JETAA "Live Your Dream" film screening

Eastern Michigan University/March 4, 2014

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I would like to express my gratitude to the Great Lakes JET Alumni Association and Eastern Michigan University for inviting me to join this important film screening event. “Live Your Dream” is a truly inspirational and touching documentary that exemplifies the dedication and courage displayed by Ms. Taylor Anderson and the many JET Program participants living and working in Japan during the Great East Japan Earthquake. I am honored to be here with producer and director, Mr. Regge Life, who poured his heart and soul into this touching film. I am also so glad to have the opportunity to meet Mr. Andy Anderson, Taylor’s father, who is so graciously here with us this evening as well.

When I think back to March 11th, 2011, I can clearly remember being in my office at the Embassy of Japan in Brussels, intently watching NHK live on television. I cannot even describe the shock and sadness I felt when I saw the big tsunami sweep away ships, cars, houses, shops and even towns. Now, next Tuesday is the third year anniversary. On behalf of the citizens of Japan, I wish to thank the people of the United States, and in particular, Michigan, for your condolences, support and donations. Much has taken place in these past three years. While the overall situation in Japan is improving, there are still many challenges that must be faced in the coming years. It is very difficult to find the words to express how deeply moving and greatly appreciated the response to this devastating earthquake has been. The Japanese people have understood deeply, through such initiatives as the “Tomodachi Operation,” the United States is truly a great friend and partner to Japan.

Tonight, we gather together because sadly, during the great earthquake, two American JET Program participants—Ms. Taylor Anderson of Miyagi, and Mr. Montgomery Dickson of Iwate—lost their lives. They dedicated themselves to their students and that Taylor even selflessly stayed at school to make sure they were all safely with their parents before she, herself, left. Though they are no longer with us, their memories live on. Their precious sacrifice reminds me of the paragraph in the Gospel of John, which reads, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Their schools and communities remember them as bright, young individuals who made invaluable contributions to both the classroom and to their local communities. They were individuals who truly fulfilled the mission of the JET Program and promoted grassroots exchange and intercultural communication through their connections with people.

To this day, their legacy lives on. I heard that Taylor’s parents have stayed deeply connected with the Tohoku region and have generously donated the “Taylor Library” to children in seven schools in Ishinomaki City. As we overcome the sorrow we felt, we strive to make the JET Program and the friendship between our two nations even stronger, as both Taylor and Monty would have wished.

The JET Program is truly one of the most successful grassroots exchanges of its kind and has been promoting goodwill between the United States and Japan for about 30 years. Two weeks ago, my office interviewed nearly 100 talented applicants from both Michigan and Ohio to take part in this year’s JET Program. I truly look forward to sending another bright batch of JET Program participants to Japan to take part in the friendship and heart to heart exchanges between American and Japanese people.

I would also like to share a bit about a program that was created in order to commemorate both Taylor and Monty following the great earthquake. The Japan Foundation, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been inviting 32 American high school students annually to visit Japan and provide them with an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of Japanese language and culture. My great hope is that these students will use this experience to serve as a bridge between our two countries in the future, just as Taylor and Monty did.

Once again, I would like to express my gratitude to Great Lakes JETAA and EMU for including me at tonight’s event. “Live Your Dream” was indeed a moving documentary and helped me to understand more about the courage and sacrifice displayed by JET Program participants during the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. It is truly an honor to be here.

Thank you.