SGI-USA's New Territories Hold Kickoff Meetings
Following SGI-USA's implementation in June 2007 of a new organizational structure consisting of three large geographical territories that will provide more direct support for its many volunteer leaders, SGI-USA members have been convening to celebrate the new start in their respective territories--East, Central and West.
On July 1, 2007, the East Territory held a kickoff celebration attended by more than 3,000. Participants representing 22 states and the Caribbean Islands traveled by plane, train and bus to meet at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The audience enthusiastically responded to the performances, speeches and resolutions that heralded the start of a new era of sustained growth for SGI-USA.
Guest of honor U.S. Representative Madeleine Bordallo of Guam presented a Congressional Commendation to SGI President Daisaku Ikeda and Mrs. Kaneko Ikeda acknowledging their contributions to world peace and the improvement of individual lives. Rep. Bordallo also shared some of her remarks that were read into the U.S. Congressional Record on May 1.
East Territory Leader Tariq Hasan encouraged the participants based on their renewed sense of mission to see how much they could personally accomplish by October 2, SGI's World Peace Day. Following the meeting, Sandra Nakasone from Maryland stated, "I was greatly affected by Congresswoman Bordallo reading from the Congressional Record about President and Mrs. Ikeda. I am thankful for the SGI-USA pioneer members for laying the groundwork and creating the stage for this significant time."
On July 21, the Central Territory celebrated its new start with 4, 400 members at the Arie Crown Theater near downtown Chicago, Illinois. Members, their families and guests -- 1, 346 on 29 buses -- traveled from throughout the Midwest to attend SGI-USA's first large-scale event in Chicago in more than a decade. Under a banner stating, "Boldly Advance -- The Second Act Has Begun," local members formed a "Wall of Applause" to greet all the outlying members.
The evening began with a photo and film montage of the history of SGI-USA in the Midwest, with various scenes played out by young actors. Youth also performed in vintage Brass Band and Fife and Drum Corps uniforms in tribute to the history of SGI-USA in Chicago. The divish, Japanese and African dance performances reflected in part the diversity of the Central Territory membership. Some 100 elementary school children sang a farewell song as the members departed. "If there is one word to describe the whole thing, it's heartfelt," said Jee Moon, the new territory's young women's leader.
Also during the meeting, representative members shared moving accounts of how they have developed their lives through their practice of Nichiren Buddhism. In his congratulatory message, SGI President Ikeda acknowledged the vastness of the territory that covers twenty states from Ohio in the east to Arizona in the west and embraces the heartland of the United States. He encouraged the members to advance powerfully with a cheerful sense of optimism and overcome all sorrow and sadness with a shared determination that the Central Territory will be a haven of reformation and progress for the sake of people's happiness everywhere. As with the East Territory, Mr. and Mrs. Ikeda received awards and official proclamations that also recognized the members' efforts to enhance their local communities through civic and environmental activities.
During July, the West Territory, covering eight states and including Guam and Saipan, was launched with gatherings in Seattle, Washington, Honolulu, Hawaii, and Oakland, Aliso Viejo and Los Angeles, in California, with a combined attendance of over 7,900. Divisional leaders were announced for the newly created zones in which a younger men's and women's leadership will be spearheading the new organizations. In a congratulatory message, SGI President Ikeda quoted Swiss philosopher Carl Hilty (1833-1909): "Always look forward." Mr. Ikeda encouraged the members throughout the West Territory to not be bound by fetters of the past and to each prove that the concept of "oneness of mentor and disciple" is the ultimate source of victory in their personal lives and in their communities.
[Adapted from an articles in the July 13, 27 and August 5, 2007 issues of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan, and articles in the July 6, 20 and August 10, 2007 issues of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; Photos by Danny Sze, Dan Defensor, Dez Thompkins, et al]