On Tuesday, March 29th, the DePaul University Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies in Education welcomed Kwame Anthony Appiah to give the 2016 Ikeda Lecture titled, “Education for Global Citizenship and The Crisis Facing Black America.” Appiah is an internationally renowned philosopher, cultural theorist, and the “Ethicist” for The New York Times Magazine. The event, attended by nearly 600 people, occurred at DePaul’s largest venue, the main auditorium in the Student Center. DePaul students and faculty, members from the community, and educators from universities in Chicago and as far away as Michigan, Missouri, Massachusetts, and the University of Ottawa attended the event.
The lecture started with College of Education Dean Paul Zionts’ opening remarks. He shared the Institute’s many activities since opening last year, including his visit to Soka University and Tokyo Soka High School last winter. He said that Daisaku Ikeda’s ideals and DePaul’s Vincentian Mission are one and the same and that DePaul is extremely proud to house the Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies. He also proudly announced that DePaul will soon begin its online master’s degree in Value-Creating Education for Global Citizenship.
Thereafter, Jason Goulah, Director of the Institute, explained that the lecture theme both commemorated the 20th anniversary of Ikeda’s 1996 talk on education for global citizenship at Columbia University and brought his perspective therein to bear on the crisis facing black America. Goulah noted that in Ikeda’s autobiographical novel, The New Human Revolution, where Ikeda recalls witnessing an act of racism against a young African American boy in Chicago, he invokes the ethic of global citizenship as the means to ameliorate racial injustice.
In his lecture, Appiah situated Ikeda’s Eastern, Buddhist idea of global citizenship in the Western historical context of Aristotle and Diogenes, stating that Ikeda’s perspective parallels (and can stand alongside) history’s oldest and most enduring understanding of cosmopolitanism. One thing about Ikeda’s perspective that stood out for Appiah was Ikeda’s emphasis on “all life and living,” including the environment. He noted the qualities of wisdom, courage, and compassion that Ikeda advocates as essential for global citizenship and reiterated Ikeda’s curricular practice of global citizenship through: “Peace education, environmental education, developmental education, and human rights education.” Appiah defined global citizenship, or cosmopolitanism, as universalism plus difference. The spirit of cosmopolitanism is rooted in the global concern for each other and in the respect and tolerance for different values and ways of life. Like Ikeda, Appiah asserted that such a spirit is cultivated through dialogue across difference. He cautioned that the goal of dialogue is not to reach agreement but to foster understanding, and he concluded that peaceful coexistence is rooted in practice, not theory. This was more than evident in his own dialogic engagements with attendees during Q&A and after the event. During Q&A, one young man asked how to end racism that is rampant on his own college campus. Appiah encouraged this young man, speaking to his heart, that this is an opportunity for him, in his own way, to engage history, to make history.