JET Alumni and special guests joined Mrs. Abe and Mrs. Sasae
The First Lady of Japan took time out of her busy schedule on April 29 to meet with 18 alumni of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program and the families of Taylor Anderson and Monty Dickson in Washington, DC.
Mrs. Abe, Mr. Tada, Mrs. Sasae
Mrs. Abe has been an important supporter of the JET Program and its focus on grassroots internationalization. In 2007 she joined her husband to greet American JET Program alumni at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC. Since 2013, Mrs. Abe has met with current and former JET participants in Tokyo, Canada, Ireland, and China.
Mr. Tada of Sojitz Research Institute made introductory remarks and facilitated the conversation with the assembled alumni of the JET Program. Everyone shared where they lived and how long they participated in the JET Program, with many of the placements located in inaka areas (countryside) of Japan. The alumni included think tank scholars, a Washington Post reporter, government employees, nonprofit organization leaders and employees in the private sector. After 27 years, the JET Program has produced over 60,000 alumni in 63 countries who have become the next generation of Japan hands and “influencers” in their communities.
Mrs. Abe with the families of Monty Dickson and Taylor Anderson
While the JET community suffered the loss of Monty Dickson and Taylor Anderson during the Great East Japan earthquake in March 2011, their families have become important members of the JET alumni community. During the discussion, Shelley Fredrickson encouraged greater ties by JET alumni to members in her home state of Alaska. Laurel Lukaszewski of the U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation JETAA Initiative is striving to do just that, connecting the diverse alumni associations throughout the United States. Assembled participants discussed how to increase opportunities for the program participants post-JET, including initiatives to increase professional skills development or graduate school fellowships. No matter where the participants lived in Japan, the JET Program has had a profound impact on the alumni and helped shape future careers.
Special omiyage from Mrs. Abe
A thoughtful gift to each attendee included a handicraft from the Otsuchi Sashiko Project. The Otsuchi Sashiko Project began at an emergency evacuation shelter in Iwate Prefecture to create professional jobs for female tsunami victims. Sashiko, which means “little stabs”, is a traditional form of decorative embroidery in Japan. You can support this great project by visiting tomotsuna.jp.