries.

In [1967] Dr. Ikeda founded the Soka education system based on the principle of nurturing each student's unique creative potential and cultivating an ethic of peace, social contribution and global consciousness . . .

His belief in the power of education to create a better world is underlined in his own words: "Education is a uniquely human privilege. The task of education must be fundamentally to ensure that knowledge serves to further the cause of human happiness and peace. The individual who has been liberated from self-doubt, who has learned to trust in himself, or herself, is naturally able to believe in the latent capacities of others." He has gone on to say, "Universities are citadels that create the future, change society and link the world."

It is, I believe, no coincidence that his words were echoed by another world statesman, Queen's Centenary honorary graduate Nelson Mandela. In addressing the staff and students of Queen's, he said: "Education is the greatest liberator of all."

Dr. Ikeda is also committed to the concept of dialogue as the foundation of peace. His energetic efforts included personal diplomacy during the Cold War as he sought to build bridges of understanding among people of different nations and cultures, among people from diverse philosophical and faith traditions.

Among those he has engaged in his quest for peace are Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Thabo Mbeki, Henry Kissinger, Rajiv Gandhi, Lech Walesa, Kurt Waldheim, Kofi Annan, and Jacques Chirac . . .

Your contribution to the world in which we live is most eloquently summed up by Dr. Tu Weiming, Professor of Chinese History and Philosophy at Harvard University, when he recently described you as "the champion of cultivating world peace through dialogue."

He added: "Dr. Ikeda has helped extend intellectual horizons and deepen critical self-reflectivity of dozens of thinkers of our time. His contribution to the life of the mind throughout the world is enormous" . . .

Ladies and Gentlemen: There is no doubt that Dr. Ikeda's life and work--as an educator, a peacemaker, a philosopher and a writer is a lesson to humanity as we strive towards a better future.

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