We have just finished a very tough election year and it’s now time to look ahead. There is no doubt that there will be change with the new administration. While we are not certain what lies ahead for the relationship between the United States and Japan, we commend the early meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President-elect Donald Trump. As an organization that values people-to-people relationships, we believe that their meeting is an important first step.
The day after the election, someone asked what I thought my late husband, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, would think of the outcome of the election. While as a lifelong Democrat he would have hoped for a different outcome, over his nearly 50-year Senate career he worked with many different presidents, Republicans and Democrats, and always forged a path forward to “get work done.”
When the U.S.-Japan Council was founded in 2008, the sentiment in Washington, DC was “Japan passing.” That was one of the reasons we felt that an organization that focuses on building a people-to-people foundation between our two countries was necessary.
Today, just a short eight years later, the Council is a robust organization that is growing and engaging even more people to work together to ensure that we find a path forward to “get work done.”
Just last week, we held the 7th USJC Annual Conference in Silicon Valley. (See details about the Conference here.) Within almost every speech and discussion was the topic of how to keep contributing towards stronger U.S.-Japan relations. The 700-plus participants discussed the many opportunities to continue solving the world’s problems together, especially by applying the Silicon Valley formula.
Our nations are working together in areas such as FinTech, biomed, cyber, and artificial technology to create new technologies, businesses and social good. We are seeing innovation from throughout our countries, with opportunities to collaborate at the regional-level, and from the largest of traditional companies to the newest of start-ups. We set high expectations as we head towards 2020, with hopes for increased student exchanges and optimism for a transformative Tokyo Olympics.
We also discussed the value of diversity in various forms, be it supporting women in the workplace, propelling Japanese American women into politics, or building bridges of mutual understanding among different groups. We reflected upon history and its relevance for today, including World War II and the Japanese American incarceration, and argued that overcoming biases, accepting one another and building strong U.S.-Japan relations would ultimately lead to a better world.
The future of U.S.-Japan relations remains bright. At the Council, we invest in the next generation of leaders through the TOMODACHI Initiative, the Emerging Leaders Program and other programs. We are always inspired to see how quickly the young, passionate participants of these programs grow as leaders who will bring our nations closer together and make our communities stronger.
There is no more important time than now for us to come together and make an impact. Let us continue to move forward and “get work done.”
--Irene Hirano Inouye
President, U.S.-Japan Council