From May 20-21, 2022, nearly forty U40 (Under 40) participants gathered in Denver, Colorado for the 2022 U40 Summit. Participants traveled from Honolulu, Seattle, the Bay Area, Southern California, Houston, Pennsylvania, New York, Boston and Washington, DC.
The theme of the Summit was “A New Frontier.” The event kicked off with a ceremony acknowledging the ancestral and native lands the participants were standing on while honoring the rich traditions of the Aztec people who are an important part of Denver’s community.
A major highlight of the weekend was a fireside chat on forward-thinking global leadership and communication, moderated by Derek Kenmotsu (ELP ‘17) with panelists Ambassador Harry B. Harris, Jr., Consul General of Japan in Denver Yoichi Mikami, and USJC President & CEO Suzanne Basalla. A second panel titled “Smart Mobility and Aerospace: People and Technologies Driving the Next U.S.-Japan Relationship” included panelists Keita Yasuda (Panasonic), Krystal Scorda (Astroscale) and Yu Takahashi (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory). The panel, which was moderated by Colby Takeda (ELP ‘16) showcased local companies based in Denver.
The Consulate of Japan in Denver extended warm hospitality to the U40 participants. Participants enjoyed a delightful dinner buffet and networking reception, both of which were held at the Consul General’s residence.
The Summit also included workshops on self and community and explored identity. Niki Robins (ELP ‘19) led a discussion and exercises on mixed roots which explored cultural norms and language. Facilitator and author Sara Blanchard conducted a second workshop on actions through influence and helped uncover how our upbringing influences our actions and spheres of influence.
A walking tour was conducted by Courtney Ozaki (ELP ‘17) where the participants learned about the local Japanese American history of Denver. Courtney shared her own family’s history which brought personal perspectives of the families’ struggles and successes to light. Council Leader Charles Ozaki, Chair of the Board at Sakura Square, shared redevelopment plans for the area, currently occupied by Japanese organizations and businesses. Sakura Square has historically been a hub for Japanese American businesses and residents.
The weekend ended with a lively dinner and program with USJC Chair of the Board Paul Yonamine delivering a heartfelt and insightful keynote speech on USJC’s commitment to next generation leadership. A special presentation was made to Advisor Kaz Maniwa (JALD ‘00) for his many years of service developing and nurturing members of the ELP and JALD communities and programs. The program also featured entertainment and artistic performances from Courtney Ozaki, Erika Ninoyu (ELP ‘16) and Yuga Cohler (ELP ‘19). The ELP alumni were accompanied by the crowd-pleasing local hip-hop emcee and dancers.
The activities also included a separate gathering of members from the ELP 2020 and 2021 classes. Led by Advisor Kaz Maniwa, the leadership session included Britt Yamamoto (JALD ‘19) who facilitated a discussion on Japanese American identity. The in-person meeting of the classes provided ELP cohorts with the much anticipated opportunity for networking and connections.
The U40 Summit was a chance to reconnect with old friends, meet new ones, and carve out time to intentionally build people-to-people relationships. Special thanks and appreciation to Co-Chairs Courtney Ozaki and Tim Higashide (ELP ‘14) for their leadership in hosting the successful summit. Additional thanks to Niki Robins, Brent Sabati (ELP ‘21), Robin Yasui, MD (JALD ‘15) and Kelly Yamasaki (JALD ‘19) who were also members of the planning committee. Thank you to all the summit participants, sponsors, speakers and staff for making this event a HUGE success!