Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 20: Encouragement for Youth [20.1]

20.1 Courage, Conviction, and Hope

“There is nothing more precious than young people.” “Absolutely nothing can compare to the youth.” “Young people are a treasure—no, the greatest of all treasures!”—these have been President Ikeda’s consistent message.

President Ikeda is a leader who loves young people and places immense trust in them, tirelessly encouraging them with compassionate concern. This chapter features some of his messages to youth.

In this selection, he stresses that the time of youth is important for building the foundation of our lives, and that courage, conviction, and hope are young people’s great treasures.

Most people have many memories of their youth, and I am no exception. Those who don’t cannot really be said to have lived their youth fully.

My family was poor, and my four older brothers were all drafted into the army and sent to the battlefield during World War II. I found a job to support my family. Financial and time constraints meant that I had to continue my high school and college education at night while working during the day.

My health was also not very good. But I was determined to devote myself wholeheartedly to my job. Sometimes, when making deliveries for the company I worked for, I had to pull a large cart around the fashionable Ginza area. I also had to get by with only a single dress shirt, even when the cold autumn wind started to blow. But I never felt the least bit of shame or embarrassment because of that. In fact, I saw my struggles as the dramatic adventures of a youth challenging hardships with a smile, and even regarded them as a source of pride. It is certainly true that all of those youthful efforts became the foundation for my life today.

At that time, I was convinced—or, should I say, determined—that I would not to spend my youth in vain pursuits. I would make my way proudly in society, just as I was, developing my capabilities and living my life to the fullest. That determination, which sustained me in my youth, remains unchanged to this day. The greatest winners in life are those who ultimately triumph as human beings, irrespective of worldly position, wealth, and honor. I intend to remember this as long as I live.

But with the benefit of hindsight, there are some things I wish I could have done differently in my youth. For instance, I wish I could have acquired more in terms of my basic education in my 10s and 20s. I also wish that I had done more to build up a strong and healthy body. And though I realized the importance of my youthful days and read quite a few books at the time, today I deeply regret not having read 10 or 20 times that many.

Looking back at my own youth, I keenly appreciate how important this period of one’s life is. It is no exaggeration to say that how we spend our youth largely determines the rest of our lives.

Young people are works in progress, not yet complete. That’s what makes each young person an unknown quantity with limitless potential. Youth are a vibrant force for new, positive change; they are bursting with energy and vitality. Nothing is more wonderful than this.

I truly feel that courage, conviction, and hope are qualities vital for youth to possess. The courageous efforts of young people are a source of amazing creativity. And courage is supported by conviction. When we have conviction, we are free of hesitation or doubt. Conviction, in turn, is born of our efforts to fulfill our mission and responsibilities. The most outstanding individuals are those who hold fast to the ideals of their youth, to the dreams they had when they were young.

Young people are the treasures of a nation and the wealth of tomorrow’s world. Nothing is more precious. Undermining the future of youth and robbing them of their vitality is like tossing that treasure into the sea. And leaders who tragically force young people to fight in wars, making them cast away their lives, are indeed the most reprehensible of villains.

I love young people. Nothing delights me more than their growth. I am thrilled when I see them developing into wise, peace-loving, and happy individuals. I also cherish the hope that I may walk alongside them and maintain a youthful spirit as long as I live.

My one and only wish, and my greatest happiness, is that a steady stream of young people will soar forth, from the foundations we have built, to work for world peace and create a flourishing of culture.

From Watashi wa ko omou (My Thoughts), published in Japanese in May 1969.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.