Ambassador Kato Japanese American Citizens League



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Ambassador Kato

Japanese American Citizens League

August 12, 2004

The Honorable Secretary Mineta, The Honorable Governor Ariyoshi, Chairperson Ms. Kitsu, distinguished member of JACL, distinguished guests, Ladies & Gentleman.

Thank you and good morning.

This is an early hour for an ambassador.

We diplomats are conventionally nocturnal birds.

Like owls.

We usually have functions or dinners in the evenings, sometimes late into the evenings.

So while I am usually just getting going at this time of the morning, I am glad to know that the Japanese American Citizens League is already up and working.

On behalf of the Government of Japan, let me thank you for the work that you have been doing for 75 years.

When I think of the progress in the rights and reputation of Japanese Americans over those years, I am impressed by the important contribution this organization has made to that progress.

You have my warmest congratulations and my deepest appreciation.

A number of years ago, an American friend of mine worked at the American Embassy in London.

He said he was once at a lunch where a British historian was speaking about European immigration to America.

The historian half-jokingly but half-seriously explained America’s energy and Europe’s malaise this way.

He said that all the people with get-up-and-go got up and went.

And they went to America.

The Issei demonstrated that same get-up-and-go spirit.

I am not a historian, but in the late 19th century, I believe there were two categories of Japanese who came to the United States.

The first category consisted of government officials, educators, engineers and so forth.

They came to learn about America’s advanced political, economic and social systems and then took that knowledge back to Japan.

Yukichi Fukuzawa and Umeko Tsuda are good examples of this.

Through these interpreters of the new world, we Japanese learned a lot from the United States.

The second category consisted of those who immigrated to the United States and decided to live here.

They became Japanese Americans.

And now Japanese Americans have succeeded in achieving a very solid place in this dynamic country, the world’s only superpower.

Just like Mr. Fukuzawa and Ms. Tsuda, Japanese Americans can be interpreters of the two societies.

I think that right now is a good time for Japan and Japanese Americans to learn from each other.

With the 150th anniversary of the Japan-U.S. relationship, this is a good time historically, and it is a good time for other reasons.

The Japan-U.S. alliance has never been stronger, and, with the dangerous state of the world, never has our alliance been required to be so strong.

The United States is Japan’s only ally.

Thus, we must provide tender and attentive care to maintain that alliance.

Japanese Americans are an important contributor to this.

I am firmly convinced that the alliance between our two countries has been facilitated by the fact that Japanese Americans are so trusted and accomplished in American society.

My government works very hard to establish bonds between America and Japan—for example, through the Mansfield Fellowship Program and the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program or JET program.

In fact, just a couple weeks ago about almost 1,500 American college graduates and young professionals left the U.S. to take part in the 2004 JET program.

The great majority of these young people will be assistant language teachers in elementary, junior high and senior high schools across Japan.

So, we are trying to encourage bonds with Japan and understanding of Japan.

These are bonds that are already somewhere in the DNA of Sansei and Yonsei by their very ancestry.

They may be latent, passive bonds, but they are there.

We want to encourage that connection between Japan and Japanese Americans.

As Japanese Americans succeed and are assimilated into American society, Japan does not want to lose our connection.

We hear a lot about homeland security, but there is another kind of homeland security.

It is the security in knowing from whence you came.

While Japanese Americans are first and foremost great American citizens, at the same time we do not want Japanese Americans to drift away from the Land of the Rising Sun.

We don’t want your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren to lose their link to the country of their ancestors.

There was a recent New York Times story about young Japanese Americans reclaiming their ethnic roots.

There has been a realization amongst young Japanese Americans that it is up to them to fight the forces of cultural extinction and reconnect with their heritage.

This does not mean, of course, that Japanese Americans must be supporters of Japan.

Japanese Americans can be fair-minded and enlightened “public arbitrators” whose voices are not hostage to parochial or unduly politically-motivated interests.

Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, told me that the walls that have divided the world and its people have fallen—and that in such a world “super-empowered individuals,” as he called them, play an important role.

The super-empowered individual is a highly educated person with a broad perspective on the world.

I believe Japanese Americans are super-empowered individuals.

They have struggled to find their place in the United States and have attained reputable standing.

They are highly educated, independent and self-reliant.

And above all, they can see the world from dual perspectives based on in-depth understanding of Japan and rich experiences through their lives in the United States.

These days, whenever I think of Japanese Americans in the United States, I tend to draw a parallel between Japan in the entire world and Japanese Americans in the United States.

In the preamble of its Constitution, Japan says that: “We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth.”

Nothing can ever be complete, but since World War II, Japan has been conscientiously working toward that goal.

Japanese Americans have been doing the same thing in and for the United States.

Your efforts are the reason why you are examples of super-empowered individuals.

This is also a message I wish to share with my nationals back in Japan.

When you can be both, Americans and Japanese embodying good traits of our two countries, to me it will make for a perfect combination.

Thank you; much is yet to be done. But, let us be optimistic. Let us be positive.

We can achieve a lot between us, not just for the Japan-U.S. relationship, but for wider and broader goals.

Thank you for inviting me and thank you for your kind hospitality. (End)




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