On September 20th, U.S., Japanese and Japanese American leaders from across the country gathered in Washington D.C. for the U.S.-Japan Council Inaugural Annual Conference. The conference served as an official unveiling of USJC, as this was the first major public event since its creation in 2009.
Vice President Joe Biden, speaking as the keynote speaker, set the tone for the day when he said: “All has changed in the last 15 years, circumstances have changed and it requires new thinking. I can think of no better group of folks to sit down and think together through these changes than with our Japanese colleagues.” Biden’s speech painted a global picture in which Japan is the best possible partner for the United States moving forward.
Secretary Norman Mineta, who also spoke about U.S.-Japan relations during the opening session, emphasized the strength of people-to-people relationships: “The government-to-government relationship is just the tip of the iceberg. It is American and Japanese people who are the base of the relationship.”
The Conference brought thought leaders from various fields together in order to uncover new avenues of cooperation between the two countries. Conference topics included Clean & Green Technology, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Women in the Workplace & Leadership, People-to-People Organizations, the U.S.-Japan-China Tri-lateral Relationship, Transportation/High-Speed Rail, and Education: Study Abroad & Language.
During the first Annual Members Meeting, U.S.-Japan Council Members and invited guests participated in small group discussions based on each conference topic and deemed “strategic working groups.” The groups have been tasked with continuing to create dialogue, uncover information and develop action plans in each area.
The Inaugural Annual Conference came to an end on Capitol Hill with a Closing Reception in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Ms. Irene Hirano Inouye, Ambassador John Roos, Ambassador Thomas Schieffer, Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki and USJC Chairman Thomas Iino made remarks. The fantastic presence at the reception, together with conference programming confirmed that there is great enthusiasm about the future of U.S.-Japan relations.