On September 10, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine participated in the US Center for Civilian Diplomacy sponsored “J-Conference” as a keynote speaker along with former Transportation and Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta and Chicago law partner and civil society leader Robert Karr Jr. The USCCD is a unique organization promoting and supporting opportunities for Americans living in the Midwestern states to become globally engaged “civilian diplomats.” The conference is part of USCCD’s outreach through its “J-Center” to “foster Japanese culture in the American Midwest.”
In her remarks, Under Secretary Sonenshine praised the work of ordinary citizens in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake- people who came forward to help “because it was the right thing to do.” She explained the exchanges and visitor programs the heart of fostering a generation of such globally minded citizens.
Citing US government initiatives such as the Fulbright Program, the International Visitor Program, and Citizen and Youth Exchange programs, as well as the work of the Japanese government’s JET Programme and Kizuna Project, Under Secretary Sonenshine said “Over the years, our exchange programs with Japan have been among the most successful anywhere…Our bilateral relationship, within a century, from war, to peace, to deep friendship, is remarkable.”
She acknowledged both the need to build more and deeper ties and the challenges that the two countries face; particularly in the form the falling numbers of Japanese students studying in the US. However she was pleased that concern about these trends and critical conversations on how to reverse them is not limited to Tokyo and Washington. As the Under Secretary told the “J-Conference” attendees:
“What you are working to do at this conference is exactly what we need, if we want to build a world of more understanding, connectivity and communication. I salute your endeavors and your commitment; and I look forward to working with you to strengthen America, and empower more citizens here and in Japan to make that bright and shared future a reality for us all.”
A full transcript of Under Secretary Sonenshine’s remarks can be found here.