SGI President Ikeda is named an honorary citizen of Florence, Italy, the birthplace of the Renaissance.

Florence, Italy, is the place where artists and poets of world renown ushered in the dawning of the human spirit. A new name was just engraved in the city’s storied history: Daisaku Ikeda.

Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, conferred an honorary citizenship upon SGI President Ikeda for his enduring contributions to the blossoming of the human spirit and peacebuilding.

Photo: Seikyo Press
Flower of humanism—The city of Florence, Italy, confers an honorary citizenship upon SGI President Ikeda in the Salone dei Cinquecento of the Palazzo Vecchio—Florence’s city hall since medieval times—which features many elegant works of Renaissance art. All photos by Seikyo Press.

The conferral ceremony was held on March 11 in the Salone dei Cinquecento (the Hall of the Five Hundred) of the Palazzo Vecchio, which has served as Florence’s city hall since medieval times. Florence Mayor Dario Nardella attended the event, together with members of the city council, guests and 600 representatives of SGI Italy.

During the ceremony, Nobel Peace laureate Betty Williams offered congratulatory words, as did Professor Antonio La Spina of LUISS Guido Carli University.

Inside the impressive hall, the opposing walls feature giant fresco paintings exquisitely rendered by 16th-century court painters, including Giorgio Vasari, that depict the conquests of Pisa and Siena, and convey to current generations the victories that decided Florence’s rise and prosperity.

An extraordinary statue, completed nearly 500 years ago, dominates the central niche in the south wall: “The Genius of Victory” by Michelangelo.

“He is the only person in our history to receive three of the city’s highest honors.”

Perhaps owing to interest in the ceremony, which had been announced in national newspapers, some 4,000 city residents and SGI members gathered at Piazza della Signoria, the square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, and watched the ceremony unfold on a giant television monitor.

Prior to the ceremony’s start, the main theme from President Ikeda’s novel The Human Revolution was projected on the screen:

“A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation, and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind” (p. viii).

Some 4,000 spectators gather at Piazza della Signoria to witness the conferral ceremony. Italian media reported on the news of the conferral.
Some 4,000 spectators gather at Piazza della Signoria to witness the conferral ceremony. Italian media reported on the news of the conferral.

Some gathered in the plaza nodded in agreement, while others recorded the words in their notebooks, giving one the sense that the curtain was being raised anew on the dawning of the human spirit.

President Ikeda has visited Florence on three occasions: 1981, 1992 and 1994. He demonstrated his commitment to the sharing of culture when the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, which he founded, introduced the Treasures of Japanese Art exhibition in Florence, drawing on the museum’s permanent collection.

“Dr. Ikeda’s name will be eternally
engraved in the annals of Florence.”

Moreover, inspired to action by President Ikeda’s example, SGI members in Florence engaged in a series of efforts, including an exhibition and lectures on nuclear abolition aimed at raising awareness and interest in the importance of protecting the sanctity of life. They have also contributed to society as good citizens, winning trust in the community.

Florence has honored President Ikeda in the past with the Fiorino d’Oro Coin (1992) and the Seal of Peace (2007) in recognition of his efforts to promote culture and peace.

Andrea Pugliese, the Florence City council member who nominated the SGI leader for an honorary citizenship, said there is a special significance to this particular honor.

“The council was unanimous in its decision to welcome Dr. Ikeda to our city, which is unique among past recipients [of this honor],” Mr. Pugliese said. “More than anything, he is the only person in our history to receive three of the city’s highest honors.”

“A global society of peace and humanism, where no one is left behind.”

Florence Mayor Dario Nardella (right) presents the honor to SGI Vice President Hiromasa Ikeda (center) who accepted it on President Ikeda’s behalf. (Left to right) Professor Antonio La Spina of LUISS Guido Carli University, Florence City Council Chair Catarena Biti, Mr. Ikeda and Nobel Peace laureate Betty Williams help celebrate the occasion.
Florence Mayor Dario Nardella (right) presents the honor to SGI Vice President Hiromasa Ikeda (center) who accepted it on President Ikeda’s behalf. (Left to right) Professor Antonio La Spina of LUISS Guido Carli University, Florence City Council Chair Catarena Biti, Mr. Ikeda and Nobel Peace laureate Betty Williams help celebrate the occasion.

The ceremony began with the city anthem. City Council Chair Catarina Biti gave the background leading to the conferral, while Professor La Spina and Ms. Williams offered words of congratulations.

Then, in his words conferring the honor, Mayor Nardella commended the SGI leader’s contributions to peace, stating in a resounding voice, “Dr. Ikeda’s name will be eternally engraved in the annals of Florence.” The mayor and council chairman proceeded to sign the certificate of honorary citizenship and present it to SGI Vice President Hiromasa Ikeda, who accepted the honor on the SGI president’s behalf. The hall erupted in thunderous applause.

Hiromasa Ikeda read a message from the SGI leader conveying his heartfelt appreciation. President Ikeda expressed his determination, together with the youth, to make the flower garden of humanism bloom, starting in Florence, so that its fragrance extends far into the future.

“From today onward, and as a proud citizen of Florence working together with all of you, I firmly vow to create a global society of peace and humanism, where no one is left behind.”

This article was adapted from the March 13, 2017, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.