News: Ambassador Kennedy visits Okinawa
Story by Cpl. Terence Brady
CAMP FOSTER, Japan - Caroline B. Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, made her first official visit to Okinawa for the first time Feb. 11–13.
Kennedy visited to gain a better understanding of the Okinawa government and community, and held discussions with Okinawa and U.S. officials on the ground.
“She came to experience the culture of Okinawa and meet the people of the community,” said Dolores Prin, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Department of State in Japan. “As ambassador to Japan, it is important to (gain perspective of) the bigger picture (of Japan), and Okinawa is very important for accomplishing that.”
While on Okinawa, Kennedy met with Hirokazu Nakaima, governor of Okinawa, to foster relations with the local government and laid flowers at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park, expressing her hope to “work as much as possible to build peace.”
“One of the most critical ideals to keep in mind during the visit was to speak to (the people of) the host nation directly,” said Prin. “I think that this visit shows that she makes that imperative.”
The government officials and community members meetings produced positive feedback amidst controversial opinions of U.S. military operations.
“Everywhere I go I hear about how grateful people are to the (U.S.) military for all the help you gave to (Operation Tomadachi) and in the Philippines (during Operation Damayan) working with the Japan Self-Defense Force,” said Kennedy. “I want to say how inspired and thankful we are to meet you. You share spirit, patriotism and dedication that you bring to work every day.”
Kennedy also visited the Camp Foster Community Center auditorium, in which Lt. Gen. John Wissler, the commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force, shared sentiments about her accolades and accomplishments before formally introducing her.
“She sacrificed greatly over her life in service to her country, and to numerous Americans both at home and abroad and continues to serve all of those who serve in Japan,” said Wissler. “She’s applied her education as a passionate advocate and a leader for education, the arts, civil liberties and democracy.”
Kennedy addressed the audience to commemorate its efforts and support to fostering better relations between Japan and the U.S.
“For all of us Americans here in Japan we are all ambassadors, so it is great to (be in your presence),” said Kennedy. “I look forward to meeting all of you individually. You have all done such a magnificent job.”
Kennedy also visited the future site of the Futenma Replacement Facility and U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.
“You are on the front lines of the 21st century," said Kennedy. "It may not be easy, but it is incredibly important (in spreading peace and prosperity). Whether it is through environmental cleanups, reading to children (and other activities) your capacity and service is truly an inspiration.”
Kennedy hopes to visit as much of Japan as possible during her position as ambassador and help lead and promote fruitful progress between the two nations.
“Looking at the past of Ambassador Kennedy, there is no doubt that we are in the presence of a great leader and certainly a true inspiration,” said Wissler. “We are honored that she can be here with us today.”