The Role of JET Alumni in U.S.-Japan Cooperation: A Tohoku Tomo film screening and panel discussion

March 11, 2016 at 4:30pm - 8pm
The Mayflower Hotel, Palm Court Ballroom (1127 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036)


On March 11, Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) USA and the JET Alumni Association of Washington, D.C. co-hosted a discussion on JET alumni's contributions to recovery after 3-11, as well as a special screening of the documentary Tohoku Tomo.

Suzanne Basalla with Matthew Fuller (All photos by Joy Asico)

Matthew Fuller, a former Foreign Service Officer who was the Special Assistant to Ambassador Roos at the time of the disaster, spoke about how the Embassy gathered JET alumni after the disaster to rely on their network and knowledge of local communities. (Mr. Fuller himself is a JET alumnus who served in Aichi prefecture.)

His discussion touched upon TOMODACHI. "After 3.11, the U.S. Embassy asked JETs and JET alumni to come and discuss how they could provide sustainable support. And that's what led to ideas like the TOMODACHI Initiative," Mr. Fuller said. "Exchange programs like TOMODACHI give people opportunities and hope--and the JET program was part of the inspiration for that." He further emphasized that the U.S. government can work more with JETs, by encouraging more Japanese students to consider studying abroad, for example.

USJC members and staff at the event included Council Leaders Dianne Fukami, Debra Nakatomi and John Tobe, and Associate Rei Tsuchiya

USJC Executive Vice President & COO Suzanne Basalla, who was Senior Advisor to Ambassador Roos and Mr. Fuller's colleague at the time, moderated the discussion. She noted examples of JET alumni continuing to connect the United States and Japan in unique ways, such as Shanti Shoji, Co-Founder and Vice President of Kizuna Across Cultures.

Tohoku Tomo was shown following an introduction by its Director and Producer (and JET alumnus) Wesley Julian. He detailed how he wanted to capture the voices of the "friends of Tohoku," and that after creating the documentary, he was further motivated to create another one, The 113 Project.

Andy Anderson, father of Taylor Anderson, spoke at the reception

The reception that followed the screening featured speeches by Tamaki Tsukada, Minister of Communications and Cultural Affairs at the Embassy of Japan; Andy Anderson, Chairperson of The Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund, created in honor of his daughter who died in the disaster; and Shelley Fredrickson, Founder of the Montgomery Dickson Cultural Fund, established in honor of her brother who died in the disaster. (TOMODACHI has programs that commemorate the memories of both Taylor and Montgomery.) SPF USA also supported USJC in promoting the TOMODACHI social media campaign.

Minister Tsukada was among the many individuals who participated in the TOMODACHI social media campaign

For more photos of the event, as well as a video, see this webpage on the SPF USA website