This July, U.S.-Japan Council Member Bill Tsutsui had the opportunity to meet several Japanese students as they participated in the Dallas-Sendai Young Ambassadors Program, supported in part by TOMODACHI's Fund for Exchanges. He reflects on his experiences below:
On the surface, at least, Sendai and Dallas look like very, very different places. But while cowboy boots and big hair might look a little out of place on Zozenji-dori during Tanabata Festival, the spirits of these two dynamic cities might be a lot more similar than most people would at first assume.
Last month I had the pleasure of meeting nine middle and high school students from Sendai, here in North Texas for a week as part of the Dallas-Sendai Young Ambassadors Program. International friendship cities since 1997, Dallas and Sendai have a history of collaborations, including the exchange of youth delegations. But the relationship has grown since the tragedies of 3.11 awakened so many people, both in Tohoku and in Texas, to the need to build even stronger bridges of friendship across the Pacific. And thanks to the support of the TOMODACHI Initiative and the sponsorship of Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth, we have had a wonderful opportunity this summer to show some warm Texas hospitality to a new generation of leaders from Sendai.
The Young Ambassadors had a full schedule in Big D. After being made honorary citizens of Dallas at City Hall, they toured some of our newest civic gems - the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and the George W. Bush Presidential Center - and learned about some of Dallas’s own painful history at Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum. In addition to homestays that reflected the vibrant diversity of North Texas (with Venezuelan, Indian, Portuguese and African American host families), our new friends seemed to have particularly enjoyed their first experiences on horses, in a trail ride at the Fort Worth Stockyards.
When I met with the students from Sendai on a very hot July afternoon, I was immediately impressed by their easy smiles, by their energy and by their clear excitement about visiting Dallas. As I talked with them, I was struck again and again by their optimism, their eagerness to learn and experience new things and the scale of their ambitions, for themselves personally, for their home town and for Japan. More than one talked with me about wanting to study in the United States and pursue a career that spanned our countries and cultures. I couldn’t help but think that these young people from Tohoku would make good Texans, with spirits that are open and generous, horizons that are broad and aspirations that know no bounds. Spending time with these impressive Young Ambassadors, it was impossible not to feel confident about the future of Tohoku, U.S.-Japan relations and the world they will make.
U.S.-Japan Council Member, 2011 JALD