A Time To Reflect & Reimagine: Creating A Better Future Now

Report From the First Ever Virtual Dialogue

By Lillian I

On Thursday, April 16, the Ikeda Center hosted its first ever virtual dialogue, “A Time To Reflect & Reimagine: Creating A Better Future Now.“ The event featured a youth-led panel discussion centered on Daisaku Ikeda’s three elements of global citizenship and how we can use them as a framework to reimagine a better future, especially during this time when the whole world is grappling with a new way of living. In her welcome, Program Manager Lillian I identified the guiding spirit of the event by sharing Mr. Ikeda’s conviction that “in times of crisis, we are presented with an incredible opportunity to create a better age.” 

The dialogue featured 133 participants joining from 16 countries around the world: Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, India, Japan, Nigeria, Ghana, Switzerland, Netherlands, Singapore, Israel, Argentina, South Africa, the UK, and US.  

The virtual gathering began with an interactive icebreaker followed by a presentation on Mr. Ikeda’s approach to global citizenship by Ikeda Center Executive Advisor Dr. Jason Goulah. Dr. Goulah explained that since the 1960s, Mr. Ikeda has been advocating for an ethic and identity of global citizenship to help transcend all boundaries in our own hearts and awaken to our shared humanity. The three characteristics that Mr. Ikeda considers fundamental for global citizenship are: 

  • The wisdom to perceive the interconnectedness of all life and living.

  • The courage not to fear or deny difference; but to respect and strive to understand people of different cultures, and to grow from encounters with them.

  • The compassion to maintain an imaginative empathy that reaches beyond one's immediate surroundings and extends to those suffering in distant places.

These qualities, said Dr. Goulah, create a perfect lens for us to think about the current moment and what kind of value and meaning we can create. 

After Dr. Goulah’s presentation, Lillian welcomed the four youth panelists Jonathan Romero, Kip Clark, Prachi Jain, and Sasha Ndam. After brief self-introductions, the panelists each shared what they have been reflecting on during this time.   

Kip expressed his honest feelings of confusion and despair in the past few weeks, but also his appreciation for opportunities, like this virtual event, to connect and feel present. Prachi remarked how despite struggling with her own anxiety she’s been feeling very connected to people from everywhere around the world. Jonathan commented that this time has given him the opportunity to reflect on his own values and what kind of person he wants to be when this pandemic is over. Finally, Sasha shared her realization during this time of the interconnectedness of all life and her determination to become stronger internally. 

The panelists then launched into a discussion on which of the three elements of global citizenship resonate with them most. For Kip, the quality of courage stands out the most. “I think there is a lot of courage required to recognize that whatever our future looks like it probably will be drastically different than the world we came from a month ago. I think that requires courage because it will be uncertain.” Prachi, on the other hand, resonated most with the qualities of wisdom and compassion. “I really feel that the coronavirus has highlighted how much human beings are part of the natural world and how we are so connected to each other but also to animals and the environment.” 

When asked whether or not they see these three qualities in the world right now, Sasha commented on the many inequalities she sees around her, but emphasized that the important thing is to focus on what we choose to do right now. She shared Mr. Ikeda’s sentiment that one’s happiness cannot be built on the unhappiness of others. With this principle in mind, she concluded, “now is the time to create these qualities in our world.” 

To wrap up the panel discussion, Lillian invited the panelists to share how they would reimagine a better future based on this understanding of global citizenship. Jonathan reflected that if we all strive to become global citizens then it is almost impossible not to imagine a better future. “Right now, we have the time to really pause and reflect on what we want to change and how we want to move forward. I think these three qualities are a good way to shape a better future for ourselves and others.” 

Following the panel discussion, participants broke out into small groups to discuss the following questions: 

  • What do these three elements of global citizenship that Mr. Ikeda emphasizes—namely, wisdom, courage, and compassion—mean to you? 

  • If we all embodied these elements of global citizenship, what would our world look like? 

After the breakout groups, a few participants shared reflections from their small group discussion with the whole group. One participant remarked that he is reflecting on what it means to have wisdom, courage, and compassion with his family because they are “stuck together 24 hours a day.” For example, it means having the courage to talk to his family members about something difficult. He hopes that how we interact within our homes now will eventually reflect outside when we return to a new normal and have encounters with other people. 

In the spirit of continuing the conversation beyond the day’s virtual event, the Center invited participants to post a selfie on social media with their own reflections and how they are reimagining a better future. 

Finally, the event concluded with closing remarks from Executive Director Ginny Benson who shared passages from President Ikeda’s 2003 essay, “Our Power of Peace,” about how youth “are the future” and how the power of imagination frees us from “the mistaken notion that what exists now is all that will ever exist.” Ginny closed by sharing the three mottos that Mr. Ikeda gave the Center more than 25 years ago, which she said have “withstood the test of time and describe so well what we have enacted together today.” 

  • Be the heart of a network of global citizens.

  • Be a bridge for dialogue between civilizations.

  • Be a beacon lighting the way to a century of life.

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