US-Japan Leadership Program

I was honored to be selected as a first-year delegate for the US-Japan Leadership Program by the United States Japan Foundation. The program brought together 45 delegates for a trip to Kyoto, Hiroshima and Tokyo over July 23-30, 2023, and 115 additional USJLP fellows (alumni) for a festive two-day interclass reunion at the close of the week.

This was truly the most unique group of people I have had the opportunity to meet in my professional life. Drawn from all walks of life, the one constant theme seemed to be the idea of being “change makers” in our respective fields. Over the course of the week, we all had a chance to share our expertise with one another through the course of a variety of panels, workshops, performances, and TED-style talks. I was part of a panel on “Security in a New Era of Great Power Competition” where I talked about challenges related to economic security.

I also appreciated the opportunity to engage in cultural exchange in unique settings. Even as someone who has been to Japan many times, I was treated to new experiences that reminded me of my love for the Japanese culture, including a visit to a lovely shrine, a taiko drumming class, and cooking okonomiyaki on giant grills.

A particularly moving experience was meeting atomic-bomb survivor (hibakusha) Koko Kondo, who not only took the time tell us her story but also walked with us around the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. This is a place that I have been to many times, and to which I have taken my own students on study abroad trips, but having Koko there with us made it a unique experience.

Similarly, we had the opportunity to go on a tour of the National Diet Building, which I have visited several times, but we were lucky to be led by Digital Minister Taro Kono, who is also a member of the USJLP network. He shared some of his personal memories, and we were also joined by another USJLP fellows who play important roles in the Japanese government as bureaucrats and politicians.

All USJLP delegates complete two conferences—one in Japan and one in the US—before “graduating” to fellow status, so I’m looking forward to our second conference in 2024 in Seattle!

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