Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange (CULCON) > News/Blog > Uncategorized > Year End Message from Chair Sheila Smith and Secretary-General Paige Cottingham-Streater

Year End Message from Chair Sheila Smith and Secretary-General Paige Cottingham-Streater

2020 has been a year of unprecedented challenge, especially here in the United States. A global pandemic and its attendant economic and social dislocation continue to highlight economic and social inequities. Similarly, the killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of police, prompted mass protests, raising awareness yet again of the racial inequality that continues to shape the American experience. Our U.S. presidential election seemed to deepen the sense of division and frustration as public and private institutions and local communities sought to respond to this historic moment in our history.

Yet the year was also replete with signs of hope and goodwill. 2020 has also been a year of purposeful ingenuity. Leaders in the United States and Asia moved policy dialogues online, and organizations promising cultural and educational exchange opportunities hosted virtual classes, competitions and cultural programming. To be sure, we long for the in-person conversations, for the first-hand experiences of artistic expression and for the opportunity to build new personal relationships that our separation makes difficult. Yet the dynamism of this year’s virtual engagement gives us hope as it demonstrates that Americans and Japanese continue to build trust and learn from each other even in the face of tremendous challenge.

CULCON and the Japan-United States Friendship Commission are proud of the many ways our partners in Japan and the United States have strengthened the U.S.-Japan partnership in spite of these immense hurdles. U.S. CULCON members, JUSFC commissioners and staff look forward to the exciting possibilities that lie ahead in 2021 as we promote mutual understanding and peace.

Warm wishes for a safe, healthy and peaceful New Year.

Dr. Sheila A. Smith
Chair, Japan-United States Friendship Commission and CULCON

Paige Cottingham-Streater
Executive Director, Japan-United States Friendship Commission and
Secretary-General, CULCON

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