SGI-USA Youth Commemorate March 16 Nationwide
Throughout March 2008, more than 37,000 youth and their guests gathered at events around the United States to commemorate the 50th anniversary of March 16, 1958, a significant date in the Soka Gakkai's history when just two weeks prior to his death second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda bequeathed the mission of working for peace and human happiness to 6,000 youth. The SGI-USA youth celebrated the historic date with gatherings that included large celebrations with performances, university lectures, exhibitions and small discussion meetings.
In Atlanta, Georgia, a twister touched down the night before the meeting, followed by rain, wind and hail. Even after a downed power line threatened to cancel the event, more than 700 youth gathered in high spirits at Morehouse College, the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "It may be raining and windy outside," said emcee Nicole Collier, "but the thunder is all in here."
In SGI-USA's Tri-State Zone, encompassing New Jersey, Philadelphia and environs, the youth initially planned to gather 900 participants but, wanting to challenge themselves even further, they doubled their goal to 1,800. On March 31, students led five campus events throughout the Tri-State Zone, including one at Hunter College, where more than 60 young men and women hosted the "Gandhi, King, Ikeda: A Legacy of Building Peace" exhibition.
In Central Territory, encompassing the country's heartland, youth met at more than 100 locations. Activities at the University of Minnesota and Michigan State University included panel discussions on SGI President Daisaku Ikeda's 2008 peace proposal. In Chicago, the youth presented SGI-USA's "Victory Over Violence" call to action at assemblies in Chicago public schools, reaching hundreds of young people.
On March 16, some 2,000 youth attended the Los Angeles Zone meeting titled, "Youth, Change It Up!" at El Camino College in Torrance. West Territory Leader Cliff Sawyer called the occasion "not a celebration of what has happened, but of what is to come... What's important is you," he told the youth, "that you expand your life to its greatest capacity." On the same day in Oakland, Northern California Zone packed the historic Paramount Theater with more than 3,000 participants. In the weeks prior to the event, the youth shared with public officials the SGI's activities of peace, culture and education and subsequently received 13 proclamations, commendations and congratulatory messages from government and educational leaders throughout northern California.
SGI-USA Young Women's Leader Vinessa Shaw, who attended the Oakland event, remarked that Buddhism speaks of living based on a pledge. "President Ikeda has said that every day is March 16 for him; every day, he begins his struggle anew," Ms. Shaw said. "What is important for us is how we make the same vow to fight for the peace and happiness of all humankind."
[Adapted from an article in the April 11, 2008 issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; photos (in order) courtesy of: Lloyd Carlson, Manuel Eliaz, Susan Forner, Cheryl Utley, Edward Chen, Daniel Nuñez, Nicole Brown, unnamed]