In a speech at American University in 1963, John F. Kennedy, quoting John Mansefield, said: "There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university". Continuing in his own work, Kennedy went on to say, "His words are still true today. He did not refer to towers or campuses; rather, he admired the splendid beauty of a university because it was, as he said, a place where those who hate ignorance might strive to know and where those who perceive truth might strive to make others to see it."
Indeed, as Kennedy said, universities, which are the seats of higher learning, play a vital role in seeking the truth and give the results of their quest back to humanity as its benefit. I strongly believe that the responsibilities of universities will grow immensely in the twenty-first century.
It has been more than five years since we entered this century. The previous one was called the century of warfare and revolution. Humanity today endeavors to make the present century an age of peace and culture, but the reality is that terrorism frequently occurs, the disparity between the poor and the rich is becoming ever greater, and the destruction of the environment is becoming worse. It is feared that the global society will not live in a peaceful, scared place.
I do not think, however, that we should be pessimistic even in these circumstances, because I believe the more complicated the problems will be, the bigger the role of higher education will be. Now is the time when one expects great advancements in higher education in order for this century to have a bright future. I would therefore like to set forth the following goals and responsibilities of higher education in the twenty- first century.
What are the goals of higher education in the twenty- first century? I would like to propose three. The first of these is the pursuit of high-caliber research and education to deal with global issues. Today humanity faces unprecedentedly serious issues on a global scale. I have mentioned terrorism, the disparity between the rich and the poor, and the destruction of the environment. To these we may add, racial oppression, social injustice, the population explosion, food shortage, and the threat of nuclear armament. If we do not take any measures, the result will be global destruction and the extinct of the human race. Needless to say, we must work together outside of the framework of the state. Native Americans tell us that we borrow the earth from future generations. To put it another way, we are entrusted with the earth by coming generations. Accordingly, we must make it better that it is today in order to be able to hand it over to them.
Moreover, we need specialized knowledge and proficiency and the power of science and technology to solve the problem that the earth faces. In higher education, we must make possible the research that is necessary to provide society with the information required for the solutions. It is not much to say that the desired future will not come over without the advancement of higher education.
The second goals is that of fostering capable with a lofty sense of ethics and an excellent ability to solve problems. In order to resolve the global issues of today, it is imperative to educate those who have the deep prior knowledge and expertise upon which to build. That alone, however, is not enough. They must also have personalities that reflect an elevated sense of ethics and humanism. We cannot deny that earlier in higher education, the building of character was not highly appreciated. It was not considered essential. Rather, more importance was given to the development of scientific and technological skills and to educating people to serve the state. Higher education in this century has to change that situation and cultivate people with broad perspectives and a deep comparison for all humanity. It is for this reason that I propose for higher education the goal of fostering global citizens both of high intelligence and of deep spirituality.
The third goal is that of the future promotion of exchanges between universities. It is a well-known fact that the flourishing of civilizations is enhanced by cross-cultural interchange. As we know, when universities were arising in Europe in the Middle Ages, there was initially no sense of national boundaries. Those who wanted to learn gathered from all corners of Europe and hired professors. This was the origin of universities in Europe. Indeed, a university was a universal entity by its very nature. In this sense, higher education in our time should go back to its beginnings and be brought into operation through exchanges that transcend national boundaries.
I would like especially to propose educational exchanges among Asian universities. As contemporary higher education has been more western-oriented, exchanges between the universities of Asia and the Middle East have lagged considerably behind the West. Many problems, such as poverty and the destruction of the environment through the negative effects of development, are often found in these areas. Therefore, academic and educational collaborations among universities in this area are vital in order to counterattack the challenges.
What are the responsibilities of higher education in the twenty-first century? On this point, I would like to make three proposals. First, higher education has the responsibility of promoting peace. We must overcome various global issues and make the present century a century a century of peace and culture. To carry our this goal, we must change human animality into reason, violence into intellectuality, and brutal behavior into civilized behavior. I believe that higher education and research are critical for bringing about this transformation.
Terrorism and the use of nuclear weapons in particular are now enormous threats to humankind. It is my firm belief that contributing to the realization of peace in the international community is the prime responsibility of higher education. While political measures must be taken at first, we must also confront the fundamental challenge, which is the cultivation of a sense of ethics and spirituality.
The second responsibility is that of building a harmonious society with the various nations of which our global community consists. We have diversity in language, religion, lifestyle, and values. I believe that accepting diversity and promoting mutual understanding will eventually lead to the creation of a global society in which all peoples can coexist.
In recent years, under the name of globalization, there have been attempts at the standardization of the whole globe. However, the standardization of nations and cultures is not desirable, nor is, in particular, the perception that one nation or one culture surpasses others and that this nation and culture should dominate the rest. This perception should be eliminated.
Higher education in the present century has a responsibility to respect the diversity of various nations and cultures without discrimination. Challenging the current globalization and encouraging, instead, the harmonization of the trends and identities of various nations will lead to the coexistence of many nations. To seek the best way to do this is the task of higher education.
The third responsibility I would like to propose is the responsibility for the future of humankind. As mentioned earlier, human beings today face many difficult problems. These need to be solved without delay. If we postpone finding solutions, humankind will surely face the treat of extinction. Precisely because higher education has a huge responsibility for the future of humankind, higher education must, in the present century, exert the utmost effort find solutions to these problems.
Needless to say, our future depends upon the youth and students of today, who, at this moment, are creating the future. The future of global society will be determined by the kind of education that will be given and the kind of research that will be conducted at the institutions of higher learning. In this sense, it is vital to educate capable people who have a lofty sense of ethics and who can take the lead without moving a wrong direction for the future. Again, I would like to confirm that it is the responsibility of higher education in the present century to educate people in this way.
Especially because twentieth-first-century higher education can increasingly determine the possibility of the continued existence of humankind, the goals and responsibilities of such education are so vital. All of us in higher education must realize this fact and make a vigorous determination to carry out our task with the greatest commitment.
4. Conclusion: Soka University’s endeavors
Inclosing, I would like to speak of Soka University’s endeavors toward the goals and responsibilities of higher education in the present century. Soka University has continued to uphold its founding principles amid the turbulences of international society. These founding principles are (1) to be the highest seat of learning for humanistic education, (2) to be the cradle for a new culture, and (3) to be a fortress for the peace of humankind. Soka University’s efforts in research activities and education have been based on these principles. In other words, Soka University holds the three principles of humanistic education, the creation of culture, and peace-building as ultimate axioms, and they are considered as the key to solving difficult problems in contemporary society.
Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the founding father of Soka education, in his book of 1903, Geography of Human Life, said that in the twentieth century, competition among states should not be militaristic or economics, but humanitarian. Despite Mr. Makiguchi’s expectations, the twentieth century became a century of warfare and violent revolutions. We however, must make the present century one in which the priority is on fostering capable people who can contribute to human society to the greatest degree possible.
Soka University has made a sustained endeavor to foster capable students. In so doing, it has focused on educating human beings of lofty character and great spirituality, students who can blossom, moreover, in the creation of a great culture on the basis of qualified learning and research and freely contribute to building a peaceful global society.
In order to contribute to the great development of higher education in the present century, Soka University places special emphasis on student-centered education and a change in the orientation of faculty members. Student-centered education means that the role of institutions of higher learning is to place the greatest importance on students. The focal point in the administering of our institution is the fostering of students. It is essential to consider the student body, faculty members, and staff members as equal members of the community of wisdom that is called the university. As Soka University conducts its educational endeavors, it respects greatly and cherishes them and their opinions.
The change in the orientation of faculty members means that with the attitude described above, faculty members deeply respect students and act with a resolve that reinvigorates itself every day. At Soka University, we make the results of student evaluations of classes available to the public, so as to give added inspiration to the faculty members. We also hold open classes, that is, classes that people outside of the university can attend, and we have a general academic achievements evaluation. Without a change in the orientation of faculty members, I can say that there will be no development of higher education.
Soka University has been able to expand and enhance its network of relations with many universities throughout the world. This is due especially to effort of Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, the founder of Soka University, who has received academic honors such as honorary presidencies, doctorates, and professorships from 188 universities and academic institutions throughout the world.
Among the many universities with which we have exchange agreements are 30 Chinese universities. In order to deepen these exchanges, the Soka University Beijing office was opened near the University of Beijing this past March. We strongly wish to promote exchange in friendship with many universities, especially Asian universities.
Under the guise of deepening the search for truth, conventional higher education has had a tendency to be an ivory tower, remote from the realities of society. In this environment, only the cold sword of reason is sharpened, and this sword has served to cut off people’s humanistic nature. Higher education of the present century should become a tower of hope that fosters capable people who are deeply rooted in society and who have a deep spirituality and a warm human nature. I would like to conclude my speech by specifying that the main goal of higher education in the twenty-first century is the fostering of capable people of outstanding intelligence and shining character.¨