Next Generation Summit 2021 Highlights USJC’s U40 Community

In December, the U.S.-Japan Council hosted the Next Generation Summit, giving the virtual stage to the younger voices of the USJC community including U40 (under 40) members, TOMODACHI alumni and Watanabe scholars, to allow them to share their perspectives on topics that they deemed significant to their generation. Titled “Ideas to Action: Breaking Barriers for a Sustainable Community with Enduring Value,” the event was the final installment of USJC’s 2021 Signature Series, which also included two Bilateral Boardrooms and a Members Forum.

The two-day event gave alumni the opportunity to understand how government leaders value the impact of TOMODACHI. Executive Director of the U.S.-Japan Council (Japan) Junko Tsuda opened the event where she emphasized that ridding oneself of the timidity that comes along with change enables one to see change as an opportunity. 

Charge d’Affaires ad interim of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo Raymond F. Greene expressed the importance of the U.S.-Japan relationship, drawing direct parallels between TOMODACHI’s mission and the activities of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. “While the government, military and businesses have critical roles to play, over the years, I have found that the most critical ingredient to sustaining the U.S.-Japan relationship are the bonds between our young people, which TOMODACHI, through programs like this one, are helping to forge every day,” he said.

Keynote speaker Robin Takashi Lewis (TOMODACHI NGO Leadership Program), co-founder of mymizu and Social Innovation Japan, shared his personal journey as a social entrepreneur, emphasizing the importance of breaking through both external and internal barriers during our own respective journeys. The first day of the event closed with remarks from Hinako Murakami (TOMODACHI Summer SoftBank Leadership Program), who shared her personal experiences of the triple disaster on March 11, 2011, and how the TOMODACHI Initiative had a direct impact on her personal and professional growth.

Day 2 of the Summit opened with remarks from USJC President & CEO Suzanne Basalla and Ambassador Kanji Yamanouchi, the Consul General of Japan in New York. Both offered words of support for the TOMODACHI Initiative, describing the impact of the people-to-people relationships that the program allows participants to establish and how those bonds have strengthened the U.S.-Japan relationship. 

“I believe that TOMODACHI has a special place at the heart of USJC’s endeavors. This is a great program for the next generation, future leaders of both countries who strive for their dreams and build great bridges between the two countries,” said the Ambassador. “The TOMODACHI Initiative has been one of the most outstanding activities of friendship between our two countries.”

Day 2 also provided regional leaders with the opportunity to highlight regional issues across diverse regions in Japan. Following those discussions, Monica Estrada (TOMODACHI Daiwa House Student Leadership Program) and the 2022 U.S. Representatives announced the development of the TOMODACHI Alumni Regional Framework, a new initiative put in place to grow the TOMODACHI community in regions across the United States and Japan. The Summit closed with remarks from Tristan Norman (TOMODACHI Kakehashi Inouye Scholars Program), who described the direct impact his experiences with the TOMODACHI Initiative had on his career and future ambitions.

The U.S.-Japan Council would like to extend its sincere gratitude to Prudential for being the presenting sponsor for the Next Generation Summit and for their continued support to the TOMODACHI Alumni Leadership Program.

To learn more about the speakers and activities within the 2021 Next Generation Summit, please click here.