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Macon-Bibb County Georgia Civic Awareness Program For Students (GCAPS)

"Macon-Bibb County shares in the Japan-America Grassroots Summit"

Macon-Bibb County Youth Commission at the 26th Japan-America Grassroots Summit Opening Ceremony in Atlanta, Ga. with Consul General Takashi Shinozuka and Atlanta Mayor Kaseem Reid at The Fox Theatre Egyptian Ballroom (Compliments of Images by Sheppard 10/5/2016).

 

Metro-Atlanta and the sur-rounding areas in Georgia hosted the 26th Japan-America Grassroots Summit 2016 which took place October 4-11, 2016. The Summit aims to strengthen the peaceful relationship between Japan and the United States by fostering grassroots friendships through a one-week cultural exchange program for all ages. The summit is held alternately in the U.S. and Japan in different cities each year. This year's summit was jointly organized by the John Manjiro Whitfield Commemorative Center for International Exchange (CIE) in Japan and The Japan-America Society of Georgia (JASG) with support from the Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta and the Atlanta Mayor's Office of International Affairs. The Summit honors one of the first friendships between an American, William H. Whitefield, and a Japanese, John Manjiro Nakahama, begun in 1841, and continuing through their descendants today.

This year's Summit showcased Georgia's local attractions, unique culture and customs, and special business opportunities to more than 150 visitors from Japan and over 300 American hosts. With 25 years of history and more than 40,000 Japanese and Americans participating, the Grassroots Summit is one of the most enduring and important bilateral international exchange programs. The opening ceremony was held at the Fox Theater, with speeches from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, the Ambassador of Japan Kenichiro Sasae, Consul General Takashi Shinozuka and other dignitaries. Other guests included Japanese Ambassadors Ichiro Fujisaki and Masahiro Kohno, and the descendants of Manjiro and Whitfield as well as Commodore Matthew Perry's descendants. Perry is known for opening Japan to trade with the West in 1853.

After taking part in tourist activities in Atlanta for three days, Japanese participants lived with host families and experienced the American lifestyle in "Local Session" activities in the surrounding host communities for three days. Homestays were arranged in fifteen communities: Alpharetta/Milton, Athens, Columbus, Dahlonega, Decatur, Dublin, Elberton, Fitzgerald, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Newnan/Chattahoochee Hills, Peachtree City, Rome/Floyd County, and Roswell. Among the Japanese guests attending were students from the still-recovering area of Fukushima through the efforts of the U.S.-Japan Council's Tomodachi Initiative and a nationally awarded Chemistry Class from Oita. The TOMODACHI Initiative is a public-private partnership, born out of support for Japan's re-covery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, that invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as leadership programs. The TOMODACHI Initiative seeks to foster a "TOMODACHI generation" of young American and Japanese leaders who are committed to and engaged in strengthening United States—Japan relations, appreciate each other"s countries and cultures, and possess the global skills and mindsets needed to contribute to and thrive in a more cooperative, prosperous, and secure world (www.usjapantomodachi.org).
Our Macon-Bibb Community hosted seventeen (17) high school students/teacher/principal from Oita Uenogaoka High School, in southern Japan. The GCAPS Youth Commission members provided housing and were paired with each Japanese student. During their local session, the Japanese students participated in a Youth Leadership Summit at Middle Georgia State University. Macon-Bibb County and Middle Georgia State University Office of Career Services hosted the Third Annual Youth Leadership Summit on October 6th and 7th in the University's Student Life Center. This year's Summit included a dedicated symposium for Youth Advisors and two days of sessions for youth leaders. More than 100 students in youth leadership programs across Georgia (including the Macon-Bibb County Youth Commission) worked on team building through classroom learning and other activities, strengthened their connection to local government, explored diverse careers, tested decision making skills as elected officials, and learned what to expect while preparing for life after high school. Speakers include representatives from governments in Georgia and South Carolina, from Macon-Bibb and Middle Georgia State University, and state and national organizations.

"The Summit is designed to help these students grow as leaders, both within their high schools now and in the future as they transition to college and later as leaders in their communities," says Charles Coney, Macon-Bibb County Assistant County Manager. "Over the years, the Youth Leadership Summit has proven to be a great adventure, learning experience, and net-working opportunity for young leaders across Georgia."

While in the Youth Leadership Summit, the Japanese students presented to the Mayor's Champions Council Breakfast which includes high-ranking leaders, officials, presidents, and others across our community. For the remainder of their stay in Macon, the Japansese students toured the area, visiting the Ocmulgee National Monument, Tubman Museum, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, and other local landmarks. All the Japanese guests across the state convened in Stone Mountain Park for a closing ceremony on Sunday.

Atlanta and Georgia are regarded as the center of Japanese industry in the Southeastern United States as Japanese-affiliated companies have invested over $10.4 billion in Georgia, where 547 of them currently operate. These companies together employ nearly 37,000 workers state-wide. Georgia's imports from Japan in 2015 amounted to about $4.61 billion, making Japan the fifth largest international importer. Georgia's exports to Japan in 2015 amounted to about $1.37 billion, making Japan the sixth largest export market. With more than 50 Georgia companies having major operations in Japan, the economic relationship between Japan and Georgia is something of which we can all be proud.

With Japan and Georgia sharing eleven (11) Sister City Relationships with Japan (Elberton – Mure, Americus – Miyoshi, Gainesville-Izunokuni, Atlanta – Fukuoka, LaGrange – Aso, Augusta- Takarazuka, Macon – Kurobe, Savannah – Shimizu, Columbus – Kiryu, Rome – Kumamoto, Dublin – Osaki), the cultural and educational connection Georgia and Japan share was a key component of grassroots friendships and mutual understanding.

For more information, please contact the Japan-America Society of Georgia at 404-842-1400 / admin@JASGeorgia.org, or visit www.jasgeorgia.org/2016-Grassroots-Summit.

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