U.S.-Japan Council Chair Paul Yonamine said last Thursday that the organization has made “positive strides” in the past year with its programs and activities to “further strengthen the most important bilateral relationship in the world – that of the U.S. and Japan – and to develop the next generation of leaders.”
Chair Yonamine shared his observations during the 2021 Members Forum – the second year in a row that USJC members gathered virtually because of pandemic health and safety concerns. He told participants that events such as USJC’s Bilateral Boardroom on climate change have boosted the level of engagement on key issues. “Climate change is an important topic but one that demands our countries to work closely together for the good of the world. The USJC should help in that effort and by doing so, we are strengthening the bilateral relationship,” he added.
The 2021 meeting also featured a panel on Asian American initiatives at the federal level, and reports on USJC activities, including several new groups focused on shared experiences and interests.
“At a time when many of us seek personal connections more than ever, using virtual platforms has allowed USJC to bring members together in new ways such as with ‘affinity groups,’” explained USJC President and CEO Suzanne Basalla.
She reported that with its networking opportunities and innovative programming, the Council has managed to broaden its base of corporate and individual support during the past year. “I want thank you for continuing to see the benefits and value of membership — to actively engage in our programs, to support us financially, and to recruit and welcome new members,” she said. President Basalla also announced that if the course of the pandemic continues to improve, USJC expects to be able to host its 2022 Annual Conference in person in Tokyo.
The forum, exclusive to members and emceed by Kenji Negi (Chair, Japan Region) and Kumiko Hidaka (Vice Chair, Japan Region), also highlighted ongoing efforts in the Biden Administration to elevate concerns of the Asian American community. Special guest panelists Erika Moritsugu, Deputy Assistant to the President and Asian American & Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Senior Liaison, and Krystal Ka’ai, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, outlined key White House initiatives and their outreach to communities. The discussion was moderated by USJC Outreach & Allyship Committee Leader Stephanie Nitahara (ELP ’19).
Also during the Members Forum program:
- The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) represented by Steering Committee Vice Chair Amy Watanabe, reported on its numerous activities. A new ELP program, The Kaiwa Series, hosted guest speaker and Olympic-athlete Kristi Yamaguchi and was moderated by Evelyn Tokuyama (ELP ’15). “Building Your Financial Future” featured Stacy Uchida Brown (ELP ’14) and Staci Toji (ELP ’17). Despite the pandemic and virtual programs in 2021, nearly 80% of the ELP community engaged in ELP activities. The ELP also introduced its Class of 2021, and will also host a 2022 U-40 Summit in Denver.
- The Shin Issei Affinity Group, chaired by Masami Izumida Tyson, said that it has hosted several networking events ranging from a Shinnen Kai (New Year’s celebration) to a highly successful Shin Issei Conversation in 2021. In 2022, the group plans to support a high school in Japan through an educational program. The group will also launch a peer-to-peer program to connect members and share insights on professional and bi-cultural issues.
- The Artists & Creatives Affinity Group produced a video, “Art Heals,” showcasing talents of USJC members in the arts and creative community. The video featured performances by taiko artists Roy Hirabayashi, Courtney Ozaki and Erika Ninoyu; playwright Philip Kan Gotanda; vocalist Ginny Fordham; musician Steve Wilkes; art curator Anne Nishimura Morse; film maker Yuriko Romer; and Kyogen in English producers Kiyoko Yoshida and Mina Kaneko. The video production was led by Courtney Ozaki.
The next event in the 2021 Signature Series is our second Bilateral Boardroom, taking place November 16 (U.S.) and November 17 (Japan). Click here to learn more and register.