Russell Saito

Reflection from Russell Saito (ELP 2016)

The author (second from left) with fellow 2016 ELPs

I am sincerely honored and grateful to have had the amazing opportunity to participate in the 2016 TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program held in Silicon Valley from Nov 11th to 15th. I have organized numerous leadership programs in the past and participated in many more, but ELP was by far the most meaningful program I’ve ever been involved in. For the past three weeks, I have reflected every day on the workshops I participated in and the people I met during the program.

The best part about graduating from the ELP program is that it seems more like a beginning than an ending. I hope to continue to learn and grow, both personally and professionally, by staying in close contact with my ELP family (both here in Tokyo and across the United States), volunteering at other TOMODACHI programs in Japan, and participating as a USJC Associate member. I was truly impressed by the geographical and social diversity of our ELP class, and hope to contribute as a virtual node for my peers who want to stay in touch with what is happening in Japan.

With Council Leader Rona Tison (right) and fellow ELPs

USJC provided us with the best available platform, tools and resources to effectively advance strong U.S.-Japan relations. As a proud graduate of the seventh TOMODACHI ELP, my next goal is to interact more with the USJC community as an Associate and to find ways to add value to the community. In particular, I would like to produce innovative, collaborative solutions to problems facing both the U.S. and Japan with regard to leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate innovation. Two outstanding USJC programs that are good models for this are the Silicon Valley Japan Platform (SVJP) and the TOMODACHI ELP program. I hope to find a way to learn from both of these programs.

I cannot adequately express my thanks to everyone who helped put the ELP program together, both this year and in the past. For me, one of the highlights of the conference was having an opportunity to meet our sponsors and learn firsthand their motivations for donating and their goals for the program. I would like to extend my very special thanks to Irene Hirano Inouye and our program organizers, Kaz Maniwa and Allison Murata, for their unwavering, long-term dedication to this event (as evidenced by the fact that neither slept at all during the program, because they were working so hard to ensure its success).

With Tokyo-based ELPs from current and past years: (L-R) Steve Sakanashi, Kaoru Utada Furuya, Yuri Hongo and Jonathan Abbott