I decided to celebrate may 3rd, which is not only Presidents day in the Soka Gakkai, but it's also the founding day of Soka University of American (SUA) on May 3rd of 2001, by reading my Personal Statement to SUA on my podcast.
To listen to me read it click here: http://www.garageband.com/mp3cat/.UZCMbSyA5Kii/01_Happy_May_3rd.mp3
I included this 7-page personal statement in my application to SUA, which I submitted in person to SUA's off-campus offices on May 3rd, 2000 (before SUA was even completely built), which was the very first day they accepted applications to SUA. Thus I became the very first person ever to apply to SUA.
I spent a few months writing this personal statement in early 2000, which I knew was one of the requirements to apply for SUA. During that time, I kept calling SUA to see if they had yet created applications, but they hadn't. When I finished writing this personal statement, SUA finally created their application forms. Because I had bugged them for months for an application, I received my application in the mail as soon as they created them.
When I got the application in the mail before May in 2000, I read the bottom of the application form and I noticed it said, "Personal Statements SHOULD be no more than 2 pages (I added all capitals here on 'should,' to stress my dilemma)." I had never applied to a university and I had never written a person statement, so I didn't know if it was such a big deal to follow their "guideline" on the application, regarding the length the personal statement "should" be. However, being someone very critical of correct wording (having worked in banking for many years-we called it "verbage" in banking, which I also had a problem with, because it included more than verbs-"nounage" "adverbage" or "adjectivage," would have been just as incorrect as "verbage"), I knew that if it was necessary to have the person statements be only 2 pages in length, they SHOULD have written, "Personal Statements MUST be no more than 2 pages."
So after chanting about it, I decided I should keep my personal statement just how it was, 7 pages long. I didn't feel 2 pages could possibly justify why I wanted to go to SUA.
I'm not sure if this was one of the reasons I was put on the waiting list for admissions and stayed on the waiting list, even after the waiting list was over and they told me it was highly unlikely that SUA would accept any more people on the waiting list.
However, I was very happy that even after the waiting list expired, they finally called me up, shortly before school started in about July of 2001 and asked me to be a member of the first graduating class of 120 students (they were originally only going to accept 100, so maybe that's why I was finally invited).
Here is that 7-page personal statement that I delivered to SUA on May 3rd, 2000, which you can also hear me read on my podcast: http://www.gcast.com/u/peaceintheeast/main
May 3rd, 2000
Dear Soka Faculty and Staff
Happy May 3rd! I feel it is a great privilege to have been raised in Orange County and to be fortunate enough to live so close to Soka University, Aliso Viejo. As Soka University celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2001, I too will be celebrating my 30th year of life (this time around), along with my mother’s 30th year of practice with the Soka Gakkai.
I also feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to be at both groundbreaking ceremonies of SUA’s two previously planned California sites (San Diego and Los Angeles), along with the cornerstone laying ceremony of this campus’s library. I still have fond memories of the tug-of-war matches and the other youth activities held in that open field between La Jolla and Scripps Ranch, back in the 80s, to celebrate the 1st site, which Soka University had just acquired in the US.
At that time I was in junior high school. I thought it would give me the perfect opportunity to attend SUA, San Diego. I remember chanting to be accepted there once it opened. I also recall my mother’s discouragement: “It’s probably going to be too expensive,” which was her favorite saying back then (and still is).
In addition, I still have cherished memories of the long days I spent with other SGI-USA youth members cleaning up the Calabasas campus, raking leaves and picking up branches in preparation for its opening ceremonies. I remember also thinking, “maybe I can go to the Calabasas campus when it expands to a full, four-year university.” However, the San Diego campus fell through. In addition, the Calabasas campus was never able to expand to become more than the graduate school it is now.
Once I realized these two schools weren’t going to be available to me when I graduated high school, I decided instead to first go to Palomar Junior College. Unfortunately, my parents weren’t willing to support me going to school full time. Furthermore, my mother insisted I get a full time job and move out on my own as soon as I was able. Despite this, during my first semester I tried to show my parents I could do it on my own, by both going to school fulltime and working fulltime. However, it started to seem impossible to concentrate on my growing sales responsibilities at my new fulltime job and my youth leadership responsibilities in the Soka Gakkai, along with the tremendous amount of homework I had. Completely overburdened, I finally had to drop some of my classes.
Over the last ten years, due to job changes and other challenges, I’ve moved around quite a bit and have found that one class per semester is about all I could fit into my busy schedule. This has brought me to study at Palomar College, Mesa College, Orange Coast College, Santiago Canyon College, Golden West College, Irvine Valley College, and Santa Ana College. However, since my goal has always been to be a writer of music, novels and poetry and to be a musician, I’ve taken mostly music classes over the years and have only recently started taking general education classes. Seeing how most of my favorite writers (Daisaku Ikeda in particular) didn’t pursue a formal education, and they didn’t gain their wisdom from an academic institution, I decided to spend most of my time educating myself through my avid love of reading and musically through playing with many bands.
I have read many books. My favorite subjects have been history, science, philosophy, religion, peace studies, and politics. I prefer reading nonfiction. My favorite author has always been Daisaku Ikeda, for whom I’ve read most of the books he’s had translated into English. My favorites of those have always been his dialogues. I am so glad Soka University has donated many of his books to the Aliso Viejo Library. Now I am finally able to start finishing the few, which I didn’t get a chance to read completely in the past. I am overjoyed, as well, to hear that SUA is considering keeping its library opened twenty-four hours a day. Therefore, I will be able to read until my hearts content (1). In addition, I am glad to know the library will include a large section of rare books. It seems many of the books I’ve enjoyed the most, which I’ve learned the most from, were books I could never find in those growing chain bookstores. Many of these rare books, which I’ve preferred, were hard to locate in most libraries as well.
Although I have taken many music classes in college, my greatest musical education has been outside of school. I have played in so many types of bands. Those bands have included marching bands, symphonic bands, jazz bands, salsa bands, funk bands, acoustic bands and rock bands. Over the years I have sung and played trumpet, French horn, saxophone, piano and guitar. I am now halfway through recording my first 20-song CD, which will be released this year (2). My previous demo tape sold many copies at my shows. One of the songs on the tape, “Song of Triumph” was featured on the “Local Artist Spotlight” show on KSBR radio, from Saddleback College.
In junior college I found, once I did start taking general education classes, that many of the teachers, whom I hoped would further enlighten me, seemed ill prepared to teach me more than I could easily have learned on my own from reading books. In addition, I felt few had any in-depth grasp of any other subject, except for the narrow specialization of their select field of study. Even their knowledge of that select field of study, as well, seemed lacking. I have used most of my writings in these few academic classes as a desperate attempt to open the minds of these teachers. I also felt the professors didn’t give me enough opportunities to write about the subjects they were teaching me. Rather, they spent most of the time having me memorize information, which I was expected to blindly accept as fact. However, they gave me little opportunity to dispute this information or to offer more cogent information on the subjects (3).
Fortunately, this educational experience in junior college motivated me to finally finish writing my first novel. It was not only a therapeutic exercise in venting my frustration with the condition of education in the west, but it was also a critical look at what our culture calls “information,” “knowledge” and “wisdom.” In the forward to the novel I wrote, “Many feel that what has been termed the ‘Information Era,’ is in fact an ‘Era of Misinformation.’”
I enjoyed reading both books available in English on Mr. Makiguchi and on his Value Creation Pedagogue. The main character, Debussy in my novel, Myth Shattering stumbles upon Mr. Makiguchi’s educational philosophies. Makiguchi expresses the need to have education rooted in everyday life, and for students to have a well-rounded grasp of many different subjects-not to focus so much on specialization, which is the direction education seems obsessively driven toward in this country and elsewhere. It appears people are learning more and more about less and less. I feel this approach breeds extreme near-sightedness. A broadminded approach to education is what I hope a liberal arts degree at Soka University will entail.
There are many things that disturb me about western culture-many things that I believe Makiguchi’s broadminded ideas can help ameliorate. Among those are the growing prison industrial complex, which is locking up my fellow youths at alarming rates-many for nonviolent acts and many for mental conditions, which are in part being aggravated by our cultures growing materialism, commercialism and our further estrangement from the natural world. Another is this country’s growing militarism and our country’s leaders continued use of force in trying to solve global conflicts and their complete lack of willingness to use real dialogue. (The Rambuellet Accords with Yugoslavia is but one comedic example). Still another is the incredible lack of democracy in global policies, being pushed upon the world by the business leaders of this country, who hold the purse strings of their talking heads in Washington, through such undemocratic and hierarchical institutions as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund-most of these policies being increasingly decided behind closed doors, by non-elected officials, who are completely unaccountable to the people, for whom their decisions drastically affect. (If that sentence seems overly convoluted and verbose, it’s only because I chose to use the type of wording the corporate lawyers and trade bureaucrats, who are holding our democracy hostage, love to confuse people with. This kind of recondite language demonstrates how convoluted our system of democracy has become, thanks to the greedy concerns of those who do not care about the health of the system, only what they can steal from it).
Although these are only a few of the problems that bother me, I feel at the heart of these problems and others is a complete lack of respect for the well being of individual human beings, along with a total disregard for the sanctity of all life-two things that Mr. Makiguchi’s education philosophy addresses. Along with this is the need for fostering mutual-coexistence and changing our society into a win-win society, as opposed to the “winner take all” state we currently live under.
It is true, as one scholar having a dialogue with Daisaku Ikeda said, “Education is the slowest means to social change. But it is the only lasting means.” However, it also seems from my experience, much of what universities try to pass as “education” in this country could be better defined as “miseducation” and in some cases outright propaganda. Two simple examples of this are in the fields of medicine and economics. Here pharmaceutical companies and “neoliberal,” capitalist, so-called “think-tanks” have such a tremendous strangle hold over academic research. This hijacking of the educational establishments by moneyed and self-serving interests has caused students hoping to become doctors to instead become little more than drug dealers. In addition, it has made those who wish to become economists to instead become no more than cheerleaders of corporate, “free market” globalization.
The more I have dialogues with my friends who went to the “prestigious institutes of higher learning,” and the more I read what the “experts” have to teach me, the more I understand Socrates disgust with those who profess to be wise. He admitted he didn’t know all there was to know. Therefore, with his knowledge of his own ignorance, he had to be wiser than those who profess to know everything, when in most cases they are the least informed about the real needs of the common people.
Unfortunately, if we as a species don’t change the course we are on, and if our knowledge doesn’t make us wise, we won’t survive much longer. There are far too many problems in this world to stand by and remain ignorant and apathetic, while the profiteers on Wall Street are quickly extinguishing the world’s last resources to make their shareholders richer and richer, while the average people of the world become poorer and more ignorant of the true causes of their plight. In this regard, I feel it is absolutely paramount that the wisdom of Mr. Makiguchi be shared with the world and a new approach to education be offered to the 21st century. If we are to live up to the “self chosen title of Homo Sapiens,” as Einstein says, we must start learning to tap into our own inherent wisdom, which lies deeply covered by folly, hostility and greed. Then we must learn how to eliminate those poisons before they consume us.
I believe that each person has the ability to positively change the world. Additionally, I believe it is the youth of the 21st century who will be at the forefront of this struggle. It is for this reason that I wish to study at the institute Daisaku Ikeda has founded, on the principles Mr. Makiguchi outlined in his Value Creation Pedagogy-not simply for my own self-aggrandizement, but rather to be a part of raising the next generation of world leaders, who will help us steer Planet Earth back on a sustainable course.
I’ve dedicated much of the last ten years to raising young people to be compassionate leaders, within and outside the Soka Gakkai. I started practicing Buddhism strongly when I was ten years old. Although, I must admit that I first started for selfish reasons, once I turned eighteen and moved out on my own, I started reading Daisaku Ikeda’s writings on a daily basis, which have drastically changed me. I have been able to find no greater leader and educator than he in all my studies. I have seen how much his writings have changed my intentions and have transformed my ways of thinking. Therefore, I know that my writings will also have the same effects on many young people, helping them to become more concerned with other people and the world at large.
In this regard, I will continue to imbue my writings, both my song writings and my books, with an impassioned cry for the youth of the world to rise up to the challenges they will inevitably be confronted with in this turbulent and chaotic world. I plan to continue raising the youth even at Soka University, by being a big brother to all my fellow schoolmates and by helping them in their studies. I believe that in order for this school to succeed, all the students have to succeed. For this, I will not only be concerned with my own grades, but I will help tutor those who are struggling the most. I will also continue writing my second novel there on my free time (4). In addition, I will fill the air of Soka University with my fragrant music and continue writing music that motivates the youth to never give up.
Along with this, I hope to take Spanish at Soka University and if possible to study abroad in Cuba. I feel our country owes so much to the people of Cuba in reparation for the barbaric embargo our government has forced them to try to survive under. I hope that in some small way my connection to Cuba during my studies abroad can open doors of dialogue between our countries and help in putting an end to the dreadful Helms-Burton Act, which is causing untold suffering to our Cuban neighbors. To prepare myself for this, I will take introductory Spanish next semester at Orange Coast College (5).
In closing, I would like to offer congratulations to the entire faculty and staff of Soka University, whose hard work has brought this school this much closer to opening. As a tribute to all of your hard work, I would like to dedicate to all of you a poem I wrote about spring. I have driven by Soka University’s budding campus many times this year and last. And each time I see it, the buildings slowly seem to be springing from the ground, like plants and trees in springtime. Soon those beautiful buildings will bear plentiful fruit, and all of you will be to thank for that. Only one more year left! Keep up the great work.
Spring From the Soiled Ground
The seed sinks deep into the fecund soil;
rain falls down so sweet.
Imbuing love into the Earth, until life within it creeps.
Breaking through its padded shell, a new life has begun.
Extending arms through dampened ground
to greet the morning sun
“Here I go. I will come of age.
I will show what I can be,
when I open up my cage.”
Deeper down, its roots descend
to embrace its mother’s womb,
So the plant may climb so high above
and smile at the evening moon.
Where once were dormant fields of snow,
asleep in winter’s freeze,
Soon branches spout and flowers spring
to dance in the summer breeze
“Yes I know, there must come a time,
When we shall live in harmony
and not begrudge our lives.”
Happy buzzing bees do come to kiss the budding tree,
To spread its fragrance all around
to other plants in need.
They know their honored duty calls
and flap their wings so loud.
For nature gives them all they need
and always makes them proud.
“I will show that others can embrace,
A life of giving and of living
and darkness we can erase.”
Thank you for your kind consideration,
(1) It turned out that Timothy had been wrong about this. SUA does have a 24-hour study area in the library, but there is no access to the books in the library in this room. It’s simply an adjacent study area attached to the library.
(2) Half way through the recording of that CD, the recording engineer decided to run away to Indonesia to get married, and he didn’t want to finish the CD. So Timothy was left with just five unmastered songs that he put on hid latest CD, Acts of Sedition: Classified CIA Files.
(3) Luckily, Soka University of America was much better at letting students express their opinions, thus Timothy has this set of books.
(4) How extremely naïve Timothy was to think he would actually have free time at SUA.
(5) Timothy didn’t do that well in Spanish and decided to instead explore Japanese. He hoped Japanese would be more helpful in the writing of his second novel, Nichiren, which will be an historical fiction novel about the radical, revolutionary monk from 13th century Japan by the same name. To fully study the Kamakura period in which Nichiren lived and Nichiren’s life, Timothy believes it will be critical for him to know Japanese. He also thought it would be more of an asset to helping the students at Soka University of America, who have been predominately of Japanese origin.