Winston Akira Taira

Reflection from Winston Akira Taira (ELP 2015)

ELP alumni at the King’s Hawaiian Press Release Event at Sky Waikiki: (L-R) John Rankin, Lynn Miyahira, the author, Nicole Velasco, Aki Marceau and Nate Gyotoku

Around this time last year, I waited anxiously in preparation for attending the 2015 Annual Conference in Tokyo. Quite honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I was entrenched with work as we were entering our peak holiday season and worried about taking so much time off. Further, USJC would mark the first outside organization I would join as a working professional. Traveling internationally to meet 11 new classmates at an Annual Conference seemed nerve-wracking at the time.

But joining USJC has been one of the best decisions of my life. I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to connect with so many brilliant classmates and other USJC members from across the world. These are individuals who are extremely well-accomplished, always willing to lend a helping hand, and most importantly, individuals who share a passion for promoting U.S.-Japan relations.

Dinner in Hawaii with fellow 2015 Emerging Leaders Sonya Kuki (left) and Nicole Velasco (right)

There is not a week that passes by without our classmates – our family, really – conversing over LINE, informing each other about recent life updates. But our bonds are so strong that many of us have traveled to visit each other throughout this past year. Prior to moving from Los Angeles to Atlanta earlier this summer, I had the privilege of seeing almost all my ELP class family, including many ELP alumni from previous years. From Los Angeles to Hawaii, Chicago, New York and Washington, DC, we’ve been able to get together to reflect on last year’s Annual Conference experience – a truly life-changing experience for many of us.

It is with great honor that I close out our 2015 ELP Class Reflections. For me, moving away from family and friends to a new city across the country, keeping in touch with my ELP family has been a blessing. Much of this week’s conversation has been related to the upcoming Annual Conference, organizing team outings and planning housing arrangements. While I will be unable to attend this year’s Conference, I know that I will live vicariously through my fellow ELP family in what will surely be a productive and fun week.

In anticipation of the upcoming 2016 Annual Conference, I would like to usher in the new 2016 ELP Class. You will soon meet lifetime friends, forming valuable relationships that will last forever. Immerse yourselves in the Annual Conference programming, and take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Welcome to the Family!

Dinner in Hawaii after a USJC Family Business Event