The tenth annual Japan America Society of Minnesota’s (JASM) Mondale Award and Scholarship Dinner was held September 16 at Medtronic World Headquarters. The Mondale award is presented each year to individuals or organizations with distinguished records of fostering closer ties between Japan and Minnesota and the United States.
The 2006 Mondale Award was presented to Kobe College Corporation Japan Education Exchange (KCC-JEE). The 86-year-old organization, based in Chicago and Kobe, Japan, has a mission to facilitate better learning and understanding between the American and Japanese cultures.
Mr. Mondale said that as an ambassador, he emphasized the importance of student exchange and of getting young people in both countries to better understand one another. With this goal in mind, he saw KCC-JEE as “a remarkable organization that emphasized student exchanges and the richness of those exchanges.”
“No organization in our region has done more to do that than KCC-JEE,” said Mondale.
Former KCC-JEE president Pat Gottschalk accepted the award, and read a letter from current president Sue Doffing, who was unable to attend because of their annual meeting in Chicago. Gottschalk lived the KCC-JEE mission as a cross-cultural teacher and oversaw the reciprocal exchange student programs, the introduction of the Japanese language programs, Japan study scholarship programs, and the annual symposiums for U.S. and Japan relations.
“We are very grateful for the acknowledgement and honor of receiving the Mondale award,” said Gottschalk. “People-to-people contact does make a difference in the world today, and through the KCC-JEE programs, we hope that those contacts will continue to promote peace and understanding.”
Mayumi Kitagawa from Osaka, is in her second year as a teacher of Japanese language at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights. She handles six classes in four levels, along with students in individual studies. KCC-JEE has funded the program and the teacher salaries since 1993.
Kitagawa was present with Sakura Nagaoka and Chisato Mogi, two 11th grade exchange students from Osaka. The two live with host families and say they enjoy Minnesota’s natural wonders and the people. They are staying with host families.
Also present were Henry Sibley Principal Helen Fisk and JoAnn Myer, a guidance counselor and a summer chaperone of Sibley students visiting Kobe high school.
Myer said there is no substitute for the exchange program. She said this type of learning experience is not learned from classroom instruction or from a video. It is first person, such as meeting with a survivor of nuclear holocaust before visiting the memorial shrine in Hiroshima.
“The home-stay’s makes a difference,” said Myer.
Ben van Lierop, executive director, JASM, announced the two recipients of the Mondale Scholarships, awarded annually to American students for study in Japan. There were nine applicants. Five were interviewed, and two selected.
Theresa Kramer, a student at the University of Minnesota, and Wesley Robertson, a student at Macalester College, are both already in Japan for their studies
“Today, we are so grateful that there is a vision for the future and we want to have a scholarship program like this that will continue and thanks for contributions and support to expand this and send more students to Japan and have a better world view,” said van Lierop.
WCCO TV Reporter Maya Nishikawa emceed the event, and Kenji Shinoka, Consul General of Japan at Chicago, offered greetings praised the lifetime of work and contributions of the former Ambassadors present at the event.
The banquet and awards ceremony was followed by a panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges that confront the United States and a changing Asia. The panelists included Walter Mondale, ambassador to Japan from 1993 to 1997; Howard H. Baker, Jr., a former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, and White House Chief of Staff under President Ronald Reagan who was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Japan by President George W. Bush in 2001 until 2005; and, Burton Levin, former U.S. Ambassador to Burma from 1987 to 1990, a U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong, and currently a visiting professor at Carleton College.
The panel was moderated by Roy F. Grow, chair of the Political Science Department at Carleton College, and President of the board of directors of the Midwest China Center.
The conversation began with questions of present concerns in Asia, particularly with the North Korea situation, the relationship of Japan and China, and how the United States can impact the betterment of regional relations, and the possible amendments to Title IX of the Japanese constitution to allow for the use of military force as instrument of military policy.
The panel concluded with commentary on these uncertain times.
Mr. Baker said that America is strong and caring, and as long as people focus and anguish on issues, he is confident that we will find solutions. He said that time flows in a continuum and that he has every reason to be an optimist.
Mr. Mondale said that despite his deep concerns over the long-term consequences of constitutional abuses, and of how to restore trust and faith in America; he believes that the country is a system of ordered liberty under law, with “marvelous restorative powers.”
“Were going to do it, but we citizens have a lot of work ahead for each of us,” he added.
Mr. Levin said that he is still an optimist in a time of weak and negligent institutions. The optimism, he said, comes from a time-tested ability of our institutional capacity to learn from mistakes. He called diplomacy the most essential component of foreign policy. Without working to understand the core of a problem, he said conflict will metastasize quickly.
The Japan America Society of Minnesota offices are located at the Riverplace EH-131, 43 Main Street SE, Minneapolis. For more information call 612-627-9357 or visit online at www.mn-japan.org.