Lianna Sachiyo Kushi

Reflection from Lianna Sachiyo Kushi (ELP 2015)

The author (center) with her classmates at the wedding: David Kenji Chang, Ellen Kamei, Kuriko Hasegawa Wong and Miki Sankary

The TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) was a life-changing experience. It feels grandiose to write such a statement, but it honestly was. When I prepared my application a year ago, I could not have imagined what the impact of ELP would be. Since those four days together in Tokyo, I have developed relationships with USJC leaders in Boston, met up with classmates and alumni in New York, represented the New England region in Los Angeles, and was amazed to have David, Ellen, Kuriko and Miki from the 2015 ELP class attend my wedding in Lowell, Massachusetts.

With Irene Hirano Inouye, Board Member Atsuko Fish and Associate Ginger Vaughn at an event in Boston

As is the case for many of my fellow alumni, my passion for Japan and U.S.-Japan relations is deeply personal. My obaachan was daring and strong, unafraid to share her opinions or wishes, which included choosing Japanese names for nearly all her sanseigrandchildren. I lived with her twice during my childhood. One evening, she told me why she chose “Sachiyo” for my middle name. She explained that the kanji means “happiness” and “generation,” and that she wished for me a life filled with joy that would continue for generations.

She passed away shortly after. It was the summer before my senior year of high school, and this changed the course of my life. In college, instead of studying French and international relations as I had intended to, I chose Japanese language and literature. I immersed myself in Japanese, and instead of Paris, I studied abroad in Kyoto. I went on to work at the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations at Harvard University, traveled to Japan often, and over the years continued to find ways to stay connected to Japan. In the past decade and a half, ELP and USJC are by far the definitive program and experience that have accelerated my connection not just to Japan but to the people who hold a similar passion. This community of leaders committed to U.S.-Japan relations is so powerful.

Tour of Kings Hawaiian with Sakura Yagi and Winston Taira

Through the Emerging Leaders Program and USJC, I learned that the future of U.S.-Japan relations relies on this active investment. I realize that, along with other Japanese Americans, I can continue to have a profound impact on U.S.-Japan relations. I cannot wait to reconnect with fellow alumni and meet other USJC Associates at the U40 Summit next month!

The 2015 ELP Class