Suzanne Reflects on Time Spent with the 2020 JALD Delegation

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of spending time with the current Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) class, which is the latest cohort of this Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs program that is central to USJC’s mission and history. 

I was reminded that alumni of a decade’s worth of JALD trips were the charter USJC members. These JALD alumni had returned from their Government of Japan sponsored visits energized and ready to contribute to U.S.-Japan relations, and USJC was the platform that provided such an opportunity. JALD alumni have taken leadership positions on the Council’s board and committees and have also stepped into leadership roles in their communities, often becoming trusted advisors of their local Consulate Generals.

The JALD Class of 2020 – the 20th delegation – was always meant to be special. Of course, no one could have foreseen that it would be the last class selected by Irene Hirano Inouye, nor that it would have to wait more than three years between its first orientation and its departure (planned for March 2023). It is also the only class to have had two pre-trip gatherings in Los Angeles.

Our recent meeting gave the class an opportunity to reconnect and refresh their knowledge, mentored by leaders in our community (many of whom are JALD alumni themselves). You can read more about the program here.

However, unlike “typical” JALD Orientations, our recent gathering took the form of a dialogue. Prior to attending, delegates consulted with local consulates to understand issues affecting the Japanese, Japanese American, and U.S.-Japan communities in their region. Joined by LA-based USJC leaders and the LA Consulate staff, the delegates discussed:

  1.  supporting Japanese American community connections through Consulates;
  2.  anti-Asian hate and community mental health;
  3.  climate change action;
  4.  mentoring future leaders and succession planning;
  5.  supporting and sharing technology and innovation between the United States and Japan; and
  6.  the impact of prolonged suspension of people-to-people exchanges.

Inspired by Glen Fukushima’s call to “be players,” the delegates identified how they can contribute to these areas—individually, as a class, and through the Council.

Irene and the Founders built the Council to be a platform to enable members such as JALD alumni to be players. The current board, staff, and I work to keep this platform ever more relevant, inclusive, and effective. As you think about what “being a player” means to you, please look to USJC to provide the thought partners, the audience, the access, and the encouragement to support you. We love to hear your ideas!

Special thanks to ALL the delegates, leaders, speakers, guests and staff who made our JALD gathering such a success.