2022 Global Citizens Seminar, Session 1
On Saturday, July 16, 2022, the Ikeda Center hosted its first in-person event since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020. The occasion was the launch of the 2022 Global Citizens Seminar in which seven doctoral students are gathering for two seminars and engaging in a collaborative project based on Daisaku Ikeda’s 2022 Peace Proposal, “Transforming Human History: The Light of Peace and Dignity.” This is the second year for the now annual series, which brings emerging scholars from diverse fields into dialogue across disciplines to reckon with the most pressing issues of our time.
The participating students are Divya Chandramouli and Olivia Fitzpatrick of Harvard University, Jonathan Jacob and Masami Tabata-Kelly of Brandeis University, Toko Itaya and Anna Lane of DePaul University, and Fiona Edwards of the University of San Francisco. The seminar is led and co-facilitated by Drs. Catia Confortini of Wellesley College and Jason Goulah of DePaul University.
To open the seminar, Dr. Goulah began by sharing that he was “really looking forward to learning from you, learning with you, and figuring out how we’re going to make new meaning out of all of our respective lines of inquiry” and to bring “something that is stronger from all of these individual things that makes a profound kind of impact in the world.” Dr. Confortini then introduced a point that stood out to her from the peace proposal, namely, that “the joys of life are realized through the connections we have with each other.” She added that for her “it is a joy to be here and finding every time I come to the Ikeda Center is the joy of new connections.” Dr. Confortini emphasized that she was “really excited that we can start sharing this connection with each other.” She continued sharing that like Mr. Ikeda she “believes in the power of you as youth to connect from a vulnerable space.”
In preparation for the event, each participant was asked to select a passage or two from the proposal that might bring “new meaning” or “resonance” to their respective lines of inquiry. After 20 minutes of paired discussion, the participants shared their passages and engaged in a whole group dialogue on what their selected passages have in common and how the ideas in Ikeda’s proposal coheres their individual and collective work. There was a remarkable continuity among the main messages that the participants chose, with two themes standing out. First, is that developing a sense of global citizenship involves a commitment to honoring the full dignity and agency of those among us who suffer the most and have experienced the most difficulties. Second, is that all of us must nurture hope, and help it to grow among those that struggle. One person chose a quote cited by Mr. Ikeda that succinctly combines these two sentiments:
While they may have problems, they are not the problem. They are entitled to be seen for who they are and to not be defined by the difficulties besieging them. Time and again, we have seen in our travels in developing countries that hope is the fuel that makes people go.*
During the discussion, the participants dug deeper into this notion of what it means to make assumptions about others, especially students and young people, that only serve to limit them or hold them back. Or, as Confortini put it, the way we talk with one another helps create the futures we will experience. Some of the key ideas discussed along these lines included the importance of not limiting either our awareness of those who might struggle (rejecting what Ikeda calls in his proposal “an awareness lockdown”) or the full use of our imaginations when we envision what we all can achieve, individually and socially.
The discussion of hope explored it not as a passive condition but as an active state, summarized in Ikeda’s concept of “determined hope.” One participant suggested that when working with young people it’s important to help them “keep their eyes on the prize,” namely what their own unique goals are, and to help them take concrete steps in that direction. Another said that when we take people themselves as our “North Star,” we create a firmer foundation for hope and tangible growth than when we engage in speculation about abstract groups of “those people.” In addition to looking at things concretely, added Confortini, it’s also productive to help people take the big picture, and understand that positive actions taken now can transcend “the here and now.”
Near the conclusion of the discussion, Goulah introduced Daisaku Ikeda’s concept of the “poetic mind,” and offered a quote from Ikeda on how it empowers each us to take positive action for our world. “The poetic mind is the source of human imagination and creativity,” states Ikeda. “It imparts hope to our life, … gives us dreams, and infuses us with courage. It makes possible harmony and unity and gives us the power … to transform our inner world from utter desolation to richness and creativity.” With that, Goulah urged everyone to let their work as global citizens working for the well-being of all to “radiate with this kind of spirit.”
Over the lunch that followed the formal seminar, participants reflected on what ideas resonated with them from the discussion and how they might use this seminar to confront the challenges that shape their collective work. The group will reconvene in August to continue the dialogue and brainstorm potential group projects that could come out of this series.
* See Banerjee and Duflo, Good Economics for Hard Times, 315-16.