Celebrating Harmony at the 35th Annual Dinner Gala

While the rewards of the special U.S.-Japan partnership are abundant and diverse, its endurance can be traced to a single source: Harmony. More than 900 leading American & Japanese community and business members joined together to celebrate on November 13, 2019, at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City.

The theme this year, the Power of Unwavering Harmony, was an allude to “Reiwa,” Japan’s new era name meaning “beautiful harmony.” We build upon our values, our vision, and our peaceful friendships with brushstroke grace to recognize the power of unwavering harmony.

JCCI President Katsurao Yoshimori with Dinner Chairman Kazuo Koshi. Photo by Andrew Levine

At this year’s Gala, JCCI recognized Mr. James P. Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, as Keynote Speaker; Ms. Caroline Kennedy, Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, United Nations as recipients for the Chamber’s premier Eagle on the World Award; and honored the Commemorative Award to the late Mr. Donald Keene, Japanese Scholar, Historian, Teacher, Writer, and Translator of Japanese Literature. Mr. Seiki Keene, Mr. Keene’s adopted son, accepted the award on his behalf.

At the venue, glasses clinked, hands shook, and joy ensued. It was a uniting of JCCI members and guests.

The Chamber’s Eagle on the World Award was given to those who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of the U.S.-Japan relationship. It was a testament to the work they have done, the accomplishments they have made, the presence they exude.

“I do fully appreciate the power of harmony between our two cultures, having spent part of my childhood in the United States, and almost 20 years professionally in this great country,” Mr. Kazuo Koshi, Dinner Chairman, said. “The beauty is that the cultures are different in so many ways, but build on each other’s strengths. That is the essence of harmony.” 

“I am an optimist,” Joseph Ucuzoglu, CEO of Deloitte and Dinner Co-Chairman said. “I believe peace and prosperity in the long run will be best served by continuing to foster strong bonds among the nations of the world – and the special bond between Japan and the US is a reminder of how to get this right, a shining example in a turbulent world that we should celebrate.”

Dinner Chairman and CEO of Deloitte, Joseph Ucuzoglu with Seiki Keene. Photo by Andrew Levine

Ucuzoglu then touched upon technological disruption in today’s modern world.

“Machines will take on more routine business tasks, even in finance and at the decision-making level,” he said. “But today’s complex business problems are anything but routine, requiring human judgment, the ability to deal with high levels of ambiguity, and effective collaboration and teaming…it’s our responsibility to calm the fears and project a positive vision of our technology-driven future, to find the harmony between technology and human skills.”

Mr. Kazuo Koshi held a fireside chat with this year’s Keynote Speaker, Mr. James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, discussing subjects as the meaning of harmony in business, US and global economic trends, and politics.

“The economy is doing great,” he said. “There is 50 year low unemployment, GDP growth 2%. Banks balance sheets are strong, but what’s not strong is the averages lie, the population is an enormous gulf between the have and have-nots…globalization is positive, the economy is doing well but for the individual going home every night, for a lot of people, it’s not true. It’s not the average of the economy.”

On politics, he expressed his concerns in more of what the greater population needs rather than the presidency.

In order for Japanese businesses to succeed, they need bigger markets, Gorman said.
Photo by Andrew Levine

“The average person– whether it’s the northern part of England or some of the more depressed parts of the US–has not done well in the past 30 years,” he said. “And at some point they get fed up, and when they get fed up, they throw out their elected officials and if you’re clever enough to zero in on that as President Trump did, you’ve got one answer. If you say it’s not the people it’s the system, then you ride in on the socialist horse as Sanders. For many people, the swing vote decided we needed a change. Now it’s up to the democrats to find a way. The wonderful thing about this country is that it’s finite. I’m less concerned about presidential politics than I am about the heartbeat of the country, and what it’s saying about what people are not getting what they should be getting.”

On his thoughts about Japanese businesses striving in the U.S., they must find common ground.

“It’s a question of how do you go global,” he said. “Going global is building embedded business relations that lasts for decades. I think Japan has incredible engineering, incredible industry and technical skills, and a shrinking population. They should solve the problem by having more consumers–Japan has to embrace immigration–and taking your business and talent to parts of the world where there are bigger populations…Japanese companies are recognizing the skill-sets they have, but they need bigger markets.”

I’m less concerned about presidential politics than I am about the heartbeat of the country, and what it’s saying about what people are not getting what they should be getting.”

The Woven Harmony, this year’s entertainment ensemble cast featuring Rina Maejima, Tomo Watanabe, Peej Mele, Richard Lisenby, Justin Ramos, and Shiori Saito, performed and sang various hit American and Japanese songs as There’s no Business Like Show Business and Furusato (hometown). 

Mr. Seiki Keene remarked upon receiving the Commemorative Award, “My father’s intellect and sensibility shaped his research, but it was passion and love for his subject that drove him on. In this way, without conscious intent, in a natural manner, his research transcended considerations of utility and became a splendid bridge linking Japan and America. As an educator, too, he nurtured and trained many outstanding students.”

Ms. Nakamitsu dedicated her award to a number of individuals, including the The Hibakushas, the survivors of atomic bombs, and her mentor and role model, Sadako Ogata, former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She was a recipient of the Eagle on the World in 1995.

Ms. Nakamitsu is one of the two Eagle on the World Award recipients. Photo by Andrew Levine

“The Hibakushas are today among the most important peace advocates and moral voices in our disarmament efforts, driven by their determination never to allow anyone else to endure the horror they experienced,” she said. “They represent the true meaning of reconciliation. These are the brave and resilient people who inspire me and give me my never-ending passion for the work I do. I would like to dedicate this Award to them, the true Eagles on the world.

“A leader is someone who has the courage to make difficult but necessary decisions for our most important principles. A leader is someone who advocates for the interest of the most vulnerable, and strives to leave no one behind. A leader is someone who is humble, and empowers others to achieve their full potential. I was so privileged to have known Mrs. Ogata and I dare say one day I would like to be a leader like her.”

“I do fully appreciate the power of harmony between our two cultures, having spent part of my childhood in the United States, and almost 20 years professionally in this great country,” Mr. Kazuo Koshi, Dinner Chairman, said. “The beauty is that the cultures are different in so many ways, but build on each other’s strengths. That is the essence of harmony.” 

The Award’s second recipient, Ms. Kennedy, invited two of her own students, Fatou Camara and Alondra Uribe to perform spoken word poetry and prose on stage.

Ms. Kennedy with her students. Photo by Andrew Levine

“The best way I know to [promote harmony] is to build relationships that will carry us forward,” Kennedy said. “That is why I started a program which brings together Japanese, American, Korean and Filipino students to share their spoken word traditions and their hopes and dreams for the future. Because the arts connect us no matter where we live, and because these brilliant young people will inherit a world that requires people to work together across differences.”

The meaningful work of furthering this dynamic partnership remains at the heart of the Chamber’s efforts today, as it has for the past 85 years.

For more photos, please visit this link.

All photos by Andrew Levine, H. Naito, and D. Ernst

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