Japan Peace Leadership: Reflection

I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to take part in this trip. Not only did I learn an immense amount of history, but I was also able to better connect with myself as well as establish lifelong friendships. Prior to this trip, I had no idea what to expect. Of course, during our pre-departure meetings, we were able to get a general idea of what we were doing, but none of us had any idea what to expect during our actual workshops. I believe my biggest takeaway from the trip came from the workshop at UNITAR in Hiroshima. When Nassrine was talking about what the organization does, her passion was shining through. It was evident how much she cares about the well-being of people and wants to help benefit the world. After their official presentation, I was talking to her about the conditions of the environment and how much work needs to be done, and she told me how her family constantly questions her for being a vegetarian and using reusable chopsticks. She explained that not eating meat, using reusable straws, and recyclable chopsticks are all small changes that she can make, so she does what she can. I was so inspired, it brought me to tears. I literally could not hold back the waterworks, and she hugged me. The experience at UNITAR helped me realize that I am passionate about making a change and being the difference. There is nothing more I want than to make an impact in this world, and this experience allowed me the opportunity to realize that my passions can be applicable to a career.

In addition to the experience at UNITAR, the overall time in Hiroshima was incredibly eye-opening. I am embarrassed to admit that prior to this trip, I truly never understood what happened in Hiroshima. I was never taught about Pearl Harbor or the Hiroshima bombing or Nagasaki, so prior to the trip, I did a lot of research. Through all of my research, I never came close to finding anything as powerful, informative, or moving as any of the presentations we were able to experience in Hiroshima. It made me realize that it is possible to move forward in a way of peace — regardless of how much violence, aggression, and hatred is behind an act of evil.
At times, I felt embarrassed of the United States, and so many of the people who we were able to meet seemed so proud to be a part of a country that established a community of peace after such devastation. It was very telling of how we deal with tragedy. In our society, when something happens, the first thing we do is point our fingers. Then, we get revenge. After seeing how Hiroshima was able to establish their mayor’s vision of peace, it made me want to bring back my knowledge of peaceful leadership and spread the word that we need to do the same here in America. Although we are the country that influences the rest of the world, we need to step away from the ever-present power dynamic and accept the fact that we can learn some things from other nations around the world.

By, Marissa Sotomayor

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