As a U.S. American, I have been deeply moved by my visits to the Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima Peace Memorials. It’s important to take a moment to reflect. Other than war or a war hospital, it’s hard to imagine anything that can prepare visitors for the visual and sensory impact these memorials have on a person. The imagery is searing, heart-wrenching, and something I will never forget.
On December 7th, 2016, The United States commemorates the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor in solemn remembrance of the 2,403 U.S. Americans who perished during the attack on the naval base. This devastating act of war provoked U.S. involvement in World War II, plunging Japanese-American relations into a state of deep antagonism long after the 1945 Japanese surrender.
The relationship between the U.S. and Japan has dramatically improved in recent years; notably recently when President Barack Obama made history as the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima. The magnitude of this gesture was felt by citizens across Japan, many of whom listened to President Obama’s remarks on their cellphones and watched as he laid a wreath upon the Memorial Cenotaph . His presence in Hiroshima was a notable step towards reconciliation and a somber tribute to both the U.S. Americans and the Japanese lost in the Second World War.
Now as the 75th anniversary of Japan’s attack on the Hawaiian naval base approaches, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Pearl Harbor in late December to “console the souls of the victims.” Prime Minister Abe will make history as the first incumbent Japanese Prime Minister to visit the site of one of America’s greatest tragedies. In a statement to the press, the Japanese Prime Minister emphasized that he “would like to send a message of reconciliation between Japan and the U.S,” and hopes to remind both countries that such horrors must never be repeated.
These cross-cultural visits between the U.S. and Japanese governments impress upon us the importance of remembrance and reconciliation. Those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor will forever remain in our nation’s memory, and it is our duty to honor their sacrifice and courage. Although neither country can undo the terrible damage inflicted, Japan and the U.S. have demonstrated an active commitment to preventing such violence in the future.
As we observe this anniversary, let us remember that in order to move forward as a nation, we must honor those who perished by ensuring that their sacrifices were not in vain. As we raise our flags to half-mast on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, let us remember those who have died, and learn from the examples of empathy and reconciliation set by President Obama and Prime Minister Abe. Collective efforts towards peace for all nations draws us together as U.S. Americans, Japanese, and global citizens. It allows us to rise above the tragedy that both the U.S. and Hiroshima have endured.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS Austin’s We Are Austin, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, The New York Times, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015 and recipient of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Photo Credit: Pixabay