This month marks 70 years since the end of World War II. This is a time for us to pause and remember those who have lost their lives. Many people have lost loved ones or continued to live with the effects of the war. But U.S.-Japan relations have come a long way since then, and are now stronger than ever. As stated in USJC's vision, positive and productive cooperation between the two countries can benefit the Asia-Pacific region as a whole. We believe this ultimately contributes to the peace and stability of the region.
I am proud that USJC is helping to bring our two countries closer, through a strong emphasis on people-to-people relations. Some of the founders of USJC are Japanese American leaders who themselves experienced the War. They know what it is like to be judged or questioned based on appearance, and have become champions for diversity. Many of USJC's programs, like diversifying leaders who strengthen U.S.-Japan relations or supporting women leaders, are aligned with these origins.
A TOMODACHI participant at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
At the same time, a great number of leaders who work in the U.S.-Japan realm are now individuals who do not know the War firsthand. For us, it is all the more important to remember the War, so that we may never make the same mistake again. This is why multiple classes of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD), including this year's, have visited Hiroshima (whose bombing took place exactly 70 years ago today). This is why every class of JALD and many other exchange programs have visited the Japanese American National Museum, studying the struggles of Japanese Americans, from the internment to the redress movement. This is why we have a strong relationship with the Japanese American Veterans Association and many other veterans' organizations, to ensure that their stories are passed on to the younger generation.
The 2015 JALD visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial
And importantly, strong bilateral relations begin with mutual understanding--not just by diplomats or prominent leaders, but by all citizens. With this belief, we are committed to fostering the next generation of American and Japanese leaders through the TOMODACHI Initiative. It is rewarding indeed to witness students revel in homestay opportunities, to see young professionals exchange ideas in their fields of expertise, or to hear that TOMODACHI has helped create lifelong relationships among people of different backgrounds.
Veteran Terry Shima (right) and former internee Mary Murakami (left) share their stories with participants of the TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange program
The appreciation for strong U.S.-Japan relations is also passed on through multiple generations and nationalities. One of the most telling examples is the TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars Program, which enables students to learn about Senator Daniel Inouye's legacy. Scholars from Loyola Marymount University visited Hiroshima as part of the program last summer, and one of the students was inspired to write this poem. This, in turn, was presented to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe upon his visit to Los Angeles this past May. As the poem eloquently states, we "have the responsibility" to never "let [the War] happen again." We at USJC are proud to help ensure that.
Irene Hirano Inouye
President, U.S.-Japan Council
TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars from University of Massachusetts Boston in front of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial